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For drinking now, the 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage

February 19, 2017 Leave a comment

The 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage is at a state where it drinks perfectly.  There are mature wine flavors, spices, and wood box delivered with a seductive round mouth feel.  The structure is fully resolved with enough acidity to leave a fresh impression.  In short, there is no reason to hold onto this Late Bottled Vintage any longer.  You may pull the cork and start drinking to satisfaction but if you give it a bit of air, it will improve a notch.

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1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage Port
Imported by Robert Hass Selections.  Alcohol 20%.  There is an ample volume of round, berry fruit with quite a lot of body present from the very beginning.  It is in a fully integrated state with vintage wine flavor, christmas spices, wood box, and some ripe brown sugar flavor.  Perhaps there is a softness to the round quality but the wine is still very fresh.  With air the sweet cream and Christmas spice is carried with a glycerin mouthfeel.  The rounded structure is fully resolved.  **** Now but will last.

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A balanced bottle of 1983 Gould Campbell

February 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Just a quick post for today.  The 1983 Gould Campbell, Vintage Port is in fine shape.  It has shed any aggressiveness of youth and is now in that middle age of smoothness.  The primary blue fruit is surrounded by bottle aged flavor which last through the respectably long finish.   The sweetness is in balance making this an easy Vintage Port to drink.

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1983 Gould Campbell, Vintage Port
Imported by Premium Port Wines.  Alcohol 20%.  This is an attractive wine which tastes best after several hours of air.  It has dense flavors of blue fruit, ripe spices, fine wood, and moderate sweetness.  It is smooth and balanced throughout with a sense of elegance.  ***(*) Now – 2037.

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A mystery bottle of 1970 Warre Vintage Port

There was a time when much of the Vintage Port sold at MacArthur Beverages was English bottled.  These wines were purchased by the case upon which the vintage and house were labeled.  But as Mark Wessels and Andy Creemer recently related, the bottles inside were unmarked.  Despite efforts to organize or tag the bottles, some bottles strayed losing any outwardly visible identification.  I purchased what must be the last two of these stray bottles.

Vintage Port corks are largely branded.  I cut the bottom of the lead capsule on the youngest of the two bottles.  Despite scrubbing the neck of the bottle and using various flashlights, I could not make out any brand on the cork.  The mystery was revealed when I extracted the cork using my Durand.  This English bottle of 1970 Warre Vintage Port was in fine condition.  It offered elegant flavors of fruit, wood, spice, and even a bit of grip on the tongue.  There is no sense of power, rather that of a wine which has crested peak drinking and should be drunk up.  Which is what we did, making me all the more happy to solve my mystery.

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1970 Warre, Vintage Port
The good, clear color reflected in the clean, elegant flavors of this wine.  It begins with fruity flavors, fig and hints of wood with a touch of warm spice in the finish.  The wine grips the tongue leaving an impression of white nuts in the aftertaste.  *** Now.

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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.

Eric Ifune’s 2016 Fortified Wines of the Year

December 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Eric Ifune returns this winter to describe his favorite fortified wines of 2016.  I first met Eric at the annual Madeira tastings organized by Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port) and Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Co.).  As you can see in his post, Eric drinks some rather amazing and rare wines, so I am excited to present his thoughts.

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I’ve had the great fortune to attend multiple tastings of fantastic fortified wines this year. These are my most memorable in chronologic tasting order.

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Henriques & Henriques Boal AB
A wine from the stock of the late John Cossart, the former head of H&H. This is a distinct wine from the famous H&H duo of the Grand Old Boal and the WS Boal. Probably from the early 19th century. Recorked in 1952 and 2011. The bottle itself is very old, a three part molded hand blown bottle approximately 150 years old.

A pale gold, green, amber color. Beautifully iridescent. A lovely, delicate floral fragrance with almonds and pralines. Just the barest hint of VA. Very, very long with limes and pralines on the finish. Just a lovely, gentle old Boal. Really beautiful. Not as dense as the WS or Grand Old Boal but fine and delicate.

The hand written labels are by Ricardo Freitas of Barbeito who reconditioned the Cossart Wines.

1898 Barbieto MMV Verdelho
Bronze gold green color. A meaty, savory aroma of cabbage, nuts, pralines. It smells better than it sounds! A very lean, acidic style of Verdelho which I love. Flavors of lemons and tangy pralines. A very, very long lemony finish. Just mouthwatering.

