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Posts Tagged ‘Saint-Julien’

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!

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

A lovely 1964 Mommessin, Clos de Tart followed by other mature wines

June 14, 2016 1 comment

No one could remember where the bottle of 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart came from.  It had been in the store for at least several years.  The label was in perfect shape but the ullage was 5cm down and the color was wearily light in the bottle.  I bought it anyways.  The 1964 vintage is still quite strong and I do not see Burgundy from the 1960s that often.  I am glad that I bought the bottle for it turned out to be my favorite wine over seven other old selections.

David and I gathered at Lou’s house last week.  Having acquired a number of bottles from the moving remnants cellar, I thought it would be fun to serve six of the bottles blind.  After secretly cutting capsules, extracting corks, and brown bagging the wines we gathered everything up to taste outside by Lou’s pool.

The air was fresh, there were minimal clouds, and we were partially shaded by a maple tree.  I had sniffed the bottle of Mommessin and did not detect anything wrong.  The cork was very long, exceeding the length of my Durand.  Perhaps it was impossibly long for the top of the cork had mushroomed over the lip of the bottle as if it refused to be shoved in all of the way.  It was a little alarming to see but the bottle smelled proper.

I took a quick sniff and taste.  I was completely excited to find that not only was the wine sound, it was very good.  The color was very light but the wine was flavorful.  It reminded David of old Barolo, light in color yet mouthfilling in flavor.  Mommessin acquired the Clos de Tart vineyard in 1932 keeping on M. Cyrot as regisseur who was only succeeded by Alfred Seguin in 1965.  Thus our bottle was produced under Cyrot’s tenure during which excellent wines were made in the 1940s and 1950s.  According to Clive Coates, the wine was produced using the chapeau immerge technique.  In this technique a grill is placed two-thirds of the way up the vat to prevent the cap from rising.  Thus there are no punch-downs only pumping over.  This apparently produces a wine of more elegance with less color and tannin extraction.  It could also explain why our wine was so light in color.

I kept pouring additional wine in my glass so that I could continue to taste it.  It was a lovely bottle of old Burgundy with a sense of lightness, sweet fruit flavors, and no fragility.

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1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart
Imported by Capitol City Liquors Co.  Alcohol 13%.  It is a very pale color in the glass.  The nose remained bloody and meaty through the end.  In the mouth were plenty of ripe cherry and strawberry fruit that had a sweetness to it.  This lively wine had a good mouthfeel, some texture, and some spice.  It did not fade over three to four hours.  **** Now.

After drinking a good share of the Mommessin, we not only moved on to the six blind wines but to a completely different style of red Burgundy.  The bottle of 1979 Domaines Jaboulet-Vercherre, Beaune Clos de l’Ecu threw everyone into a state of confusion as to what it was.  The Jaboulet-Vercherre firm has early 19th century origins in the Rhone with their expansion to Burgundy occurring a century later in the 1920s.  I agree with Robert Parker agreeing with Hubrecht Duijker that the Rhone origins of the estate resulted in colorful and full bodied wines.  Our bottle was certainly dark in color, dark in flavor, and remarkably well preserved.  It is not a wine of finesse like the Mommessin, rather a hypothetical blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah.  It is a sturdy wine that will easily make age 50.

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1979 Domaines Jaboulet-Vercherre, Beaune Clos de l’Ecu
Imported by Beitzell & Co.  This color is quite dark with some garnet hints.  The nose initially smelled of barnyard but cleaned up.  In the mouth this salty wine offered full flavors of darker fruit bound seamlessly with acidity.  The finish is simple and a bit short.  This solid wine is age-defying.  ** Now.

The first pair of Bordeaux were quite different.  The 1980 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves is an attractive greenhouse infused wine both on the nose and in the mouth.  It is quite lively with acidity driven flavors making it a solid wine from a very poor vintage.  In contrast, the 1979 Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien is from a slightly better vintage.  The wine needed some air to blow of its stink.  It has an attractively taut, burst of flavor at the beginning with no hint of greenness.  There is no reason to cellar the La Mission Haut Brion any further but I suspect it will not change much in case you do.  The Beychevelle should be drunk up.  Perhaps double-decant off the sediment then drink with your friends.

