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A blind tasting of 2014 Bordeaux

Several weeks ago I was a guest of Phil’s tasting group for a blind event featuring featuring seven wines.  I will admit to being confused.  I thought some wines from Bolgheri, others certainly from Bordeaux, and I was sure one was Barbera! Six of the wines were Bordeaux and what I thought was Barbera turned out to be from California.  All wines were from the 2014 vintage which I did not guess.

When we sat down to taste the wines they had the corks removed just one hour prior.  The naturally forward wines showed the best but the subsequently decanted Pichon Baron improved greatly.  In all fairness, I heard that the Clinet improved greatly after three days.  If in doubt hold on to your 2014s!

My favorites include the 2014 Chateau Les Carmes de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, undoubtedly the best value of all wines tasted but also my type of wine, and even the forward 2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan.  The best wine for long-term development is the 2014 Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac.  There are interesting flavors here but the balance and stuffing will see it evolve into something quite engaging.

Please find my notes below in the order the wines were tasted.  If my ratings seem conservative just remember these wines are young!  Many thanks to Phil for including me.

2014 Chateau La Gaffeliere, Saint- Emillion – $55
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 14.5%. Still young in color with dark aromas of mulberries. In the mouth black fruit, cherries, and good acidity are still structured. The fresh finish brings powerful tannins. With air the fruit takes on a cool aspect but is sappy and chewy with a graphite note. Will certainly improve with age.  ***(*) 2020-2035.

2014 Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac – $99
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.   This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot.  Alcohol 13.5%. The nose remained tighter. An almost puckering start with wood flavors and a tart finish on the tongue. The tannins are fairly unresolved grabbing the gums but there is an interesting blend of fruit and flavors. After decanting the fruit balanced out the structure revealing good harmony and flavor.  **** 2023-2038.

2014 Chateau Giscours, Margaux – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon. 32% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.5%. Tight, somewhat aromatic but unevolved. In the mouth are focused and tight flavors of black fruit. The wine is fresh but also very young with structure and acidity reminiscent of Bordeaux. It takes on hints of fat in the finish, some greenhouse, and is clearly built to age. ***(*) 2023-2035.

2014 Chateau Les Carmes de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan – $65
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This is a blend of 54 % Cabernet Franc, 32 % Merlot, and 14 % Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 13.5%. A little more on the nose perhaps some meat. There is more immediate fruit weight compared to structure. This is a dense wine with gum coating, rather than drying, tannins. The watering acidity is integrated with the structure. This wine is young but in balance with a hint of fruit in the end along with baking spices. **** Now – 2028.

2014 Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate – $54
This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvingon, 14% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from the Monte Bello Vineyard. Alcohol 13.7%. A good nose of black fruit and violets but the aromas are almost raisinated. There is a riper core of dark and ripe fruit, quite the structure but the brambly fruit perseveres. It has a soft edge and notes of sweet oak. Reminded me of Barbera!  *** Now – 2026.

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan – $75
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 14%. There is depth to the nose. In the mouth, ripe fruit, black and violet, exists in a structure but there is more good fruit to the balance. It is a good modern wine, will be ready sooner, with nice weight that marks the structure as supportive. It opens up well, is the most forward, and even offers a mineral finish. **** Now – 2030.

2014 Chateau Clinet, Pomerol – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%. This is a finely flavored wine, cool in flavor, structured, and focused. It did not give up much. *** 2021- 2031.

Bastardo & Mostcatel: the dinner wines 2011 – 1959

January 22, 2018 Leave a comment

After working through 20 different Madeira at Bastardo & Moscatel: The Tasting 1927 – 1830 it was time for the transition to dinner service.  As always there is an array of Champagne to work through. A pair old label and very tasty NV Krug, Champagne Brut Grand Cuvée, an oxidized 1985 Salon, Champagne Brut Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, a substantive 1996 Bollinger, Champagne La Grande Année, 1998 Pierre Peters, Champagne Brut Le Mesnil Blanc des Blancs, and 1982 Tattinger, Champagne Brut Millesime. There is an interesting trio of Dom: 1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon, a magnum of good 1988 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rose, and an old survivor the 1959 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon.

 

To transition from Champagne to red wine is a very good bottle of 1989 Clos St Hune, Riesling Vendanges Tardives Hors Choix of which I took note.  Then came a grab bag of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, and Portuguese wines.  I missed out on tasting a number of bottles but then I did manage to receive some healthy pours of some great wine!  Please find my general impressions below.