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1863 Barbeito MMV Malvasia.
These wines originally belonged to Ricardo Freitas’ mother, Manuela Vasconcelos, who ran Barbeito before Ricardo.

Bronze green, gold in appearance. Very fragrant and floral. Just the barest hint of VA. Savory and delicate on the palate. High acidity with wonderful balance. Did I say I like a lot of acidity in my Madeira? A gentle style of Malvasia. Very long with a finish redolent of tangerines.

1880 Barbeito MMV Malvasia.
This was commercially available via the Rare Wine Company. The majority of this wine was the mother wine of Barbeito’s excellent 40 year old Malvasia “Mae Manuela” blend that Ricardo Freitas created in honor of his mother. The remainder was bottled as a straight 1880.
Very dark, almost opaque with an olive oil meniscus. Dense and rich aromas with iodine, saline, savory and sweet flavors. Very dense, intense and rich. A complete contrast to the 1863. Musky, caramel and toffee. A great, concentrated Malvasia if somewhat monolithic.

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1795 Barbeito Terrantez
A very famous wine. I’ve been fortunate to have tasted this on several occasions over the past several years. Originally the property of the old Hinton family on Madeira, then owned by Oscar Acciaioly. Half was obtained by Barbeito and placed back into wooden casks for oxygenation. It was bottled a few at a time and slowly released to the market. The last of it was 23 bottles filled and sold in 2006. This particular bottle was from September 2000.

Dark bronze color with a green, gold rim. Huge and complex aromas of limes, oranges, toffee, and toasted nuts. On the palate, intense and electric. Great acidity. Not particularly sweet but beautiful balance. Huge depth and complexity. A long citric finish. Just wonderful!

1895 D’Oliveiras Malvasia
This was bottled in 2014. D’Oliveiras has the largest stocks of really old wine left on the island. They still have some of the 1850 Verdelho in cask! They will bottle wine as they need it. This was very dark, opaque in appearance. Smoky and dense aromas with citrus and molasses. On the palate, dense but not particularly sweet. Nice acidity. Flavors of grapefruit, lemons, honey, nuts, and toffee. Long, musky finish.

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1810 Borges Sercial
This was one of the famous wines that Henrique Menezes Borges purchased in the mid-19th century and passed on down to his descendants and not as part of the company holdings. These family wines were thought to be in wood for approximately 100 years. They were bottled from demijohn in 1989. Two demijohns of this 1810 Sercial yielded 45 bottles.

Bright copper, gold, green color. Spicy aromas, a bit spirit. Toast, nuts, and apples on the nose as well. Rich and fruity on the palate. Almost black fruited. High acidity. Beautiful balance. An almost Verdelho level of sweetness due to the extreme concentration. A long, scintillating finish. A bit atypical for Sercial but still a real beauty.

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Herdade do Mouchao Licoroso 1929 Solera
Herdade do Mouchao is an Alentejo estate with an almost cult status in Portugal for their table wines. They also make a vinhos licoroso which is the generic Portuguese term for a sweet fortified wine. Mainly Alicate Bouchet grapes. I think of them with penultimate organic viticulture. No monoculture here, the estate is a patchwork of vineyards, old forest, cork oak groves, pasture for sheep and poultry. Lots of biodiversity.

This particular wine is tasted at the estate from cask. It was refreshed several times, hence the solera designation. The average wine age is 45-50 years old. Impenetrable dark color with a browning rim. Very fresh aromas of walnuts, citrus fruit, figs. The barest hint of VA. Very thick and viscous on the palate, but fresh with great acidity. Not overwhelmingly sweet. Lots of lime, grapefruit, brown sugar and toffee. A very long nutty, figgy finish. Just wonderful stuff!

Quinta do Mourao San Leonardo “60” White Port
Quinta do Mourao is a Port producing Douro estate. Known in the industry for their large stocks of old, superb wood aged Ports. The famous houses would purchase old, wood aged wines from them to beef up their own stocks. The Quinta releases their own wines under the San Leonardo label. Not seen in the States until just recently when they obtained an importer based in Los Angeles. Their range of Tawnies of indicated age: 10, 20, 30, and Over 40 are among the best in their respective categories. They have older stocks as well. This is one of White Port. Technically, this is a White Tawny Reserve since there is no official category older than over 40 years. It is over 60 years in average age and so has the proprietary name “60 White.” This is not released in the States yet, probably this coming year. Tasted with the importer. Amber, gold color shot through with green. Spicy aromas with orange and toffee. Almost like a Christmas cake. Waxy on the palate, almost like an old Chenin Blanc. Very rich with huge complexity and depth. Lots of balancing acidity. A long finish with honey, limes, and tangerines. Eye opening as to the heights of White Port.