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1980 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Shipped by Vignobles Internationaux.  Imported by Julius Wile Sons & Co.  Alcohol 12%.  The initial greenhouse aromas are followed by finely scented aromas and even an animale note.  The acidity driven red fruit takes on green pepper then red grapefruit flavors.  There are minimal tannins at this point but the wine is still very lively.  ** Now.

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1979 Chateau Beychevelle, Saint-Julien
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.  Alcohol 12.2%.  The nose is a bit subtle with initial dirty aromas blowing off to reveal deep aromas of Old Bay seasoning and wood box.  There is a taut burst of flavor in this savory wine.  It is initially a touch thin in flavor with some fine, bitter tannins.  But with air the wine subtly expands through the moderate finish and old-school flavored aftertaste.  ** Now.

The pair of 1978s offered a marked improvement in quality.  The 1978 Chateau Trotte Vieille, Saint-Emilion has many attractive qualities from coffee aromas, racy, savory flavors, and a good reaction with air.  It is a good, mature wine.  The estate had changed hands in 1949 and David Peppercorn writes that the wines of the 1950s and 1960s were quite good but then they became largely disappointing.  So it appears we were fortunate.  There is clearly more vigor and strength in the 1978 Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion, Graves.  This is a second wine of Chateau Haut-Brion.  Originally a non-vintage wine, Bahans Haut-Brion was sold exclusively to the Bordeaux market.  In 1976 a vintage version was released as well.  The non-vintage production was discontinued in 1982.  So this wine was produced during a brief period when there were two second wines!  I liked this bottle too.  Both of these wines held up well to extended air.

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1978 Chateau Trotte Vieille, Saint-Emilion
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 12%.  The older smelling nose cleans up to reveal coffee and caramel aromas.  The wine starts with an animale hint.  This racy, savory wine is quite tasty and fully mature.  It responds well to air with a little ink, firmness, and good acidity. Nice wine.  *** Now.

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1978 Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion, Graves
Shipped by Nathaniel Johnston & Fils.  Imported by Forman Brothers.  Alcohol 11.5%.  This is an interesting old-school wine that is clearly quite vigorous with earthy flavors.  The blend of fruit, acidity, and tannins makes for a lively, good wine that coats the gums with bits of sweet fruit in the aftertaste.  *** Now.

I knew the 1974 Chateau Haut Brion, Graves. was doomed when I cut of the top of the perfect capsule to find a depressed cork covered by gobs of fluffy white mold.  As I pulled the cork out the sides appeared muddy, which is a sign of cork failure.  The final quarter-inch looked fine but was not enough of a bastion.  I was looking forward to this wine because 1974 is a miserable vintage.  However, Haut Brion harvested the grapes before the rains started and reportedly made an excellent wine.  Lou brought out a bottle of 1970 Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere, Saint-Emilion which coincided with the grilling of some lamb.  The bottle had some melted crayon or rubber on it but the insides turned out fine.  The wine was a touch smelly at first but started to clean up and become more expressive.  I meant to give it enough air before taking a note but alas I forgot to take a note!  I did not forget to have another glass of the 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart which was still just as good as when opened.

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1974 Chateau Haut Brion, Graves.
Shipped by Barton & Gustier. Imported by Chateau & Estate Wines Co.  Alcohol 12%.  Bad bottle. Not Rated.

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1970 Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere, Saint-Emilion
Shipped by Solter, Schneider & Co.  Imported by Consolidated Distilled Products.  Alcohol 11% to 14%.  Oops, no note!

