Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

Before, during, and after: other wines at the Madeira tasting

January 16, 2018 Leave a comment

I have come to the carefully considered position that Champagne is required at a Madeira tasting.  The aroma of Madeira always fills the room but a glass of Champagne makes everyone jolly before sitting down.  A bottle served while service is performed on the second flight refreshes the palate.  Finally, a bottle at the end resets the palate for dinner wines.  Sadly, two of our four bottles of Champagne were not as they should be.  Fortunately, there were plenty of other bottles to occupy our interests.


2000 Krug, Champagne Vintage Brut
Imported by Envoyer Imports.  Alcohol 12%.  Good, integrated bubbles with focused flavors of sappy fruit.  It finished with tart apples and acidity.  Young with good promise.  **** Now – 2033.

1990 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 12%.  Some corrosion around the cork.  A nutty straw color.  The nose is mature and oxidative, a bit more advanced than it should be.  In the mouth are fine, textured bubbles, dry apple orchard flavors, and exotic spices.  The bubbles quickly dissipate.  Completely drinkable but this bottle is probably heat damaged.  Not Rated.


NV Jacques Selosse, Champagne Brut Substance
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Disgorged 20 November 2007.  Alcohol 12.5%.  An attractive, rather mature color.  There are hints of yellow fruit in the mouth with yeast notes, and oxidative, tangy apple orchard notes in the finish.  It is a little foxy and earthy with tons of acidity and a sharp finish.  Not right.  Not Rated.


NV Ulysse Collin, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Lot No. 10.  Disgorged March 2014.  Alcohol 12.5%.  A light straw color.  The very fine bubbles are perfectly integrated with piercing acidity and some tropical fruit.  This wine has power with lemons and other citrus which puckers the mouth in the middle.  The bubbles mix with baking spices leaving chalk in the finish and a long, textured aftertaste.  Bracing stuff best with food.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2008 Trimbach, Riesling Cuvee Frederick Emile, Alsace
Imported by Espirit du Vin.  Powerful, dry, white fruit flavors of apple and citrus with a good vein of acidity.  Certainly a food wine.  Tart overall but there is some Riesling flesh.  This will be long-lived.   *** Now – 2028.

2014 Escarpment, Te Rehua Pinot Noir
Imported by Meadowbank Estates.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A black cherry, Pinot nose.  In the mouth are focused, fresh, and deep flavors of attractive black fruit which is almost bitter.  Watering acidity carries black cherry and licorice towards the dry and herbal finish where tannins are left on the gums.  The long aftertaste is clean. ***(*) Now – 2023.

2003 Chapoutier, Hermitage Le Pavillon
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  On the second night this is a seamless wine of brooding strength.  The savory and salty start builds incredible depth of flavor backed by tactile sensation of extract.  This is an inky, mouth coating wine with licorice, floral flavors, and new oak.  This is an intense, modern wine.  **** Now – 2033.

1982 Chateau La Lagune, Haut Medoc
Shipped by Andre Labarda.  Imported by Majestic Wines & Spirits.  A mature nose with leather aromas.  It is off to a savory start with this medium bodied wine.  There is a nice mix of fruit, both red and black, along with hints of floral perfume in the finish.  I would drink these gentle wines now.  *** Now.

1977 Cassayre-Forni Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
This offers a good nose of black fruit and leather.  In the mouth is a linear delivery of black fruit, integrity acidity, and some greenhouse notes.  Best within one hour.  *** Now.

1977 Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
At first this was gentle with foxy, simple flavors.  But after an hour in the decanter it became mouth filling with darker fruit and a touch of greenhouse.  Good weight.  ***(*) Now.

Holiday Claret with Lou

Lou and I usually crack open a few bottles of claret around Christmas-time.  This year we settled on a trio of Chateau Gruaud-Larose sourced from that old DC cellar.   In lieu of a Champagne starter, we tried the 2016 Lise & Bertrand Jousset, Rose petillant cuvee Exile.  This is a surprisingly deep-flavored sparkling Gamay which is only $17 at Chambers St Wines.  Crazy!  It is a rather big wine so one glass to start the evening is all you need.

All Gruaud bottles had fills in the neck but the 1975s were not in good shape.  One cork dropped in at some point after being stood up and the other bottle had a firm cork with scary mold growth on top.  No worries though, the 1978 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien with modest body and fruit acted as a foil for the 1966 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien.  The 1966 has more of everything compared to the 1978.  The  juicy acidity makes it particularly enjoyable to drink.  Though there is mouth-coating structure to carry the core of fruit on for several years to come it is balanced and mature right now.

I served Lou one blind wine even though I suspected it was most likely undrinkable.  I did so because the 1975 Montana Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, New Zealand is positively ancient when it comes to the history of the New Zealand wine industry.  With origins dating back to the 1930s, Montana Wines was part of the development of a proper industry during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The wine is completely shot but it is best put in perspective.  It was only in the late 1960s that that American hybrid vines were ripped up in favor of European varieties.

2016 Lise & Bertrand Jousset, Rose petillant cuvee Exile – $17
Imported by Fruit of the Vines.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 40 year old vines that was fermented in used barriques. Alcohol 12%.  A very light pink salmon rose.  There are modest and firm bubbles at first with surprisingly ample body that makes it was into the fat and racy finish. Good depth, earth, and a racy, mineral finish.  *** Now.

1978 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien
Greenhouse aromas with finely articulate scents of red fruit and some earth.  In the mouth are slightly rounded flavors of red fruit, sharp acidity, and structure.  Not bad but certainly no 1966.  ** Now.

1975 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien
Imported by Chateau & Estate Wines Company. First bottle, dark red, meaty with substantial presence yet short in the finish.  Second bottle, less of a deep nose with celery aromas.  The red fruit is tart, mixing with leather, wet fut, and a very short, tart, citric finish.  Not Rated.

1966 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien
The most mature color of the trio having a garnet rim.  There are aromas of red fruit, hints of brown sugar, and greenhouse.  In the mouth are bright, fresh cranberry red fruit, juicy acidity, and an almost sappy nature.  The wine still has plenty of mouth-coating tannins as well as a core of fruit.  It takes on a touch of greenhouse with air and a slight cedar note.  Quite satisfying.  ***(*) Now but will last.

1975 Montana Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, New Zealand
Alcohol 12%. Toast!

Liquid research: tasting recent arrivals at MacArthur Beverages.

September 21, 2015 Leave a comment

This past week I joined Phil at MacArthur Beverages to sample several new wine selections.  With the clear bottle, the color of the 2013 Spook Light, Skin Fermented Pinot Gris, Hawke’s Bay might look odd at first.  However, this is a skin fermented wine so the orange-rust color is correct.  It is a generous and rounded wine that has attractive minerals.  I found the 2010 M & S Ogier, l’Ame Soeur, Syrah de Seyssuel, VdP Collines Rhodaniennes to be a subtle example of northern Rhone Syrah.  Though well-made and enjoyable, it did not knock my socks off.  The 2012 Domaine Gramenon, La Sagesse, Cotes du Rhone is a very interesting wine that continued to change and evolve while I was at the store.  Initially it was quite earthy and young then shortly before I left it was more generous with very clean fruit and a beautiful rosemary flavor.  This deserves to be tasted again!  The bottle of 2012 Domaine Leon Barral, Faugeres reminded me of earlier vintages where I fell in love with the fruit and delivery of flavors unique to Barral.  There was nothing but pleasure from this wine which I recommend you drink within the next two years.  The guys had trolled the Californian dump-bin from which came the 2004 Pax, Red Wine, Sonoma Hillsides, Sonoma County.  Let us just say it was massive.  Tim then returned with a bottle of the 2011 Le Paine, Piane, Colline Novaresi.  I neglected to take a picture but my initial taste of this mostly Croatina based wine was very promising.  There is certainly a different flavor profile to the rather floral, black fruited flavors.  This long, textured wine deserves another visit as well.  Thanks to everyone for letting me join in!