Quinta do Mourao San Leonardo “100” Port.
Another release tasted with the importer. This is wood aged with an average age of 102 years. Also a Tawny Reserve with the proprietary name of “100.” Very dark color with a gold green rim. Toffee and roasted nuts. Almost painfully concentrated. Huge and intense but balanced with huge acidity as well. Toffee, caramel, brown sugar on the palate and finish. This is a wine to be savored in small amounts it is so rich and concentrated.

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1970 Taylors Vintage Port.
Oporto bottled. Decanted a few hours before and tasted single blind. Dark core, just starting to go tawny at the meniscus. Spicy with leathery, citrus, and strawberry aromas. I really like the smell. On the palate, dense and rich. Sweet, but perfectly balancing acidity. Very long with tangerines and other citrus fruits.

1970 Dows Vintage Port
Tasted side by side with the Taylors, also decanted a few hours beforehand and tasted single blind. Also Oporto bottled. Even darker than the Taylors. Ruby rim. Young, spicy, plummy aromas. Black fruited, smoky. Very powerful, rich, and tangy. Tasting much, much younger than a 1970. Great balance. I think I like the Taylors a hair more to drink now, but might prefer the Dows in some years.

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Cockburn’s Crusted Port bottled 1929 by Averys.
I’ve not heard of a crusted Port from 1929 let alone seen one. Now I can say I’ve tasted one!

A crusted Port is a bottled aged Port from several years. This was bottled in 1929 so presumably it is a blend of several years prior. Decanted approximately an hour or two beforehand. Beautiful iridescent rose, tawny colored. Still fresh aromatics, savory-sweet with red fruits. Rich and velvety mouthfeel. Indeed the mouthfeel was exceptional! Dense with glycerin. Not a heavy weight, but a beautiful elegant wine. Bright, firm, and vigorous despite the age. Great balance and length. Conversation about the table is convinced there is a lot of 1927 vintage in this wine. 1927 was a very high quality, long lasting, and prolific vintage. Indeed, not all of it was bottled as vintage port; hence the consideration this bottle contained much of it.

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1900 Jose Maria da Fonseca Moscatel de Setubal
Very dark with a brilliant gold-green rim. Musky and savory aromas. High toned and minty. On the palate it is dense, rich, and sweet but with excellent acidity to balance. Sweet, long, rich finish. Textbook Moscatel. IMO, Setubal makes the best Moscatels in the world.

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1937 Warres Colheita Port
Bottled in 1997. Dark, opaque core fading to a tawny then olive oil rim. Smoky aromas with lime zest and a hint of VA. Rich and concentrated on the palate. Buttery mouthfeel. Limes and brown sugar flavors. Great balancing acidity. Long and concentrated.

1961 Krohn Colheita Port
Bottled in 2008. This was before Taylors, Fladgate bought out the Weise & Krohn company. Dark, tawny colored. A bit of VA on the nose, but lots of toffee and citrus as well. Very rich and sweet. Not the concentration as some of the older Colheitas, but beautiful and perfect balance. Long and satisfying. If you can find any of this still on the market, I’d snap it up!

Quinta do Mourao San Leonardo “60” Port.
Another wood aged Port from Mourao. I was fortunate to try this on two separate occasions about a week apart. Again, a Tawny Reserve, this time over 60 years of age. This is the red version in contrast to the white one listed above. Similar notes for the two times. The first taste was from a limited edition 750 ml bottle. The second from the regular release 500 ml bottle. Dark, opaque center with a copper-gold rim. Smokey and citric nose. Dense and sweet with huge complexity on the palate. Toasted nuts, lemons, tangerines. High levels of balancing acidity. A long, lemony finish. These old wines from Quinta do Mourao are a revelation as to the heights great wood aged Ports can achieve. One might think they could use them to beef up their Tawnies of Indicated Age, i.e. 10, 20, 30, and Over 40 years; however, their Tawny Ports are terrific as they are, and these older wines are extra special.

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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

Eclectic by Any Measure, a Dinner with Mannie Berk

November 29, 2016 1 comment

The wax seal of the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

The wax seal of the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

With Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co, in town for the Unveiling of the George Washington Special Reserve Madeira we decided to get together for a small dinner.  The theme was eclectic both in region and particularly in vintage.  I do not know if it is more interesting that there were wines from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s to write the least or that two were from the venerable 1955 vintage and two from 1969.  The quality of the wines in the glass varied but the individual personalities spoke, creating such interest that we stayed up very late that night.