1989 Clos St Hune, Riesling Vendanges Tardives Hors Choix
Moderately sweet with Riesling fruit this is well balanced and dense. There is a lovely floral note.

1967 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
In fine shape, one gentleman described as the “perfect luncheon claret”. I agree, dark fruit, cedar, fresh acidity, and easy to drink.

1971 Chateau Latour, Pauillac en magnum
Shipped by Nathaniel Johnston & Fils.  Wow, in fine shape and drinking very well right now.  Dark fruits, wood box, and yes, graphite.

1990 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
Shipped by SEMAV. Imported by Ginday Imports. Alcohol 12.5%. A beautiful color, lighter than the 1989 Haut-Brion. Aromatic on the nose and flavorful in the mouth. The wine is thick in a sense, textured, and still developing yet the minerals and graphite are engaging right now.

1989 Chateau Haut-Brion, Graves
Shipped by Armand Roux. Attractive animale nose. Wow in the mouth, mineral, dense, and sexy with fat coated flavors. The animale quality persists in the flavor making it complete. This is only just starting to open up.

1959 Berry Bros & Rudd, Chateau Montrose, St. Estephe
Imported by Marine Trading Consultants. This is great and even better than my two chateau bottled experiences. The fruit is more concentrated and sweet. Clearly well-stored.

2011 Remoissenet, Montrachet Le Montrachet
Starting to mature.

1985 Bonneau du Martray, Corton Charlemagne
Yeasty and rich in the mouth with apple orchard flavors. The acidity makes it crisp and tense with a citric note.

1991 La Pousse D’Or, Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la Bousse D’Or Monopole en magnum
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. This is entering maturity with vibrant red fruit over underlying blue fruit flavors. I am happy to discover the fine evidence of maturity.

1970 Avery’s, Domaine Gros-Renaudot, Richebourg Grand Cru
This is a gentle wine with an introduction of sweet, concentrated fruit infused with fat. The fruit is still supported by structure which leaves a sweet, wood note.

1990 Pierre Bouree Fils, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru
Selected and shipped by The Wine Society. Sweeter and softer with good depth of flavor. The wood notes are infused with a sweet finish.

1996 Jose Alfonso e Filhos, Rogenda, Veiras
Alcohol 13%. Fine ripe blue and black fruit, ripe wood texture, and spice. Nicely structured.

1990 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage
A good nose which is earth and animale. It is barely entering maturity. Right now it is perfectly balanced with the structure well-integrated. Plenty of grip.

An epic Panos Bordeaux tasting: 16 vintages of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2016 – 1975

November 3, 2017 Leave a comment

 

On October 18, 2017, Panos Kakaviatos (wine-chronicles) hosted a tasting of 16 vintages of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande from 2016 to 1975.  This tasting is the latest in a series of definitive events that Panos arranges for Washington, DC wine lovers.  Not only were all of the bottles direct from the chateau but Nicolas Glumineau, the director of Ch. Pichon Lalande, was guest of honor for our dinner.

Nicolas Glumineau, Director of Chateau Pichon Lalande.

The tasting took place at Taberna del Alarbardero with the help of sommelier Maria Ortiz.  The bottles were flown in by Mark Wessels of MacArthur Beverages except for the 2002 pair which were graciously donated by Randy McFarlane.  The evening took place in the large red private dining room where we first mingled with many different bottles of Champagne from Prevost, Pierre Peters, Cedric Bouchard, Pol Roger, and others.

The main tasting and dinner were seated.  Of all the vintages, I was particularly excited by the 1996, 2010, and 2014.  To me these three vintages stood out for their precision, balance, and purity of expression.  Of the older vintages the 1980s and 1970s drank well with the 1982 as the most complete experience.  I would also point out the 1978 vintage as an attractive, older style of wine.

Now I spent quite a bit of time talking, so think of my notes as general impressions.  They are presented in the order they were served.

FIRST COURSE
Lomo De Caballa Sobre Arroz Meloso De Pimientos Morrones
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2010-2009-2005-2003

2010 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The scented nose soon offers floral and licorice-like aromas, eventually closing up. In the mouth is a tart start, close-grip at first with evident structure. There is a vein of black fruit and violets that moves through the wine. It is ultimately young and grapey at the core. Drier in the end with very fine structure and a good aftertaste. It has the balance to age. ****(*)

2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
It is assertive from the start with black fruit, structure and grip. There is less fruit compared to structure that emerges in the middle. I prefer the 2010. ***(*)

2005 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
It is similar to the 2010 with a young, lifted core of flavor. It is lighter in flavor yet mouth filling with grip and strength in the good, tart finish. ***(*)