2013 Spook Light, Skin Fermented Pinot Gris, Hawke’s Bay – $35
This wine is 100% skin-fermented Pinot Gris that was rested on the lees in stainless steel until bottled.  Alcohol 13.1%.  This rounded and weighty wine, had red fruit that mixed with a hint of skin/stems, juicy acidity, and a linear mineral streak.


2010 M & S Ogier, l’Ame Soeur, Syrah de Seyssuel, VdP Collines Rhodaniennes – $60
Imported by Robert Kacher.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 13 year old vines that was completely destemmed then aged 18 months in 20% new oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose bore hints of meat, pepper, and some smoke.  In the mouth were purple black fruit with an initially very modest structure.  The wine was harmonious and mouthfilling with some earth-like complexity.  The structure eventually built as did blacker fruit.  A bit shy at this point.


2012 Domaine Gramenon, La Sagesse, Cotes du Rhone – $37
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from 60 year old vines that was fermented in cement cuve before aging 12 months in barriques.  The animale nose made way to ripe, quickly expanding flavors of dark red fruit.  This wine continued to change, initially possessing floral flavors that poked through before a hint of tea, then took on complexity from a strong rosemary flavor that mixed with fresh, clean fruit.  There was certainly a very fine, drying tannic structure.  Very interesting.


2012 Domaine Leon Barral, Faugeres – $26
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This opened up noticeably to offer ripe, red, grippy fruit that had a subtle citric note.  It continued to be a vibrant wine with dark, floral potpourri notes, ripe tannins, a grippy nature, and fruit that almost became sweet.  I like the animale flavors.  This bottle drank very well with consistent stability.


2004 Pax, Red Wine, Sonoma Hillsides, Sonoma County – $20
This wine is a blend of 52% Syrah, 47% Grenache, and 1% Roussanne.  This big red wine was evocative of big Australian wine that had a stemmy, mineral side.

Anniversary drinks at Fleurie in Charlottesville

November 20, 2014 Leave a comment


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.

Erin Pours Wines From New Zealand and New York at The Musket Room

January 21, 2014 Leave a comment


When Jenn and I sat down at the bar of The Musket Room it was sommelier Erin Barbour Scala who immediately placed glasses in front of us.  It is through her previous work at Public and her wine blog Thinking Drinking that Erin and I have become friends.  Erin decided to start us with a flight of three New Zealand white wines.  I typically taste wines that I have selected so to taste interesting wines picked by someone else is a treat.


The 2009 Quartz Reef, Vintage Methode Traditionelle was quite an opener.  Its upbringing in oak and even, perhaps, the hand riddling, produced a beautiful sparkling wine evocative of Champagne.  That I may not have been able to place this as a wine from New Zealand may be due to my inexperience but I would readily open a bottle for my friends.  Erin noted that the 2011 Millton, Chenin Blanc, Te Arai Vineyard would change in the glass.  I was diverted by having my first taste of Chenin Blanc from New Zealand but Jenn was beguiled by the oscillation between waxy fruit, sage, and perfume.  Jenn grew up in New Mexico so she finds aromas of sage particularly attractive.  That she loved the Chenin Blanc over the larger, oak influenced 2009 Mountford Estate, Chardonnay is a bit telling.  For me the Mountford was a little too overt.  The 2009 Urlar, Pinot Noir mixed some complexity with higher-toned berries and citrus.  Of similar intensity the 2010 Paumanok Vineyards, Merlot showed a nice mix of grapey fruit and cinnamon spice.  To finish with the Channing Daughters Winery, VerVino Vermouth-Variation 3 served on the rocks was a complete surprise.  I did not take any note, instead I sipped it as I chatted with Barbara Lambert and Erin.  Erin and I have been discussing our next Online Symposium, we solidified our next topic that night so stay tuned.


2009 Quartz Reef, Vintage Methode Traditionelle, Central Otago
Imported by Station Imports.  This wine is a blend of 87% Chardonnay and 13% Pinot Noir which was aged on the lees for 4 years.  Alcohol 12.5%. The nose was textured with aromas of a little sweet spice and wood notes.  There were slightly firm bubbles in the mouth with dissipated in to a firm mousse.  The acidity was supportive throughout.  The flavors were tangy and chalky with grip, spices, and a juicy aftertaste.  A pleasure to drink.


2011 Millton, Chenin Blanc, Te Arai Vineyard, Gisborne
Imported by Verity Wine Partners.  This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from the Te Arai Vineyard which was planted in 1984.  It was fermented and aged in a mixture of demi muids and stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol 11.5%.  There was an evolving nose of waxy aromas, sage, and perfume.  The nose really steps out of the glass.   The flavors were a bit more fresh in the mouth than I expected with apple fruit and lots of grippy acidity flavors.  The flavors started apple-like then became sweeter.  An interesting wine.


2009 Mountford Estate, Chardonnay, Waipara Valley
Imported by Fruit of the Vine Inc.  Alcohol 14.5%. The nose was clearly barrel influenced Chardonnay with ripe yellow fruit.  In the mouth were butterscotch flavors, good acidity, and a bit sharper towards the end with apple acidity.  I thought the oak a little too overt for my preference.


2010 Urlar, Pinot Noir, Wairarapa
Imported by Atlas Imports.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir fermented in oak cuves then aged for 25% new French oak barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a complex nose of higher-toned berries, citrus, and “under brush”.  It took on a citrus aromas with air.  In the mouth were firmer flavors but delivered with good length.  It had nice cranberry notes yielding both fruit flavors and complexity.


2010 Paumanok Vineyards, Merlot, North Fork
This wine is 100% Merlot.  There was a slightly sweet, restrained nose.  In the mouth were grapey flavors, cinnamon spice, and chewy tannins.  The firmer structure made way to acidity in the aftertaste.


NV Channing Daughters Winery, VerVino Vermouth-Variation 3, Long Island
Alcohol 19%.  Served on the rocks this was a balanced, light red wine with a floral and herbal mixture.  No notes taken but I enjoyed sipping from my glass as I chatted.


Cloudy Bay: An Intimate Lunch with Ian Morden

March 28, 2013 1 comment
Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Captain Cook set sight on Cloudy Bay on Wednesday, the 7th of February 1770.  In his journal he noted, “…the snowy Mountain S.W. being…abreast of a Deep Bay or inlet called Cloudy bay…”.  Some 200 years later in 1985 the Cloudy Bay Vineyards was founded by David Hohnen.  Cloudy Bay quickly became infamous for its Sauvignon Blanc.  It was served aboard the first British Airways round-the-world flight of the Concorde. Unfortunately, after departing Christchurch a tail rudder incident caused those glasses of Sauvignon Blanc to fly about the cabin.  The trajectory of its popularity continued to ascend such that we find Jamie Goode commenting in 2000 that it was so popular in England that wine merchants were finding all sorts of ways to ration the wine.  Less than one decade later Ian Morden became Estate Manager of Cloudy Bay.