All of the wines were opened at the table to be drunk in any desired order.  I have organized my notes in vintage order first by white then red and finally the sole Madeira.  Finally, I have limited my comments to a handful of wines for brevity.

We kicked things off with the 1985 Laurent Perrier, Grand Siecle, Champagne.  Grand Siecle was conceived in 1955 as top cuvee to be blended from three of the very best vintages.  So our bottle is a particular anomaly being from the single, outstanding 1985 vintage.  The cork was firmly seated, refusing to budge, and ultimately twisted into two pieces which were then dug out.  Perhaps the tightness of the cork ensures an impeccable seal for the quality of the bubbles is outstanding.  This is no recent disgorgement.  At best it is savory, complex, and racy.

The 1955 Chateau Carbonneiux, Graves solicited many remarks as the bottle exuded promise.  The fill was high, the color youthful, and the cork well-seated against the neck.  From the last vintage before the Perrin family purchased the estate, this mostly Sauvignon Blanc based wine was fermented and raised in oak.  The nose did remind me a bit of gasoline before it righted itself.  With clean, floral flavors of lemon and even some weight it is in fascinating shape.  It is a bit simple and short making it more of an academic reference point than quenching old wine.

Inside of the tag for the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

Inside of the tag for the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

Moving back in time, the oldest red wine came in a squashed 66 cl bottle.  The 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva della Castellana, Barolo is from one of the greatest Barolo vintages of the 20th century.  The Reserva della Castellana represents a supposed secret stash of top wine secured behind a lock of which there was one key.  Quantities of wine were released each year with the serial numbers recorded in a book.  Bottle #2506 improved in the decanter.  This salty, zippy wine is in the stage beyond fruit of bottle aged flavors.  It is enjoyable, though not remarkable.

I suspect our bottle of 1955 Torres, Gran Coronas, Gran Reserva does not represent the heights this wine can achieve.  A bit of nail-polish and oxidation is present both on the nose and in the mouth.  Beyond that, though, the wine is quite rich and savory.  Time in the decanter broadens the wine.  I would certainly drink this wine again.

The pair of wines from the 1969 vintage were great fun.  The 1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape adds to my recent experience with 1960s Chateauneuf du Pape.  Unlike the examples I have tried from the 1978 vintage, this is an original release.  Mont-Redon from the 1950s and 1960s are praised by Rhone lovers.  John Livingstone-Learmonth found them to have strength and concentration with Robert Parker writing they were amongst the finest wines of France.  During this period the wines were 80% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, and 10% Syrah.

The back label of the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County

The back label of the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County

The second wine from this vintage came from California.  J. Pedroncelli was founded in 1927 was John Pedroncelli planted 135 acres of vines on hillsides near Dry Creek.  According to Robert Lawrence Balzer, the site reminded him of his native Lombardy.  The vineyard would receive the fog that moved up the Russian River which then receded to provide sunshine.  The coolness and warmth was found to make “grapes richly concentrated with flavor” when Robert L. Balzer first visited in 1975.  According to Charles L. Sullivan, this was the first vineyard to be planted with Pinot Noir in Northern Sonoma after the Repeal of Prohibition.

Robert L. Balzer’s visit was prompted both by his enjoyment of the wines and the fact that they tended to place well in competitions.  Nathan Chroman was chairman of a few competitions who noted the difficulty of growing Pinot Noir in California.  In 1972, when Nathan Chroman tasted through 23 California Pinot Noirs, he found the 1969 Pedroncelli Pinot Noir a wine to lay down.  Robert L. Balzer found the 1972 vintage in need of age as well.  I doubt either of them expected the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County to be drinking with full vigor nearly 50 years later.

The Pedroncelli is a fun wine to taste with the Mont Redon.  They both smell of similar age and a traditional style of winemaking.  The Mont-Redon is more round, with sweet fruit whereas the Pedroncelli is vigorous and grippy with the addition of leather and animale flavors.  John Winthrop Haeger offers one possibility for the longevity of the Pedroncelli, in the 1960s the Pinot Noir bottles included a hefty dose of Zinfandel.