2003 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is a rounded start of berry flavors, soon taking on powerful dark, red fruit. A fine, lifted aftertaste. **(*)

SECOND COURSE
Magret De Pato Con Toques De Naranja Con Pastel De Butternut Squash
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2002-2000-1996-1995

2002 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
This is better than expected with surprising fine texture. The dry black flavors are even racy in the middle. Drinking well right now. ***

2000 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The nose offers lifted, greenhouse aromas but with a more mature profile. The mouth follows the nose with maturing fruit, a pleasing level of green pepper, and very fine grip. Elegant. ****

1996 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Markedly different with fine, clean fruit aromas. Tangy red fruit greets the palate. It remains a core of focused fruit, very pure and controlled. The ripe, textured structure is still present for development yet it is resolving. Additional notes of greenhouse and pencil shavings add some complexity. ****

1995 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Greenness and lightness on the nose. Ample texture in the mouth with almost chewy, dense black fruit. This is broader throughout but a very fine, drying structure supports the flavor. A bit of a smoke hint in the end. ***

THIRD COURSE
Kobe Beef Con Patatas, Zanahorias Y Chalotas Al Estilo Hasselback
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1989-1985-1982-1978-1975

1989 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is a fine focus and certain tang to the flavors which have a very fine texture. The wine is moved by watering acidity through a drier, lighter middle into a linear finish. Quite enjoyable. Less fruit weight than other vintages. ****

1985 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
A touch of plum combine with more advanced flavors that become tart towards the finish. An earthy aftertaste. A second bottle showed young with floral flavors and grip. So at best ****

1982 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Cooler in profile with red fruit, graphite, and a citric grip that lean towards elegant. The wine grows with air developing attractive earth and maturity. ****(*)

1978 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Greener, drier, and lighter with graphite and again that familiar texture. Has hints of being from an older period of winemaking. There is a green streak followed by cedar and old wood in the finish. It is chunkier than the 1975 yet still retains tension. ***(*)

1975 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The wine still has grip. The watering acidity brings forward more red fruit and a citric structure that coats the gums. The core of fruit mixes with notes of old leather, greenhouse, and mature flavors. Drinking well. ***

CHEESE PLATE (CHEESES)
Puig Pedros (Vaca), Retorta Pascuales (Oveja), Manchego (1 Ano)
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2014-2016-2016

2014 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is fine, grapey depth coupled with both weight and density. Clearly balanced. Pencil shavings and floral perfume already add to the complexity. ****(*)

2015 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Intense, grapey flavors are a bit rough with some heat. There are assert baking spices and some perfume.  Just bottled.

2016 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Grapey blueberry fruit with fine texture and lip smacking tannins. Baking spices and spicy tannins.  Strong potential.  Barrel Sample.

DESSERT
Flan De Pistacho Sobre Flan De Caramelo Y Helado De Vanilla Beans
Sauternes

1997 Chateau Climens, Barsac
Very dark. Flawed.

2003 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes
A nose of grassy petrol then concentrated grapey flavors delivered in a grippy, textured manner.  A good combination of fruit, weight, and mouth feel.  ***(*)

2005 Chateau Climens, Barsac
There is lovely flavor, mouth filling, yet fresh and light with gentle ripeness.  ****

 

A quick tasting at the end of the holidays

January 5, 2017 1 comment

Exploring old Californian wine is a bit like an archaeological excavation.  You may know what you are looking for but not what you will discover.  Most recently we tasted a few solid wines and one that is downright bizarre.

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Cathy Corison left Freemark Abbey to become head winemaker at Chappellet in 1983.  Lou found many positive comments on Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon from this period but almost nothing with regards to Merlot.  That is ample enough reason to try a bottle.  This bottle of 1986 Chappellet, Merlot, Napa Valley was of fine fill and condition inside but a previously broken bottle splattered the capsule and ruined the label.  I preferred this wine in the mouth for its salty start and balance of acidity and structure.  The nose was a touch disjointed for me with separate aromas of stems and chocolate.  Otherwise I enjoyed the flavor.