Ian Morden

Ian Morden

I was quick to accept an invitation from Maria Denton, the Moet Hennessey Portfolio Manager at Washington Wholesale Liquor Company, to join her and Ian for a lunch at The Blue Duck Tavern.  I had it in mind I was attending a luncheon tasting with others in the business and I was the blogger.  With bag and Nikon slung over my shoulder I announced to the hostess that I was present for the Cloudy Bay Tasting and Lunch.  She was perplexed, there was no big tasting scheduled.  It began to dawn on me, I was having lunch with just Ian and Maria.

The Blue Duck Tavern was an apt choice for lunch.  With a menu full of locally sourced ingredients it reminded Ian of Forage Cloudy Bay.  In this event four groups set off in cardinal directions to gather ingredients for a meal.  At the end of the day all of the items are placed on a giant table so that the chefs may get to work. The food, of course, is complimented by the wines of Cloud Bay.  One effort to prevent cellar palate is the annual Pinot at Cloudy Bay.  In this event one to dozen Pinot Noirs sourced from around the world are served to an array of international guests in discrete tasting sessions.  Ian certainly drinks diversely and more than once per year.  He was quick to ask Maria and I for suggestions on local wineries he should visit and try.

We started our lunch with two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc both of which are sourced from the same vineyards.  The traditional Sauvignon Blanc was very aromatic and textured, what I would hope for from this wine.  But the mouth was surprising for it contained more texture and weight than I had expected.  Ian believes that Sauvignon Blanc should not just be about aroma and flavor but also of texture.  I can appreciate that desire as I like to pay attention to the feel of the wine on my tongue, gums, cheeks, and throat.  The structural component has been achieved in the last several vintages through barrel fermenting a small portion of the wine in old oak.  Barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc is not new to Cloudy Bay, it has been practiced for many years and is fully expressed in their Te Koko.  Legend has it that the explorer Kupe pursued a giant octopus across the Pacific Ocean ultimately killing it in the Marlborough Sounds.  For food Kupe dredged up oysters with a scoop in Cloud bay.  The Maori called this bay Te Koko-o-Kupe or Kupe’s scoop.  This wine is primarily barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc using indigenous yeasts.  Some of the lots took up to eight months to complete fermentation.  Whereas the traditional Sauvignon Blanc expresses itself best at a cool temperature, the Te Koko blossomed with air and warmth.  I kept my glass around for one hour and it was lovely, truly complex.

Ian is responsible for the management and strategy of Cloudy Bay.  He is also part of the four-person team responsible for the blending of the wines.  Tim Heath, Senior Winemaker, and his team of Nicholas Blampied- Lane and Sarah Burton are responsible for the wine making.  The strength of this team is evident in the first glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  The 2012 vintage was described by Tim Heath as “nerve-wracking”.  After a great start this vintage went on to experience the coolest temperatures and least amount of sunlight in eighty years.  The fruit took two weeks longer to mature but went on to experience one of the sunniest autumns.  Yields were reduced by 25%.


2012 Cloud Bay, Sauvignon Blanc –
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which was primarily fermented in stainless steel with 3% fermented in old French oak barriques using inoculated yeast.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a very light straw with a hint of yellow.  The medium strength nose was aromatic with textured passion fruit.  As it warmed up the aromas became more pungent with notes of grass.  There was a crisp but weighty start to the flavors before the wine fully developed weight and texture midpalate.  There was a long aftertaste which left some citrus notes and fine acidity on the sides of the tongue.


2009 Cloudy Bay, Te Koko, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which was fermented using indigenous yeast in 90% used French oak barrels then underwent malolactic fermentation.  It was then aged on the lees.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was a light golden-yellow straw.  The light nose was more heavy with floral and salami aromas (sounds strange but is good).  There was very fresh fruit in the mouth with watering acidity and lifted berry notes in the middle.  The acidity came out on the sides of the tongue.  The finish brought flavors of white nuts, ripe tannins, and some tang.  This continued to develop in the glass over the course of lunch.

Their Chardonnay followed, which was a first for me.  The Chardonnay is sourced from Mendoza clones which provide many small berries that provide a higher skin to juice ratio.  Cloud Bay has already released the 2011 vintage but you should have no fear.  I thought the 2007 vintage drank quite well displaying balance between bottle age, barrel influences, and acidity.  I imagine it should drink well for another few years.


2007 Cloudy Bay, Chardonnay, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was fermented using indigenous yeasts in mostly barrels with some stainless steel tanks using inoculated yeasts.  It was then aged for 12 months in 25% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.0%.  The color was a vibrant light gold.  The light nose revealed heavier, honied aromas with a touch of lees.  There was gentle dense weight to the flavors which were matched by building acidity.  There were slight barrel toast notes and a sense of maturity as stone flavors came out in the mouthfilling finish.

Barracks Block Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

Barracks Block Vineyard, Image from Cloudy Bay

With our entrees arriving it was time to move on to Pinot Noir.  Cloudy Bay has been bottling Pinot Noir since 1989.  They source fruit for all of their wines from four estate vineyards and also growers.  Some of the growers have been providing fruit for over 20 years.  Over the years they have been exploring vineyard sites throughout Marlborough.  This has led them to the free draining soils of the Wairau Valley plains where the Sauvignon Blanc vineyards are located to the clay based soils of the Southern Valleys.  As a result the estate vineyards expanded in 2004 to include the Barracks Block Vineyard.  This was virgin soils which had never seen a vine so there was natural curiosity to taste the results.  They planted the entire vineyard with Pinot Noir choosing to use Burgundian clones.  The estate vineyards generally lie on alluvial gravels with some clay and they experience a maritime climate.  The fruit is cropped at 6 tons per hectare.  The Te Wahi, Maori for The Place,  is produced from vineyards in Central Otago.  Here the soils contains glacial schist with the climate being continental.  The fruit is cropped around 4.5 tons per hectare.  This was an interesting comparison.  The Marlborough Pinot Noir was brighter and redder than the perfumed Te Wahi which was savory with blacker fruit.


2009 Cloudy Bay, Pinot Noir, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was destemmed and fermented using indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks.  It was lightly pressed then aged for 12 months in 50% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.1%.    The color was a light to medium garnet cherry.  There was bright red fruit in the mouth then dark red fruit flavors with integrated acidity.  There was long powdery texture and ripe flavors in the finish.


2010 Cloudy Bay, Te Wahi, Central Otago –
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was 95% destemmed then fermented in open top stainless steel tanks.  It was lightly pressed then aged for 14 months in 40% new French oak.  Alcohol 13.7%.  The color was a medium dark ruby, more intense than the previous wine.  The black and red fruited nose was very finely textured with aromas of stone and perfume.  There were firmer flavors of hard candy along with black and red fruit.  With air savory herbs developed along with perfume.  This is a young wine with strong potential.  Beautiful.