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From the Vintage of the Rocket to the Moon: 1959 Chateau Talbot

In this post Bill Moore kindly shares his experience with a pristine looking bottle of 1959 Chateau Talbot.  Georges Cordier, son of Desire Cordier who bought Chateau Gruaud-Larose, came into control of Chateau Talbot during 1919.  Chateau Talbot is a large estate located next to Chateau Gruaud-Larose.  The vineyards were, as they are now, planted with mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc.  Around the time of the 1959 vintage, the wines of Chateau Talbot were fermented in glass-lined vats then transferred to big casks for aging.  There is scarce additional detail available about this particular wine.  The 1959 Talbot retailed for $6.99 per magnum with the 1959 Gruaud-Larose at $7.37 per magnum in 1962. One contemporaneous opinion was the Talbot was a bigger wine with with more body and the Gruaud-Larose was more delicate, finer, and fruiter wine.  Neither was better than the other, they were just different, which went against the Talbot being a 4th Growth and the Gruaud-Larose a 2nd Growth.

The staying power of 1959 red Bordeaux is widely lauded, so I felt confident cracking open a well-preserved bottle from this legendary vintage. I was especially excited to try the Talbot, as the Cordier wines from the 1980s have also provided some of my most memorable Bordeaux experiences. Their earthy, savory character beautifully captures what makes this region so special to so many. As it turns out, I lucked into a very good example:

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1959 Chateau Talbot, St. Julien
Just a marvelous old gem. Lovely light red-pink color. Ethereal nose of hickory smoke and cedar chest. Fully resolved on the palate with soft red fruits, tobacco, and spice, but nothing about the fruit was tired; it was brimming with a vibrancy that belied its age. Always a privilege to enjoy a mature beauty like this. -93 pts.

A dinner party with old wine

September 22, 2015 Leave a comment

This past weekend Lou and I went to a fun dinner party where we ate heaps of meat and drank some old wine.  Lou’s friend Todd spearheaded the food side of things and Lisa offered up her place.  This meant that Lou and I selected the wines.  We started with a very fresh tasting 2008 Drouhin-Vaudon, Chablis Premier Cru.  It showed younger than I expected with the bottle age taking off any rough corners and adding a hint of orchard fruit.

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Once everyone arrived and set about tucking into the cheese and charcuterie, we cracked open the NV Michel Turgy, Reserve Selection, Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs and the NV Vilmart & Cie, Grand Cellier, Champagne Brut Premier Cru.  The Turgy is a pure Chardonnay based Champagne that was vinified entirely in stainless steel.  The Vilmart is a blend of mostly Chardonnay with Pinot Noir that was both fermented and aged in oak.  This made for an enjoyably different pair of wines, with the Turgy very aromatic with mature aromas and more explosive bubbles.  The Vilmart had a subdued nose but was top-notch in the mouth with a luxurious mousse and all around harmony.  I highly recommend you seek out both of these.

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With our palete wet we moved on to a trio of Pinot Noir.  I have written about the 2001 Domaine Serene, Pinot Noir, Evenstad Reserve, Willamette Valley and 2003 Brick House, Pinot Noir, Cuvée du Tonnelier, Willamette Valley before so I shall pass over those.  The third bottle, in the form of the 1985 Comte Armand, Pommard Clos de Epenaux, showed an attractive maturity with plenty of earthy aromas that pervaded through the mouth.  We have drunk one bottle before that seemed very young, this bottle was very expressive with good strength.

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With the bottles of Pinot Noir drained we moved on to a pair of Bordeaux.  Perhaps the 1982 Château Prieurié Lichine, Margaux was destined to be a mere solid experience due to the heat stress in Margaux or the estate itself.  It was, nevertheless, a decent wine that only helped elevate the excellent bottle of 1982 Château Meyney, Saint-Estèphe.  The Meyney proved quite aromatic with satisfying presence in the mouth.  It was both mature and youthful at the same time making for a fine glass.

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For the 1978 vintage we opened a pair from Saint-Julien.  I had high hopes for the 1978 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien but this particular bottle offered darker red fruit, that while good, did not have quite the vigor it should have.  The 1978 Château Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien on the other hand was completely open with its aromatic nose, expansive flavors, and strength.  You could generally say the 1982s were fruitier and the 1978s were more rugged.  More importantly, though, all four bottles provoked delight and were drained of their very last drops.