We moved back a decade with a pair from the 1977 vintage.  I was curious about the 1977 Ernies, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County for the reference to Zellarbach Vineyard.  Zellerbach is, of course, Ambassador James David Zellerbach who first bought property in 1943 on which he founded Hanzell Vineyards winery in 1957.  Hanzell is know for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but what of Cabernet Sauvignon?  The word “socks” was mentioned upon first smelling this wine.  The wine did clean up some but remained a bit dusty with a vegetal note to the aroma and flavor. The 1977 vintage is the second drought vintage in a row so perhaps the vegetal note came from young vines?  After an hour I rather enjoyed the wine but then it cracked up fast.  I certainly did not like the 1977 Zaca Mesa Cellar, Zinfandel, Santa Ynez Valley.  Smelled blind I guarantee anyone would think this a Riesling.  And once tasted you would think it some bizarre red wine which was co-fermented with Riesling!

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As it had just become the New Year, our oldest bottle of 1967 Chateau Latour, Pauillac marked the new 50th anniversary.  Purportedly one of the best wines of the vintage, this particular bottle sported the lowest fill of a group.  No doubt higher-fill bottles will be better but I was attracted to the blood, iron, and cedar aromas.  In the mouth the wine did develop some heft and even a touch of fat.  I give a nod towards this wine because of the better harmony between aroma and flavor.  Sadly, all of the wines cracked up once I returned home.  No great wines this time so Lou and I must simply get back together to pull more corks.

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1986 Chappellet, Merlot, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  This  The color is a bright, garnet ruby.  On the nose there are aromas of some stems and chocolate.  In the mouth this wine is in good shape with bright acidity and noticeable structure from powdery tannins.  There is a dry and certainly salty start before the seamless middle and slightly short finish.  Clearly the youngest wine tasted.  It will last for sometime but I doubt it will improve.  ** Now.

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1977 Ernies, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County
Alcohol 13%.  A little smelly at first this wine cleans up with air to reveal dusty, rather old, and slightly vegetal aromas.  In the mouth there are cherry flavors, some greenness, and watering acidity.  Though there is a bit of funk, the wine cleans up but never becomes very expressive.  ** Now.

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1977 Zaca Mesa Cellar, Zinfandel, Santa Ynez Valley
Alcohol 13%.  The lightest color of the quarter.  It smells like petrol!  In the mouth the petrol follows along with red fruit.  Lou found “cherry cola” which I echo with finding a cola flavored finish.  It is mouth filling and still possesses grip from the structure.  Really odd. Not Rated.

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1967 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
A Walter Eisenberg Selection imported by Pearson’s Liquor Annex. Mid-shoulder fill. Though of low fill the color is good.  The nose reveals blood, iron, and with air cedar.  There are similar flavors in the mouth.  The wine does flesh out substantially with black fruit, wood, and even a little fat.  Eventually it becomes more autumnal.  **(*) Now but better bottles will last.

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David Bloch’s new and old world favorites

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.

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Top 10 Champagnes

Vintage:

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

Non-Vintage:

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:

2002 Dominus

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

Sweet Wines

1990 Château Climens
1996 Château d’Yquem
2001 Château Rieussec
2002 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume
2002 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Auslese Goldkapsel

My favorite wines of 2016

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

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It has been a busy year.  Not with wine drinking but with work, family, and the house.  I certainly spent a lot of time researching about the history of wine but this year my strong efforts in exploration produced less results.  As a result I published less historic pieces.  Still, it was a good year in all sense.  As for wine, what is memorable easily falls into five groups old Burgundy, old Chateauneuf du Pape, old Californian wine, old Bordeaux, and very old Madeira.

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Old Burgundy was consumed in the form of 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart and 1961 Drouhin, Domaine General Marey-Monge, Romanee St-Vivant.  I find these old bottles particularly hardy with sweet, old concentrated flavors that never fade.

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Chateauneuf du Pape was off to a roaring start thanks to a friend who not only opened 2003 Chateau Rayas, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape but also 2003 Henri Bonneau, Cuvee Marie-Beurrier, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The Rayas already exhibits “breath-taking complexity” whereas the Bonneau is structured for age.  At the mature end, a beautiful bottle of 1964 Domaine de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape proved the longevity of this type of wine.  This is the first vintage in which Jacques Perrin employed his vinification a chaud technique where he heated the grapes.  There were some mediocre vintages in the 1950s and early 1960s so it is possible Jacques Perrin was ready to use this new technique regardless of the quality of the 1964 vintage.  From the same vintage, though not quite the same level of experience, the 1964 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Les Cedres, Chateauneuf du Pape really highlights how negociants and growers successfully worked together.  I am also thrilled to have tasted an original release Mont-Redon, whose wines from the 1950s and 1960s have been widely praised.  With round, mouth filling sweet strawberries, the 1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape is drinking perfect right now.