With our entrees cleared it was time for coffee, sugar cookies, and dessert wine.  If I may sum up their Late Harvest Botrytis Riesling it really tastes like Riesling from New Zealand.  The fruit which is harvested is mostly botrytised.  Whereas the Sauvignon Blanc may be harvested in March the Riesling will be harvested in May or even June.  Some of the fruit is unaffected and used for acidity.


2008 Cloudy Bay, Late Harvest Botrytis Riesling, Marlborough –
This wine is 100% Riesling of which most was botrytised.  The fruit was pressed overnight then fermented for 10 months in old French oak barrels.  Fermentation was arrested with sulphur.  TA 8.8 g/l, 3.2 pH, RS 128 g/l, Alcohol 11%.  There was a light gold color.  The light to medium nose was aromatic with citrus and grass, combining a sense of New Zealand but clearly Riesling.  There was good acidity in the mouth, textured flavors, and a little fresh, citrus note.  There was gentle botrytis flavor, perhaps tea, and acidity which came with a lifted citrus finish.


The wine caps feature a logo inspired by the dolphins which swim nearby.  Cloudy Bay even produces a sparkling wine named after Pelorus Jack, a dolphin which famously swam in the Cook Straight one century ago.  He was so beloved that he was protected by law.  Cloudy Bay is an historic winery which embraces local history.  With the newer vintages I think it is evident that Ian has balanced respect and change to subtly create new wines.

Pelorus Jack, Image from the State Library of South Australia, 1912. (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Pelorus Jack, Image from the State Library of South Australia, 1912. (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Sauvignon Blanc and Greywacke

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

I recently drank an interesting pair of wines from Marlborough, New Zealand.  The Auntsfield Estate is old by many standards with the first vineyard and winery completed in 1873.  The original log and rammed earth cellar has been restored providing an historical glimpse at how the wines were originally made.  While the original vineyard consisted of one acre of brown Muscat today there are over 100 hectares of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards are located on the lower slopes of southern Wairau Valley.  The fruit for this Estate Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from vines located on old Greywacke rocks and Loess clay soils.

Old Vineyard, Image from Auntsfield

Greywacke is a much younger winery having been established by Kevin Judd in 2009.  Kevin Judd himself is an experienced hand having been the winemaker for the first 25 vintages at Cloudy Bay.  It was during these years that he envisioned having his own label and actually registered the Greywacke name in 1993.  The fruit for his wines are sourced from central Wairau Plains and the Southern Valleys.  The fruit for this Sauvignon blanc is sourced from vines  located on soils of greywacke river stones and older, clay-loams.   The wines themselves are made at Dog Point Winery.

Vineyard Wairau Valley, Image from murraybrock (flickr)

For those curious, such as myself, Greywacke (grey-wacky) is a grey stone found throughout New Zealand.  This type of rock consists of layers of hard, grey sandstone alternating with thinner, darker layers of mudstone.

Both of these wines are quite enjoyable and I recommend both.  If I had to pick a single bottle then I would recommend the Greywacke.  I felt it had a bit more density to its character which combined with more integrated acidity, proved a superb glass of wine all by itself.  These wines area available at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Greywacke, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough – $19
Imported by Old Bridge Cellars.  This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc which was mostly machine harvested.  The majority was fermented in stainless steel tanks with cultured yeast and the remainder in old French oak barriques using indigenous yeasts.  The batches were kept on the lees until blending.  TA 7.2 g/l, pH 3.08, Alcohol 13.6%.  The color is a light straw-green.  The light nose is fresh with textured aromas of grapefruit.  In the mouth the fruit ripens with air providing flavors of white fruit, green apple, and minerals.  There is lively acidity followed by a grassy aftertaste where dry flavors of minerals leave a textured finish.  There is also a hint of sweet spiced tannins.  *** Now-2016.

2010 Auntsfield Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, Southern Valleys, Marlborough – $20
Imported by Vine Street Imports.  This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from estate vineyards.  85% of the fruit was machine harvested then fermented in stainless steel tanks using cultured yeast and 15% was hand harvested then fermented in seasoned oak barrels using indigenous yeasts.  TA 7.24 g/l, 3.25 pH, Alcohol 13.5%.  The medium strength nose is grassy with pink grapefruit, stones, and white fruit.  In the mouth there is tangy, textured fruit, lots of citric acidity which causes the front of the tongue to pucker before the flavors broaden and show some ripeness.  There are minerals notes towards the finish followed by a long aftertaste.  Quite a mouthful.  *** Now-2015.

We Return to PUBLIC

For Lorelei’s second trip to New York I asked William if we could dine at PUBLIC. Lorelei had not eaten there and it had been some years since we were last there. It is hard to believe that PUBLIC is now nine years old. Walking around the restaurant instantly reminds me of dinners and New Years Eve of past. The industrial design has not aged which is no surprise since, for example, the bar is lit by Crouse Hinds explosion proof pendant lights. When I look through my old images taken at PUBLIC time is marked by changing hair, glasses, and clothes. At the restaurant it is marked by a changing menu and newer vintages (and some older!) on the wine list.

We joined William for dinner as soon as the doors opened. An early start maximizes the amount of time Lorelei may stay and we needed as much as possible to sample a variety of Chef Farmerie’s excellent dishes. The bar immediately sent out the St. Thyme wine cocktail. The thyme and rosemary infused St. Germain shows ideal balance between herbs, sweetness, and bubbly acidity from the blanc de blanc. We started with such appetizers as the Parsnip soup in an espresso cup (fun to mix the espresso creme fraiche) , Marinated white anchovies (fresh notes of the ocean), Grilled kangaroo on coriander falafel, and Grilled Kobe beef tongue (grilled bits taste great with the relish).

The least we can do is bring up a couple of bottles of wine to drink with dinner. To start we drank the 2002 Donnhoff, Riesling Spatlese, Norheimer Kirschheck, Nahe. At ten years of age there is a rich yellow color. It is still quite young showing great focus, clarity, and honeyed yellow fruit. By the end of the evening a racy vein of fruit developed giving a hint of its future. The fruit, acidity, and ripeness are impeccably balanced. This will surely make old-bones and is best left in the cellar. ***(*) 2017-2035. While our entrees were prepared we lingered over the bottle while enjoying a dish of vegetables such as pickled carrots and crispy leaves with truffled hummus.

Our entrees consisted of the Mushroom and Ricotta tortellini (beautiful texture), Roasted Chatham cod with manila clams (the clams alone are amazing), and Szechuan crusted tenderloin and roasted belly of Berkshire pork. Intensely aromatic there was no need to tilt my head for aromas filled my nose as soon as I was served. For these dishes we drank the 1999 Rene Rostaing, Cote-Rotie. Having been decanted for an hour or so it showed a strong aromatic personality of earth, minerals, and spice. In the mouth it was refined and elegant with flavors that followed the nose. Fresh in the mouth with plenty of acidity it neither subverted nor was upstaged by our entrees. **** Now-2019.

For our dessert we went with Sticky toffee pudding with Armagnac ice cream, Hokey Pokey ice cream, and the PUBLIC chocolate plate. Lorelei devoured the Hokey Pokey ice cream so I deeply satisfied myself with the Sticky toffee pudding and chocolates. Wine Director Erin Scala surprised us with a trio of New Zealand dessert wines. Having never tried this style of wine before I was excited.