The longevity is also, of course, due to the winemaking.  This wine was made by the sons of the founder John Pedroncelli who followed the traditions and styles set by their father.  It was only in 1968 that Pedroncelli purchased their first French oak barrels and began switching their old Redwood tanks to stainless steel.  This was the start of the American wine boom that would see a year after year increase in vineyard acreage and number of Californian wineries.  Thus the Pedroncelli marks the end of a phase and so does the Mont-Redon for the winemaking changed in the 1970s towards producing an early drinking style.  After tasting these two wines I naively wonder why change?

I have become a firm believer that when a tasting of old vintages is finished with a dessert wine, it should be of similar or older age.  What a treat then to have a glass of 1934 Cossart Gordon & Cia., Bual, Madeira.  From an excellent vintage, this is a Madeira that excels on the nose.  Old Madeira fills your nose and the air around you, transporting you to a traditional period without the need to actively smell your glass.

eclecticwines1

1985 Laurent Perrier, Grand Siecle, Champagne
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  The very fine, lively bubbles are crisp, precise, and vigorous.  With a bright entry, this saline and savory wine mixed baking spiced flavors with a racy body.  With air the bubbles remain undiminished but the complexity comes out and the wine develops even more racy body, wrapping it all up with a mature finish.  Drinking fantastically right now.  **** Now – 2021.

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1955 Chateau Carbonneiux, Graves
Shipped by Alexis Lichine.  Imported by Clairborne Imports.  An excellent looking bottle.  The light amber color defies age and matches the lemon and floral tree flavors.  The wine has weight, drapes the tongue, and almost becomes racy.  I think the Semillon is coming through.  It is, though, a bit simple with a short finish.  ** Now.

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1996 Nicolas Joly, Savennieres Coulee de Serrant
Imported by The Rare Wine co. Alcohol 14%.  This is a round wine with perfumed flavors of apple and mature lemon.  It is round, fairly clear, and mature with a racy vigor in the finish.  It seems to be all about the fabulous texture. **** Now – 2022.

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2004 Domaine Leflaive, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
Imported by Wilson Daniels.  This somewhat complex wine mixes lemon flavors with unintegrated oak.  It is taut in the middle, leaning towards the acidic side of things before taking on some cream in the end.  It is, perhaps, in need of time.  ***(*) 2020-2025.

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1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva della Castellana, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  The dark core hints at life.  In the mouth this salty wine reveals how it improved with time in decanter.  It is all about bottle aged flavors with tangy acidity giving a zippy personality.  The mouth remains but the flavors ultimately thin out.  *** Now.

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1955 Torres, Gran Coronas, Gran Reserva, Penedas
Imported by Forman Bros. Inc. Alcohol 12.65%.  The color is deep.  The nose offers up barnyard and some not-quite-right aromas of nail polish but is still enjoyable.  Slightly oxidized in the mouth this is clearly from a rich wine.  It is savory with acidity and even improved a touch in the decanter.  But the oxidized hint is there and the finish is short.  It is easy to imagine other examples being very good.  *** Now.

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1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape
From a Belgian cellar.  Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%.  A proper set of aromas which are animale.  There is round, mouth filling sweet fruit with a subtle hint of Kirsch, and wood notes.  The fruit resolves to be sweet strawberries.  This is clearly a beautiful wine in fine shape which tightens with air.  **** Now.

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1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  This smells proper and of a wine-making style that no longer exists.  With air this old wine smells of leather.  In the mouth this is a vibrant wine with taut, grippy flavors of complex red fruit, leather, animale, and more sweetness.  It has fine texture and life. Our bottle is in fine shape and capable of drinking at this level for years to come.  **** Now – 2022.

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1988 Fattoria dei Barbi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  With one of the youngest profiles this wine offers attractive, fruit driven flavors which focus in on violets.  I would say it became younger with air. ***(*) Now – 2026.

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1990 Chateau de Fonsalette, Syrah, Reservee, Cotes du Rhone
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines Ltd. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 14%.  Ah, there is some of that Rayas character on the nose!  This is a mature wine with youthful vigor.  It is a little round but still possesses tannic grip.  With air this exhibits spectacular body with articulate and textured flavor.  The acidity is spot on as this wine enters its second, mature phase of life.  After a few hours of air this is lovely.  **** Now – 2022.

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1934 Cossart Gordon & Cia., Bual, Madeira
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 20%.  A lovely nose of moderately pungent aromas of caramel, orange, damp campfire, and hints of sweet leather.  Flavors of leather mix with a focused, weighty body but the acidity builds until the finish where it becomes prominent and almost searing in the aftertaste.  The aftertaste is of citric flavors and a persistent sweetness. ***(*) Now – whenever.