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The 1978 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill, Napa Valley expresses many of the traits I like in a mature American wine: dark fruit, earth, grip, and some of the concentration from age that just makes you want to drink the wine rather than figure out how to describe it.  There is quite a reputation for this wine so I am glad it lives up to it.  The biggest Californian surprise of the year is the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County which has no written reputation that I could find.  This is Pinot Noir with a hefty dose of Zinfandel, that together provide a vibrant and taut wine with fruit, leather, and animale notes.  I must, of course, include Eric’s big bottle of 1875 Isaias W. Hellman, Angelica Wine, Cucamonga Vineyard, San Bernadino County.  I will write about this wine in a separate post but to provide some context for this exceedingly rare 19th century Californian wine, there were only 37 stars on the America flag when the grapes were harvested.

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For some reason I did not get around to opening any wines from the 1966 vintage this year.  Still, I did not miss the 50th anniversary of the vintage for the 1966 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien proved to be an excellent representative.  From the sweaty nose to the cranberries and red fruit this wine is nothing but fun.  Also pleasurable, particularly for the mouth feel, is the 1979 Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol.  In fact, Lou and I managed to drink this twice.  It is round, weighty, and injected with fat.  Great stuff!  I also managed to taste two bottles of 1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac.  The first bottle, with the highest fill, was the best being very aromatic with beef and blood.  The second bottle had a much lower fill so I opened it up an experiment.  It was simply a more compact representation, attesting to the staying power of Lafite.

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As for very old Madeira, I was fortunate to taste 20 pre-Phylloxera bottles this spring.  If I simply pruned out the fake(s), off bottles, and ones that are not so good I could probably list 10 more wines.  But my favorites can be narrowed to include the 1875 Blandy’s Grabham’s Sercial1864 Henriques & Henriques Sercial, 1808 Braheem Kassab (BAK) “SS”Sercial, and NV Henriques & Henriques Reserva “H.H.” Sercial.  For me, these wines balance the high acidity natural to Sercial with some sweetness.  They offer a diverse range of styles from tobacco and cedar wood to pungent, sweaty aromas and even smoke with minerals.  An empty glass of Madeira will still smell great the next morning.  A few errant drops on your skin will perfume yourself.

The Sensational Sercial Dinner: 1875 through 2008

December 26, 2016 Leave a comment

I was careful to note I drank from a magnum of 1976 Lanson, Champagne and even took a picture of the bottle of 1996 Louis Roederer, Cristal Champagne and Jacque Selosse, V.O. Champagne Extra Brut. However, my tasting note for the 1998 Dom Perignon, Champagne “racy, yeasty, rich, mineral wine flavors” is unaccompanied by a picture. This might sound haphazard but Champagne is the first thing drunk after the all-day Sercial Madeira tasting. The need to refresh oneself with Champagne and talk to old friends leads to a sort of frenzy. Everyone jockeys for a pour of Champagne. It is not a time to take note.

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Dinner is seated, at a very long table. The pace of wine is measured by the sommeliers who impose a logical order on what is drunk. Every guest is encouraged to bring a magnum of mature wine or preferably two bottles of the same. This is not always possible so there is a large variety of red wines. I take pictures and jot down brief impressions so I may recall the evening later on. There were only two off bottles this night the 1959 Joh. Jos. Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, feine Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and 1978 Heitz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley. In Germany 1959 is a legendary vintage and in America both Joh. Jos Prum and Heitz Martha’s Vineyard are legendary wines. In some punishing coincidence a friend brought a bottle of 1975 Martha’s Vineyard to my house this year. It was off too. Damn and double damn.

Of the good wines, they fell into two camps. Those which are too young to follow a tasting of 19th century Madeira and those which are appropriately mature. In this latter category two particular bottles stand out: 1966 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien and 1875 Isaias W. Hellman, Angelica Wine, Cucamonga Vineyard, San Bernadino County. The 1966 Ducru sports a fantastic nose. I find some old wines have a sweaty aspect to their nose almost like aromatic umami and this bottle did as well. The flavors were equally attractive with that sweet concentration of flavor from age. It does not just taste mature, it tastes different.

My experience with Californian wine only includes vintages into the 1960s. I can assure you the last wine I would have expected at dinner was not just a pre-Prohibition Californian wine but one from the 19th century. In a particularly unforgiving act of arson in 2005, some 4.5 million bottles of wine were destroyed including 175 bottles of Hellman Angelica and Port wine, certainly most of the remaining stock. I can only imagine a handful of bottles survive to this day. Now scarcity alone does not make for a fine wine, what is in the glass does.  With a bit of volatile acidity and dust on the nose the 1875 Hellman may have given slight pause but in the mouth this is an unctuous, powerful, and mouth coating wine.  I managed to prolong the pleasure for a few more weeks because I was allowed to take the empty bottle home.  There was still damp sediment in the bottle so I stoppered it.  Every few days I would smell the bottle to swim once again in 19th century aromas.