The 2004 Dry River, Riesling, Late Harvest, Craighall Vineyard, Martinborough was floral with controlled ripeness on the nose. In the mouth the elegant fruit had some weight easily matched by the acidity. A wine that may certainly be drunk by the glass. *** Now-2022.

The 2010 Seifried, Riesling, Sweet Agnes, Nelson was markedly different with dry toast aromas, cereal, a hint of berries, plenty of acidity. Not my particular style of wine but certainly interesting to taste. ** Now-2017.

The 2004 Vinoptima, Gewurztraminer, Noble Late Harvest, Ormond was the sweetest of the three with viscous tropical flavors, supporting acidity, and though assertive, it had a seductive personality. I opted for a second pour of this one because it worked will with the Sticky toffee pudding. *** Now-2019.

Jenn loves port so Erin brought her two more glasses. I did not get to try the NV Seppeltsfield, Para Grand Tawny, Barossa Valley for Jenn certainly appreciated the glass. The 1985 Bodegas Toro Albala, Don Pedro Ximenez, Gran Reserva, Montilla-Moriles was thick with fig-like texture and flavors, baking spices, and caramel with good acidity and length. I have no clue how these age. Though it should certainly last for a long time why not drink it now? *** Now-2027.

Spurred by Erin’s excitement about wine at our dinner I contacted her after our vacation. Erin is the Wine & Beverage Manager having joined PUBLIC just over one year ago. Having taken on a developed wine list she has made some small changes like including younger Australian producers such as Some Young Punks. The wine list is predominantly focused on the wines of Australia and New Zealand but does include various selections from around the world such as 1981 Adelsheim, Elizabeth’s Reserve, Willamete Valley and 2004 Contino, Gran Reserva, Rioja in triple magnum. Erin’s most notable inclusion is the Antipodean Influence Abroad page. In keeping with the theme of the restaurant this list features wines made from Australian and New Zealand winemakers in Europe and the US. Through these wines she wants to highlight the growing global influence of Roseworthy and Otago. She is particularly excited by Angela Osborne’s Tribute to Grace Grenache and Michelle Reeve’s David Family Pinot Noir. In the early years the wine list gained vintage depth through lots purchased at Langton’s wine auctions in Australia. Today the auction purchases happen locally in Manhattan. With a reduced focus on Australian wines they may readily win interesting lots to add to the list.

I definitely recommend you check out the PUBLIC wine list and at dinner you should ask Erin for help in picking something new. Bring your friends and curiosity for there is much to recommend. Any enthusiasm will be warmly embraced and nurtured. For those wondering what Erin drinks outside of PUBLIC check out her new wine blog Thinking.Drinking.

The 2012 Bacchus Importers Portfolio Tasting

March 23, 2012 1 comment


This week I took the time to drive up to Baltimore for the Bacchus Importers 2012 Portfolio Tasting held at the Hippodrome Theatre.  Built in 1914 the Hippodrome contains an intimate hall lit primarily by natural light from the large windows.  The tables were arranged around the walls of the hall and also in a rectangle at the center.  Together they held almost 400 different wines.  Just outside of the hall there were tables holding some 75+ different spirits.  Though only a fraction of the Bacchus portfolio there were more than enough selections for the afternoon at all price points.  I knew that could only stay for two and a half hours so I decided to visit both individual wineries and importers.  A large number of people attended this tasting and in looking at name tags it appeared that almost every restaurant, wine bar, and wine store in Maryland, DC, and Virginia were present.  There was quite a buzz and press of people mid-afternoon, clearly illustrating the importance of wine in this region.

The Hippodrome Theatre

Though a single pour at a portfolio tasting is no substitude for properly tasting through an entire bottle, with focus and note taking, I find that the broad exposure is particularly informative.  Equally important for me is to meet other people.  The majority of my posts are generated from wines tasted at home and as of yet, importers, distributors, and wineries do not appear at my doorstep.  So this Spring I am doing my best to head out to these portfolio tastings to expand my relationships.  I spent part of the tasting with Shane Verburg, who not only works at Bacchus Importers but is also my friend and neighbor.  I am particularly thankful for the introduction to wines I had never tried before.

Below you will find my tasting notes, again these are more impressions, but they should give some idea about the wines I tasted.  I managed to taste 49 wines from 12 tables.  The wines are organized alphabetically by the table they were located at and within a table, by the order in which they were tasted.


This was my first time tasting the wines of Breggo.  I thought the 2009 Pinot Noir was drinking quite well now and will develop over the  short-term.  Of the single vineyards I preferred the Savoy and think this will make a fine candidate for aging.

Lee Abraham, Breggo/Cliff Lede

2010 Breggo, Pinot Gris, Wiley Vineyard,  Anderson Valley
This wine is 100% Pinot Gris which was whole cluster pressed, fermented in neutral French oak.  It saw no malolactic fermentation and was aged for 10 months sur lie in barrel.  The nose was fruity with old perfume and did not reveal what was about to surface. In the mouth there was super ripe and sweet fruit with spice, almost tasted of residual sugar.

2009 Breggo, Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 10 months in 44% new 60-gallon French oak barrels.  The restrained nose contained darker fruit. In the mouth there were ripe and dark, black fruit. The ripe flavors quickly focused to linear, fruity, and well delivered profile. Tasty.

2009 Breggo, Pinot Noir, Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 15 months in 56% new 60-gallon French oak barrels. There was a nose of red fruit with some dark roast hints. In the mouth this was ripe and sweet at first but developed structure with a good racy finish.

2009 Breggo, Pinot Noir, Savoy Vineyard, Anderson Valley
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir which was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 15 months in 63% new 60-gallon French oak barrels.  There was a dark nose, almost stinky. In the mouth the darker fruit bore some minerality with chewy dark fruit in the finish, fine+, spicy tannins, and ripe notes in the aftertaste. Young should develop quite well.


It was a treat to meet Greg Brewer and to taste his wines.  The Santa Rita Hills wines are produced from fruit sourced from multiple vineyard sites including Mount Carmel.  The Mount Carmel wines are specifically from that vineyard site with the soils featuring more clay and limestone.  Each varietal is handled the same regardless of vineyard site.  The simplicity of the tasting showcased the differences of the vineyard blend of the Santa Rita Hills wines against that of Mount Carmel.  The Chardonnays clearly need several years of age to loosen up.  I thought both of the Pinot Noirs were quite interesting and though young, were quite engaging.

Greg Brewer, Brewer-Clifton

2009 Brewer-Clifton, Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills
There was a very subtle nose. In the mouth the precise fruit was almost tart with plenty of acidity that turned towards an apple-like profile. The finish was lifted with a touch of wood? along with good texture in the afteratse. Needs time.

2009 Brewer-Clifton, Chardonnay, Mount Carmel, Santa Rita Hills
This nose was a touch more aromatic with hints of ripe yellow fruit. The initial burst of fruit covered the mouth with acidity peaking in the ethereal finish.

2009 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills
This was very aromatic with a lifted and finely textured nose of red and blue fruit along with some floral aromas. In the mouth the red fruit was floral with lavender flavors and a good aftertaste revealing ripeness and sweet spice. The sides of the tongue were coated with minerals and black fruit. Really, quite nice.

2009 Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, Mount Carmel, Santa Rita Hills
This was darker with a low-lying nose. In the mouth the bright, tart red fruit moved to floral, minerally black fruit in the middle. It was quite lively as it stuck to the mouth and tongue. Good texture and flavorful tannins.