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To transition to the Sauternes course we selected the 1977 Ridge Late Harvest Zinfandel Trentadue Ranch, Sonoma County due to the bit of residual sugar at bottling.  From a drought vintage in California, I was prepared for it to be sherried at this age.  It wasn’t!  In fact it was like a solid, rustic old Californian wine.  Be it the high alcohol level or its age, it drank more like the previous wines than a dessert wine.  Lou is a firm believer in old Ridge wines and this bottle demonstrates why.  I wish I could write more about the wine but I only had a tiny pour as I was quick to check on the Sauternes.

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Both of our bottles of Sauterne were from good vintages.  I expected the 1983 Château Bastor-Lamontagne, Sauternes to be more advanced given the color and simpler given the reputation.  My expectations were met for there was a burst of mouthfilling, dark, botrytised fruit followed by a simpler and shorter finish.  The sweetness was more obvious too.  Quickly down the hatch it went!  With everyone adjusted we poured the 1988 Château de Rayne Vigneau, Sauternes.  This is an important vintage for the vineyard had been replanted, the rebuilding of the chais was complete with new stainless steel tanks, new barriques, and a cold chamber first employed for the 1987 vintage.  Fortunately, the cold chamber was not required for the 1988 vintage which was the first to experience the pneumatic press.  All of these updates showed through the wine.  It was beautiful, more on the elegant side but it sported a finely articulate nose with perfectly balanced fruit, acidity, and sweetness in the mouth.  As Lou commented, it is ready for a long future of development.

Many thanks to Todd, Lisa, and everyone else for such a fun evening!

A 1978 dinner with wines from the Rhone and Bordeaux

July 21, 2015 2 comments

It was just several weeks ago that Darryl commented on an odd bottle of 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Darryl had served it at a tasting full of Rhone wine lovers.  I did not attend the Rhone dinner but David did and he too felt something was amiss.  Both Darryl and David felt that this bottle was not representative of the 1978 vintage.  Fortunately for me, Darryl had purchased a second bottle which he was willing to open up so that I could taste it.  He did just that last week, around which we organized a small tasting of 1978 vintage wines.

We quickly settled on five wines from the Rhone and Bordeaux.  The 1978 vintage in the Rhone was an outstanding success with Michael Broadbent noting it was regarded as the best vintage since 1911 for Hermitage, Cote-Rotie, and Chateauneuf du Pape.  This same vintage in Bordeaux experienced an “appalling growing season” but Chateau Leoville-las-Cases and Chateau Palmer were regarded as very good.  With the wines selected, Darryl, Nancy, Lou, and Todd all gathered in my living room.

A trio of Rhone from 1978

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I must take time to comment on the 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape.  With one quick look at the bottle it is obvious that this was not an original release.  For an image of an original bottle I recommend you take a look at Francois Audouze’s post 177ème dîner de wine-dinners au restaurant Macéo.  Scroll down to see his two pictures.  The particular bottle that Darryl brought over was purchased from Grapes The Wine Company where it was advertised “Mont Redon is on its way, with perfect provenance, 3 outstanding vintages!!!”  The bottle itself sported a contemporary capsule and contemporary labels with Chateau Mont Redon instead of Domaine de Mont Redon, as it was known until 1988.  The fill went all the way up to the bottom of the capsule.  As for the cork itself, it looked rather young.  In short, it looked like a reconditioned bottle.  Darryl confirmed with both Daniel Posner and Envoyer Imports that these bottles came from Chateau Mont-Redon.  Chateau Mont-Redon confirmed that they have released these wines from their cellar.  They perform cork maintenance on all cellared wines which is why there is no ullage and a fresh cork.

John Gilman featured the wines of Chateau Mont-Redon in the April 2011/Issue 32 of View from the Cellar.  He noted that, “Château Mont-Redon is one of the great, old-time estates in the appellation of Châteauneuf du Pape, but until I began tastings in preparation for this report, I had simply no idea just how great their wines were.”  For the 1978 he concludes his tasting note with “A great and utterly classic vintage of Mont-Redon. 2010-2030+. 95.”