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2002 Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos
Imported by Vieux Vins. The yeasty nose makes way to minerally, white and yellow fruit flats. This seductive wine is rich with a hint of yeast, ripe tannins in the finish, and fat in the aftertaste.

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2008 Domaine Coche-Dury, Meursault
Alcohol 12.5%. This is a fresh, lean wine that tastes yeasty and older in the mouth. IT leans towards pure lemon flavors.

2007 Domaine Coche-Dury, Meursault
Alcohol 12.5%. This is a grippy, concentrated wine with fresh acidity. A little weight comes out with air but this is all about lemon tartness. To match the flavor is a fair amount of acidity.

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1959 Joh. Jos. Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, feine Auslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Imported by O. W. Loeb & Co. Corked! D*mn!

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1970 Domaine Dujac, Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Alcohol 13%. The dark, garnet color matches the rather mature nose. In the mouth this is a very dry wine with old perfume mixing with linear, red fruit, The structure is still there, out living the fruit, as this gentle, old wine dries up.

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1967 Odero, Barolo
A Chambers Street Selection imported by T. Elenteny. The nose is a little stinky, which I find attractive, before aromas of candied cherry come out. This is old-school lively, with structure from the ripe tannins. Perfect for what it is.

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1961 Burlotto, Castello di Verduno, Barolo
The foxy, earthy flavors come with initial concentration. It is a dry wine offering more flavor than the Oddero. Maturity has brought old-school flavors, a sweet aspect, and earth. It wraps up with drying, textured tannins.

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1967 Cordezuma, Barolo
A Chambers Street Selection imported by T. Elenteny. The color is young, almost cranberry-ruby in color. In the mouth this is a simpler wine which is tart, citric, and bears less fruit.

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1981 Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja
An odd wine with almost mushroom flavors, yeast, and floral pork (WTF!). The acidity is bound up with the modest bit of structure.

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1990 Prunotto, Barbaresco Montestefano
Alcohol 13.5%. Tobacco. Young!

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1995 Guigal, Cote-Rotie La Landonne
A Thomas Gruenig Selection imported by Torion Trading Ltd. Alcohol 13%. This is way too young. Structure, drying, and bracing at this point.

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1995 Guigal, Cote-Rotie La Mouline
A Thomas Gruenig Selection imported by Torion Trading Ltd. Alcohol 13%. This is aromatic with a fine nose just beginning to take on mature aromas. In the mouth the red fruit is starting to soften a touch. Overall this is a focused wine with powerful structure through the fresh finish. Young.

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1989 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Imported by Johnston. Alcohol 12.5%. The mature Bordeaux notes are starting to escape but this is still so young.

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1989 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac
Shipped by SDVF. Imported by South Wine & Spirits. Alcohol 12.5%. This is more open with cassis, minerals, and fat. Nice.

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1966 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Shipped by Raoul Lucien & Co. Imported by Combeau-Collet & Cie. Alcohol 12%. The fantastic nose is aromatic and a touch sweaty with cranberries and red fruit. It develops some old-school perfume. In the mouth the flavors have some sweetness to them before the drying finish. A lovely wine at 50 years of age.

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1966 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Shipped by A. de Luze & Fils. This is less giving, more linear, soon shutting down to simple, cranberry, and red fruit flavors. It is firm and tight in the mouth with a shorter finish.

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1978 Heitz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley
An off bottle.

1992 Harlan Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Young and primary.

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1937 Niepoort, Colheita Port
Imported by W. J. Deutsch Co. Alcohol 19%. There is a sweet start with flavors of black tea and wood. There is a fair amount of noticeable acidity before the slightly harsh finish.

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1875 Isaias W. Hellman, Angelica Wine, Cucamonga Vineyard, San Bernadino County
Though there is some volatile acidity on the nose, it is fine and articulate, with a bit of dust matching its age. The fruit tastes so different. This is a powerful and lip coating wine which is still racy and sweet. The fruit persisted through the dark finish. With air this unctuous wine, with its plentiful residual sugar, builds glycerin and baking spices. In great shape!

Ricardo, the author, and Mannie

Ricardo, the author, and Mannie