The Crowd at Full-Swing

Cliff Lede

These were also poured by Lee Abraham.  The regular Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District (SLD) showed strong immediate presence and while it will develop with age, was enjoyable for its youthful vigor.  The Poetry stepped this up and was particularly appealing for its quiet power.

2010 Cliff Lede, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
This wine is 99% Sauvignon blanc and 1% Semillon.  The fruit was fermented in 66% stainless steel tanks, 26% French oak barrels, 7% concrete eggs, and 1% stainless steel drums.  There was no malolactic fermentation.   The nose was leaner and grassier. In the mouth the flavors were greener with grassy notes and dried herbs. There is an approachable softness and notes of apricot in the finish.

2009 Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
This wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec, 1% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 17 months in 60% new French oak. The nose was interesting with red and blue fruit, a bit of herbs, with good aromas reminiscent of traditional Bordeaux. In the mouth the flavors were very forward, racy, and perfumed before dark blue and black fruits come out. The drying tannins are well integrated and there was a good aftertaste. Approachable but will age.

2009 Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon, Poetry, Stags Leap District
This wine is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec which was aged for 18 months in new Frnech oak. The nose was restrained with blue fruit than tart red notes. In the mouth the focused fruit was racy with blue and black flavors, minerality, and a quiet power. There was black fruit in the aftertaste along with spicy, drying tannins.

Crew Wine

Shane wanted me to try this “grapefruit stick” and boy was it ever.  I could smell the wine as it was poured into my glass from a few feet away but in the mouth it showed good balance. Definitely fun.

2011 Chasing Venus, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc suorced from four different vineyard sites.  This certainly was a grapefruit stick! The grapefruit aromas leapt out of the glass. In the mouth it was more restrained, almost prickly, with grapefruit flavors and a tart citrus–peel aftertaste. A good fruit monster.

De Maison Selections

It was a pleasure to see Steven Alexander again after the Los Tres Mosqueteros tasting.  I only tried three wines which I did not taste previously. All three were different and good.  The Dominio de Bibei should be aged so the others make good short-term wines.

Steven Alexander, De Maison Selections

2010 Juan d’Angura, Garnatxa, Montsant, Spain
This wine is 100% Garnatxa sourced from 15 year old vines on chalky clay soils.  The fruit was fermented in stainless steel.  The good nose revealed focused red fruit and perfume. In the mouth there were ripe berries and strawberry candy. This clean wine had a haunting perfume in the aftertaste and perhaps some inky minerals.

2007 Dominio de Bibei, Lalama, Ribera Sacra, Spain
This wine is a blend of 91% Mencia, 6% Garnacha, and 3% Mouraton sourced from 15-100 year old vines located in slate and clay soils.  It was fermented with indigenous yeatss in 85% foudre and 15% open barrels.  It was then aged for 21 months in 65% used French oak barrels and 35% foudre.  The nose was scented with lifted red fruit. In the mouth the good flavors turned towards tart red fruit and stones, which was focused and clean.  This should be cellared.

2007 La Granja Nuestra Senora de Remelluri, Rioja, Spain
This wine is a blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha, and 5% Graciano sourced from 10-90+ year old vines on calcareous clay soils. It was fermented in stainless steel and wood vats then aged for 16 months in 6 year old French and American oak. There was a modern, dark complex nose of red fruit and florals. The well-done flavors were dark and restrained with spicess and a supple lightness that filled the mouth.  I find this quite approachable.

Louis Dressner

I only  sampled three wines and picked the Domaine Bernard Baudry because I seem to have drunk more Chinon this past year.  While both were good I particularly liked the Les Grezaux.

Josefa Concannon, Louis Dressner and Jean-Paul Brun, Domaine des Terres Dorées

2010 Domaine Bernard Baudry, Les Granges, Chinon
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from a 6 hectare parcel  of vines planted between 1985 and 1988 on gravel and sand soils with clay-silica.  The fruit was fermented in vat then aged for seven months in barrel.  There was a light nose of delicate red fruit with some perfume. In the mouth there was tart red fruit which followed the nose, underlying perfume, and light but fine drying tannins.

2010 Domaine Bernard Baudry, Les Grezeaux, Chinon
This is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from an old vines on limestone rich soils.  This had a nose of brambly fruit and lifted perfume. There was great presence as the mouth followed the nose before taking on light red fruit in the finish and a good aftertaste complete with drying tannins.

2010 Chateau d’Oupia, Minervois
This wine is a blend of 50% Carignan, 40% Syrah, and 10% Grenache sourced from 50+ year old vines on soils of rocky clay, clay, and limestone.The restrained nose had aromas of harder, black-red fruit. In the mouth there was controlled ripeness, red grapefruit, and some inkiness. This will age and eventually shine.


This was a fun tasting as I enjoy comparisons. The Clare, Chloe, and Isobel were a bit more delicate and nuanced than the Russian River Valley but the Chloe stood above all with the articulate depth of its flavors.

Tom Pillsbury, DuMOL

2009 DuMOL, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from Dutton Ranch, estate, Heintz, Ritchie, and Hyde vineyards.  The fruit was barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation then aged for 15 months in 40% new French oak.   The nose had richer, yellower fruit along with some barrel nose. The rich mouthfeel was lifted with good weight and the flavors approached that of tropical. It was racy with sweet baking spices and toast in the aftertaste. This should be broadly appealing.

2009 DuMOL, Chardonnay, Clare, Russian River Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Hyde Vineyard.  The fruit was barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation then aged for 16 months on the lees in 50% new French oak.  This had a more delicate nose of yellow fruit and ripeness. In the mouth the fruit was ripe but focused with a delicate midpalate and textured tannins. There was a long aftertaste. Very nice.

2009 DuMOL, Chardonnay, Chloe, Russian River Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Ritchie, Searby, and Lorenzo vineyards.  The fruit was barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation then aged for 16 months on the lees in 50% new French oak. This revealed yellow and green (think apple) fruit with a lighter balance than the Clare but was deep and more articulate. In the mouth the youthful fruity flavors were expansive with good mouthfeel and seamlessly integrated acidity. There is a lot of depth to this wine and good baking spices in the aftertaste.  Lovely.

2009 DuMOL, Chardonnay, Isobel, Russian River Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Heintz Vineyard.  The fruit was barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation then aged for 14 months on the lees in 50% new French oak. This revealed restrained yellow fruit on the nose. In the mouth the flavors burst in with bright, almost tart, yellow fruit. Good overall texture. This definitely needs time to settle down as compared to the others.

2009 DuMOL, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from the seven vineyards.  The fruit was barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation then aged for 11 months in 40% new French oak.There was an aromatic Pinot Noir nose. In the mouth the racy blue fruit comes out at first then a good mouthfeel, followed spicy blue-black fruit. Very approachable.


I thought the CUNE showed a bit tight but Mauro was great in its youth and should easily benefit from several years worth of age.

Nic Bradley, Europvin

2007 CUNE, Reserva, Rioja, Spain
The nose was scented with dark, red fruit. In the mouth there was a quick burst of flavor before becoming restrained. Modern with some tannis, and a bit focused at this point it is a solid wine that should last for the mid term.