This sort of praise is not without precedent.  James Conaway visited Domaine de Mont-Redon then wrote about it in 1984 for The Washington Post.[1]  He tasted the “dark young wines of the traditional style” noting the juice was left on the lees for three weeks, then passed through a centrifuge before aging up to three years in huge oak barrels.  As for the wines “the ’78 was the most intense, with suggestions of cassis and cherries, a lot of body and tannin and a kaleidoscopic finish.”  One year later, Florence Fabricant visited the estate where she wrote in The New  York Times that you could taste “classic richness and strength in vintages going back to 1977.  The 1978, one of the best of the recent vintages, is an intense burgundy color, scented attractively of fruit, softening but still very powerful.”[2]

It appears generally accepted that Mont-Redon produced outstanding wines in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s but the quality turned in the 1970s and 1980s.  David Livingstone-Learmonth commented in The Wines of the Rhone (1992) on this “absence of the strength and concentration” of the previous vintages.  Amongst the “attenuated wines in the late 1970s” was the “maceration carbonique wines” of 1979.  Sandwiched within, though, was the 1978 which he found “still extraordinarily tight-knit, with a lovely harmony of flavours on the palate, tremendous width and still plenty of opening-up to do to add to an already impressive amount of richness.”  Robert Mayberry simply wrote that the “1978 surpassed 1979 “in Wines of the Rhone Valley (1987).

Robert Parked echoed the praise for those mid-century vintages but he was also damning of the 1978 vintage.  In Wines of the Rhone Valley (1997) he comments on “the desiccated 1978” ran that this “was the first wine to be subjected to the new system of multiple filtrations.  Although the wine is still alive, it displays virtually no aromatic profile, a neutral taste, and no real typicity or character.”  Robert Mayberry noted that “finished red wine is centrifuged or filtered through diatomaceous earth”.

It turns out that Grapes The Wine Company is not the only store where these back vintages of Chateau Mont Redon became available.  Europa Cellars, MW Wines, and Vintage and Vine, all of Australia, had pre-arrival offers put out in 2012.  MW Wines noted “These wines are being offered at special pricing on a pre-arrival basis only, with payment required upon confirmation of allocation.  All wines are sourced directly from the cellar of Chateau Mont-Redon”.

All of the wines we tried that night were popped and poured.    As for the 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape it seemed an odd combination of rather mature flavors supported by a young structure.  With air the flavors became rasinated and the structure disjointed.  It was not enjoyable on the second night.  Ex-cellar releases are not new for Chateauneuf du Pape; Chateau de Beaucastel is one practitioner.  I guess in this case the changing of the corks (and topping off) created a wine that is just not my style.  However, let me know if you happen to have an original release that you are willing to share with me.

A quick smell and taste of the 1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage revealed some serious funk.  It was almost of the nature of fish sauce which I find a bit smelly but love the flavor.  Unfortunately, this bottle of Hermitage rapidly became less interesting.  One sniff of the 1978 E. Guigal, Cotes Rotie Brune et Blonde promptly indicated we were in for a treat.  The Brune et Blonde uses fruit sourced from nearly 50 small vineyard owners and a large portion of estate vineyards.  Fruit from the three La-La’s and Chateau d’Ampuis are excluded.  The wine is mostly Syrah with approximately 5% Viognier added.  The wine itself is aged for three years in casks and barrels.  David Livingstone-Learmonth writes in The Wines of the Northern Rhone (2005) that the “quality of the 1970s was extremely good” and that in big vintages the wines can live for “around 20 years” though longer in spectacular vintages.  Clearly this was one of those bottles.  If you ever come across a bottle it will be a worthy purchase.