2008 Bodegas Mauro, Crianza, VdT de Castilla y Leon, Spain
This wine is a blend of 86% Tempranillo and 14% Syrah from the Tudela de Duero and Santibanez de Valcorba vineyards.  It was aged for 16 months in French and American oak.  This was nice with a lift nose containing notes of roast. In the mouth the wine was racy with some old-school flavors, a touch of perfume, and spicy tannins. I particularly liked the darker aspect. Give this a few years to develop.

Hanzell Vineyards

What a treat to taste the wines of Hanzell.  Like the Brewer-Clifton wines I felt the Chardonnays will clearly develop from several years worth of age whereas the Pinot Noir show good approachfulness right now.  And they will age as well.

John Buckley, Hanzell Vineyards

2010 Hanzell Vineyards, Sebella, Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from younger vines which was fermented in stainless steel then aged in neutral oak.  The nose revealed fresh, young, yellow-green fruit that was ripe. In the mouth there was fresh fruit, youthful flavors with a good mouthfeel that moved towards crispness. This mouthfilling wine left the impression of slight tannins. Needs a few years to unwind.

2009 Hanzell Vineyards, Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines averaging 30 years of age.The nose was darker than the Sebella with floral, yeast, and barrel components. In the mouth there was restrained, fresh fruit with a bigger mouth feel, nice ripe yellow fruit, a citrus aspect, and an aftertaste with good ripeness. Needs age.

2009 Hanzell Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Valley
This had a light nose of ripe cherries and Pinot Noir fruit, a hint of blue fruit, and overall good depth. In the mouth the red and blue fruit was structured with somewhat ethereal flavors of black fruit and minerals. In the finish there were fine but ripe tannins. This was quite enjoyable right now.

Marc de Grazia

I met Todd Ruby last November when he poured several wines at MacArthur Beverages, including selections from Chehalem.  Though I really liked the Chehalem wines I decided to skip them at this tasting since I had sampled a few before and had not had these Italian selections.  I particularly liked the Fattoria Le Terrazze and San Filippo.

Todd Ruby, Pouring Marc de Grazia

2010 De Angelis Gioacchino, Rosso, Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio, Italy
This wine is a blend of 60% Piedirosso and 40% Aglianico.The nose contained red fruit with a subdued floral perfume. In the mouth there was almost cool, sweet tuna-sushi fruit (for lack of a better description and not negative) and an earthy tone.

2009 Fattoria Le Terrazze, Rosso Conero, Italy
This wine is 100% Montepulciano sourced from vines planted in 1999 and 2001 on calcarous clay and sandy soils.  It was aged for 12 months in medium-sized oak casks.  The nose was enjoyable with good red and blue fruit. In the mouth the flavors were ripe, perfumed, and a bit spicy before its dark power expanded in the finish. Nice stuff.

2010 Giovanni Corino, Dolcetto d’Alba, Italy
There was youthful, purplish fruit on the nose. In the mouth there were flavors of red and purple fruit, puckering dry tannins, and a hint of perfume. Needs short term aging.

2006 San Filippo, Le Lucere, Brunello di Montalcino, Italy
This wine is 100% Sangiovese Rosso which was fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic fermentation in cement vats, stainless steel, and wood then aged for 24 months in barrels and barriques.  This had an inky, black fruited, perfumed nose. In the mouth there were good flavors of purple fruit and wood box in this mouthfilling, well-done wine. The tannins were ultra-fine.

Oasis Wines

Shane brought me over to Steve Ward’s table where I camped out at one end so that I could taste through the selections on his table.   Steve patiently walked me through all of the wines, which is fortunate because so many were tasty.  If I had to highlight a few: Bibbiano, Montornello, the Piaggia, Riserva, the Steltzner, Claret, the Vina von Siebenthal, Carmenere, and the Sean Thackery, Orion.

Steve Ward, Oasis Wines

2009 Bibbiano, Chianti Classico, Italy
This fruit is fermented in cement tanks then aged from 7-10 months in Slavonian oak.  The nose revealed interesting berries, raspberry and blue notes. In the mouth the flavors were earthy with more acidic red fruit, along with fine+ tannins in the aftertaste.

2009 Bibbiano, Montornello, Chianti Classico, Italy
This wine is 100% Sangiovese sourced from the Montornello parcel which was aged for 10-12 months in Slavonian oak casks.  The nose was more lifted with red fruit and a touch of floral aromas. With riper flavors in the mouth came dried spices and herbs, more drying tannins, and a bit of a racy character. Quite nice and definitely a lovely single parcel.

2008 Piaggia, Riserva, Carmignano, Italy
This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot.  The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and aging for 18 months in French oak barriques.  The nose revealed red cherry and ripe fruits. In the mouth there were neat racy flavors, a great aged component, wood box, and all around a great Italian wine.

2008 Piaggia, Il Sasso, Carmignano, Italy
This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot.  The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and aging for 18 months in French oak barriques.The nose was lifted and floral with ripe red fruit and tobacco. In the mouth the dark red fruit was more approachable, with perfume, lipstick, and a touch of earth.

2009 Steltzner Vineyards, Claret, Napa Valley
This wine is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, and 13% Merlot which was aged for 22 months in French oak..  The nose was perfumed with licorice, blue fruits, and flowers. In the mouth the ripe black and blue fruit mixed with an old-perfume component before the fruit turned redder. The aftertaste carried perfumed tart red fruit, some sweetness, and fine tannins.

NV Sean Thackery, Pleiades XXII Old Vines, California
The nose showed bright, fruity-tooty aromas along with flowers. In the mouth there was a floral-soap component (for lack of a better description) with the perfume following the nose. The flavors become lifted and redder before taking on old perfume notes. Unique.

2009 Vina von Siebenthal, Carmenere, Valle de Aconcagua, Chile
This wine is a blend of approximately 90% Carmenere and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon which was fermented in stainless steel then aged for four months in French oak..  The aromatic and lovely nose had some good hints of barnyard stink. In the mout the flavors were red, with lipstick raciness, a little chewy then it expanded effortlessly in the mouth with a hint of minerals and a strong finish. Tasty.

2008 Vina von Siebenthal, Carabantes, Syrah, Valle de Aconcagua, Chile 
This wine is an approximate blend of 85% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot which was fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged for 14 months in new barrels.  There was a more restrained nose of red candy. In the mouth cooler red fruit made was to young, inky flavors, and lots of fine drying tannins.

2009 Sean Thackery, Orion, Rossi Vineyard, St. Helena
There was a dark nose with aromas of lavender. In the mouth the low-lying dark fruit had power, seemed soft, but there was support along with perfume and acidity. With old school aromas and flavors this wrapped up with nice, sweet spices in the aftertaste. Needs age.

Shafer Winery

My Shafer Winery experience is limited to a few vintages of Chardonnay, Red Shoulder Ranch, Firebreak, and Relentless. Though the Hillside Select is sold out Shafer kindly sent over a few bottles so everyone could taste it.  What an absolute treat, it seemed boundless in its depth of flavors continually revealing more as I worked it in my mouth.  Fortunately the One Point Five is a very good selection instead and highly recommended.  Strong wines all around.

Dave Schroeder, Bacchus Importers pouring Shafer

2010 Shafer Winery, Chardonnay, Red Shoulder Ranch, Carneros
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from Red Shoulder Ranch.  The fruit was whole cluster pressed and fermented with indigenous yeats in barrel.  There was no malolactic fermentation and it was aged for 14 months with 74% new French oak barrels and 25% stainless steel barrels.  The nose was very fruity with a touch of citrus before turning tropical in aroma. In the mouth there was ample acidity before turning creamy in the mouth with underlying floral flavors and lots of baking spices.

2009 Shafer Winery, Merlot, Napa Valley
This wine is a blend of 98% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Malbec which was aged for 20 months in 60-gallon French oak barrels of wich 75% were new. The medium strength nose had a hint of butter at first then tight, mdark red and blue fruit. In the mouth there was a lot of brambly blue fruit with a racy aspect, underlying vanilla notes, lifted middle, and spicy finish. Well integrated tannins.

2009 Shafer Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, One Point Five, Stags Leap District
This wine is a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petite Verdot which was aged for 20 months in 100% new French oak barrels.  The nose revealed purple and black fruit with a lifted core. In the mouth the tarter red fruit morphed into blue fruit with a lovely floral/licorice middle. There were drying tannins on the lips and a lipstick quality. Though young this is really quite nice.

2007 Shafer Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hillside Select, Stags Leap District
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged for 32 months in 100% new 60-gallon French oak barrels.  There was a calm, dark fruited, floral nose. In the mouth this calm, brooding wine slowly builds in the mouth. Though there are fine, drying tannins this wine has great depth, revealing more and more as you move it through your mouth. This is a long-lived, expansive aftertaste with that racy liptstick quality. Tremendous stuff.

2008 Shafer Winery, Relentless (Syrah), Napa Valley
This wine is a blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Petite Sirah which was aged for 30 monthsn in 100% new 60-gallon French oak barrels.  The tight nose was low-lying with dark fruit. In the mouth the ripe black fruit was fine, textured, and drying. There were spicy tannins and chewy fruit in this nice wine. Should last for some time.

Terlato Wines

I never would have guess the Ernies Els, The Big Easy was from South Africa and I suspect many others would not as well.  The Ca’Marcanda, Promis did taste Italian and was quite attractive.

Edward Melia, Terlato Wines

2010 Ernie Els, The Big Easy, Stellenbosch, South Africa
This wine is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvere, Cinsault, Viognier, and Grenache.  The tight nose contained red fruits, good wet fur, and flowers. In the mouth there were flavors of tart red fruit, some ripness, and a floral vein that made way to a black fruited finish. There were fine, drying tannins. I would never have guessed this to be South African.

2009 Ca’Marcanda (Gaja), Promis, Toscana IGT, Italy
This wine is a blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Sangiovese.  The nose was complex with dark red fruit. In the mouth there were leaner, delicate red fruit flavors, perfume, aged wood box, along with drying yet sweet fine tannins. Quite nice.

2010 Two Hands, Gnarly Dudes Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia
This wine is 100% Syrah that did not make it into Bella’s Garden.  It underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged for 12 months in hogsheads, 11% nrew French oak, and used oak.  There were ripe cherry flavors, big fruit, and sour red notes.

Shane Verburg and the Author

An Impromtu Tasting of New Zealand Pinot Noirs

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I recently suggested that Shane come over to taste some wine this past weekend.  Working for Bacchus Importers during the day he is always excited to taste wine with friends.  He suggested we drink New Zealand Pinot Noir as he still had six bottles from a tasting-dinner he meant to host earlier in the fall.  After some last-minute texting and phone calls Shane brought his friend Natasha and her daughter, our neighbor Mark showed up, and Jane from the Greater Washington Wine School stopped by as well.

We wedged ourselves into our small dinning room to taste the wines and eat some food.  The wines were brown-bagged and simply opened.  The group represented a diverse set, from people in the business to fans of drinks.  In the end there was a group consensus that the favorite wine was the 2006 Voss Estate followed closely by the 2009 Felton Road.  The rest of the wines fell into a middle grouping.  Unfortunately the 2008 Peregrine was an off bottle.

  1. 2006 Voss Estate, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
  2. 2009 Felton Road, Bannockburn, Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
  3. 2008 Escarpment, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
    2009 Mohua, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
  4. 2008 Nautilus, Pinot Noir, Marlborough

Here are notes and Shane’s from the evening.  They are listed in the same order we tasted the wines.  The 2006 Voss is at or near peak drinking.  The 2009 Felton Road will clearly develop with age but it a lovely bottle right now.  I think the 2008 Escarpment and 2008 Nautilus need more time as they fluctuated throughout the evening and need to settle down.

#1 – 2006 Voss Estate, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
This is imported by Meadowbank Estates which is a division of Empson USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 12 months in 15-20% new French oak barriques.  There was a medium strength nose of earthy, brambly fruit, with notes of pencil/cedar.  In the mouth this medium-bodied wine had good texture with earthy flavors of brambly fruit and pencil.  With air there were some blue, inky flavors in the finish along with integrated, supporting acidity.  Clearly the most mature wine of the lot.  This is drinking very well right now. My #1.**** Now.

Shane’s note, “Earthy with subdued dark fruit at the back.  Big on the palate and well-balanced between fruit and earth notes.  Long finish.”

#2 – 2008 Escarpment, Pinot Noir, Martinborough
This is imported by Meadowbank Estates which is a division of Empson USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 11 months in 30% new French oak barriques.  This was young and fruity on the nose.  There is good texture in the mouth and a slightly chewy midpalate.  The fruit tilts towards sour red fruit with a hint of minerality.  I tied this between #3 and #4. **(*) Now-2017.

Shane’s note, “Lighter than #1 and more acidic, but more red fruit.  Won’t live as long, I don’t think so.”

#3 – 2009 Mohua, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
This wine is imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from hand-harvested fruit that was de-stemmed then aged in a mix of older French oak barrels.  This was very fresh with a lighter and restrained nose.  In the mouth the cherry flavors reminded me of typical New Zealand Pinot Noir.  The fruit was a tad sweet.  I did not care for this so #5. * Now.

Shane’s note, “Big fruit bomb, a bit thin and acidic.  Still acid at the finish.”

#4 – 2008 Nautilus, Pinot Noir, Marlborough
This wine is imported by Negociants USA.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from hand-harvested fruit that  was de-stemmed and aged in a mixture of new and older French oak barriques.  There was a fine scent to the nose.  Reminiscent of the #2 but with more, good grip.  The ripe fruit and fine tannins were enjoyable.  There were youthful flavors of orange lemon grass with darker berries in the aftertaste. Drink now for youthfulness but will develop with age. I tied this between #3 and #4. **(*) Now-2017.

Shane’s note, “Acid in the front, cherry.  Finish is nice.”

#5 – 2009 Felton Road, Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
This is imported by Wilson Daniels.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir with 20% whole-cluster fermentation using indigenous yeast.  The wine was aged for 11 months in French oak barrels.  This wine stood out with its nose of darker red fruit with notes of roasted earth.  In the mouth the fruit was a bit prickly with tip of the tongue acidity.  A lovely, young wine that almost reminded me of a brambly, rustic Cotes du Rhone.  My #2. ***(*) Now-2017+.

Shane’s note, “So pretty and soft, beautiful midpalate and great finish.  May be my favorite.”

#6 – 2008 Peregrine, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
This wine is imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 10 months in 38% new French oak barrels.  This was an off bottle. Not Rated.