A Pair of Bordeaux from 1978

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It was a treat to taste both the 1978 Chateau Palmer and 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases.  Both wines feature more than half Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend but Palmer sports a good deal more Merlot at the expense of Cabernet Franc which is the opposite of Leoville-las-Cases.  David Peppercorn summarizes mature Palmer as, “the wine develop a bouquet of rare penetration and show all the finesse of a fine Margaux with rather more body and richness.”  For Leoville-Lascases he writes that the essence “is a bouquet of great elegance and sauvity and an incomparable flavour which is almost silky in texture when mature, very long but at the same time firm and well balanced.”  Michel Delon took over the production of Leoville-Las-Cases from his father in 1975.  According to Clive Coates, he imposed a very severe selection with roughly 40% of the harvest going into the grand vin and meticulous vinification.  He continues that this is a “full-bodied, austere and tannic wine” whose heart is the Grand Clos vineyard which lies just south of Chateau Latour.  Thus the 1978 vintage of Leoville-las-Cases is from a new period of quality whereas for Palmer it is yet another strong effort since the 1940s.

The 1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux was evidently in great shape from the very first sniff.  It did develop more complexity with air but it always had that seductive, seamless quality to it.  It was no slouch either.  Nancy told me that last glass in the bottle would be fine the very next day.  It was.  The 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien proved exemplary of a structured nature with increased Cabernet Franc.  I would have preferred a longer finish but nevertheless I enjoyed this earthy, more robust bottle.

In the end, my favorite wine of the night was the 1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux.  The fill was into the neck with Darryl commenting that it was the best example he has yet opened.  This wine was closely followed by the 1978 E. Guigal, Cotes Rotie Brune et Blonde.  A step down was the 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien.  Not bad for a Wednesday night.

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2006 Moët & Chandon, Grand Vintage Rosé Champagne
Imported by .  This wine is a blend of 42% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir, and 19% Pinot Meunier.  There was a strong yeasty aroma with dark toast.  In the mouth was an aggressive start before the bubbles immediately burst.  The wine had hints of hard, cherry fruit, minerals, and some earth.  With air the wine increasingly tasted young but did take on dry, baking spices.  I think it needs time.  ***(*) 2020-2030.

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2002 Weingut Hauth-Kerpen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
Imported by Valley View Wine Sales.  Alcohol 8.5%.  With a little bit of air the nose opened up to reveal rich petrol aromas back by some rubber-like notes.  In the mouth was a soft, slightly weighty start then drying flavors of green apple and petrol.  The finish was short. The nose was *** but overall ** Now.

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1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage
Imported by A & A Liquors.  There was old leather and stinky aromas.  With air the nose turned strange.  In the mouth there were fruit flavors and it was a generally drinkable wine but strange.  Will Last.  * Now.

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1978 E. Guigal, Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde
Import strip fell off the back.  There was a beautiful nose of fruit, red ripe fruit, and some earth.  In the mouth were slightly earthy, garrigue-infused fruit, mineral, and an attractive foxy finish.  The finish was a little rough but followed by an expansive aftertaste.  With air this wine showed slow building power to the lovely tart and ripe fruit.  It had beginning lift, beautiful acidity, gorgeous fruit, wood box notes, and good weight.  **** Now – 2020.

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1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Envoyer.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was old but the wine tastes like an old and young wine blend with young structure.  With air there were raisinated fruit flavors, juicy acidity, old perfume, and still a wealth of tannins.  Odd.  Not Rated.

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1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien
Shipped Arcande.  Imported by B & H Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Top-shoulder fill.  The nose bore more greenhouse aromas than the Palmer.  In the mouth were tart red fruit flavors, a mineral-like middle, and salivating acidity.  It took on some funk and vintage perfume.  There were even attractive, sweaty and musky aromas that came out.  Overall this was a solid wine with a short finish but a long, low-lying aftertaste.  *** Now-2020.

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1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux
Imported by Parliament Import Co.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  Bottom-neck fill.  There was a sweaty nose with grippy aromas of ripe, sweet bakins spices.  The flavors filled the mouth with fresh, good grip, leaving lovely, seductive impressive through the aftertaste. With air the wine was made seamless as if covered by a layer of delicious fat.  **** Now.

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[1] Chateauneuf – A Cask by Itself.  Conaway, James.  The Washington Post Magazine. Page  38. November 11, 1984.
[2] A Little Town And Its Big Red Wine: Vintage Chateauneuf-du-Pape. By FLORENCE FABRICANT. New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 2, 1985; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. XX15