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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

A soft, low-fill 1975 Chateau Léoville Barton

The 1975 Chateau Léoville Barton was produced by Ronald Barton, the great-great grandson of Hugh Barton who took an active interest in the family wine business in the late 18th century.  Ronald Barton served with the Free French during World War 2.  After the war, he returned to Chateau Léoville Barton to find the vineyard in a neglected state with up to a quarter of the vines missing.  The post-war decades were lean and hard times that were complicated by the frost of 1956.  Production levels did not rise until the early 1960s and the wines were not estate bottled until 1969, instead having been bottled at Barton & Guestier.  Seagrams, which took full control of Barton & Guestier, had an exclusive contract for marketing the wines until 1976.

Perhaps Ronald Barton was conservative in the lean, post-war years for he did not invest any money into the cellar, oak barrels, nor in technology.   Edmund Penning-Roswell attributes this caution to Ronald Barton’s experience as head of Barton & Guestier; he was a wine merchant and not a wine-maker.  Clive Coates wrote that the 1970s were a “moribund time” for the property with the 1975 vintage, tasted in 1992, the best of the decade.  This particular bottle, with its mid-shoulder fill, was destined for the trash bin and not the dump bin.  The wine was fine enough for a glass or two but then I lost interest.  The history, nonetheless, is interesting and with the purchase of three higher fill bottles, I remain hopeful.  This wine was picked up at MacArthur Beverages.

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1975 Chateau Léoville Barton, Saint-Julien
Shipped by Barton & Guestier.  Imported by Chateau & Estate Wines Company.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  Mid-shoulder fill.  The wine was soft in the mouth with hints of fruit at the start.  It then turned tart with rounded acidity and modest structure in the short finish.  With air a roast flavor developed.  * Now.

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An aromatic bottle of 1975 Chateau Gruaud-Larose

Chateau Gruaud-Larose is one of several estates in the Domaines Cordier portfolio.  While the Gruaud-Larose estate itself dates back to the 18th century, it was not until the 1930s when it was fully acquired by the Cordier family.  The estate encompasses some 150 hectares of which more than half are planted with vines.  By the 1980s these vines were comprised mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot with smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  There was a bad fire in 1965 that resulted in a portion of the cellers being rebuilt.  The cuvier comprised a long line of large wooden vats on one side with glass-lined vats on the opposite side.  The wine was fermented in the glass-lined vats then immediately transferred to the large wooden vats.  Here the wine was aged for one or two months before being transferred into traditional Bordeaux barriques. The period in large vats slowed maturation thus enhancing the fruit.

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You will notice that our bottle of 1975 Chateau Gruaud-Larose is not of the standard Bordeaux shape.  This special bottle was introduced in 1960.  Throughout the 1960s the glass seal reproduced an image of M. George Cordier but in 1970 this was replaced by his initials.

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The 1975 vintage experienced a hot and dry summer.  The berries with their high sugar content, ample pigment, and thick skins yielded fruity wines of high alcohol but also high tannins. Thus the vintage was received favourably after the miserable 1972, 1973, and 1974 vintages.  Trade tastings in the 1980s confirmed the tannic nature of these wines.  Tasting in 1990, David Peppercorn found the 1975 to be the best of the decade being “very rich and concentrated, tannic without being too dry, with a dimension lacking in the 1978.”  Tasting during the same year Clive Coates was less enthusiastic noting, “There is fruit here, but the whole thing is rather dense and charmless.  Not exciting.”  Apparently tasted in the early 2000s, Michael Broadbent was pleased, “excellent nose; surprisingly sweet entry leading to a very dry astringent finish by way of attractive fragrance and flavour ****“.

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Lou and I randomly grabbed this particular bottle from a lot of three.  The fill was at the very top of the sloped shoulders.  Upon cutting the foil, the cork was covered with a quarter-inch of mold which when wet, took the appears of mud. The cork answered well to the screw of the Durand, revealing both its excellent state and ultimately, that it was firmly stoppering the bottle.  With some effort it was removed and being longer than the screw, the end had to be removed separately.  Michael Broadbent’s tasting note reveals the main characteristic of our particular bottle and that is the nose.  From the very first pour the wine had that sweet, mature, cedar box aroma.  Indeed, the next day the dregs still smelled that way with the cork maintaining an added wet tobacco aroma.  The nose alone provided enough pleasure but the modest amount of remaining fruit carried the wine through cheering us up at the end of the work week. This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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1975 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien (730 mL indicated on both labels but 75 cL on bottle)
Imported by Majestic Wine and Spirits, Inc.  11% – 13%.  For over two hours there was a lovely cedar box nose.  In the mouth were tart red fruit flavors followed by plenty of tangy acidity.  The firm flavors mixed with an attractive, old wood note.  The wine finished with citric tannins that coated the gums.  ** Now but will last.

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Broadbent, Michael.  Pocket Vintage Wine Companion. Harcourt, Inc. 2007.
Coates M.W., Clive. Grands Vins. University of California Press. 1995.
Penning-Rowsell, Edmund. The Wines of Bordeaux, Sixth Edition. Penguin Books. 1989
Peppercorn, David. Bordeaux, Second Edition. Faber & Faber. 1991.

Wines from Memorial Day weekend: 40+ year old Bordeaux and 10 year old Chateauneuf du Pape

Memorial Day weekend marked the second weekend in our new house.  We promised our daughter that she could invite several friends over so we hosted a BBQ/playdate for the families.  I would say that all of the adults drink wine on a regular basis but with minimal knowledge.  I decided to open the 1971 Chateau Montgrand-Milon, Pauillac for one couple that love to cook.  I figured that old wine should be drunk in an old house.  With my knowledge being limited to the 1970, 1975, and 1978 vintages I thought this bottle of 1971 might be passed its prime.  So I used my Durand to pop it open and to my surprise the wine was in great shape.  In fact this bottle opened up after half an hour and continued to drink perfectly well until it was drained.

According to Michael Broadbent the 1971 vintage was “relatively small but good quality” and that many wines “turned out better than the ’70s.”  Chateau Montgrand-Milon is the second label of Chateau Fonbadet, a Crus Bourgeois Superieur.  David Peppercorn noted in 1991 that the proprietor made “solid, classic Pauillacs.”  Solid, indeed was this bottle.  This was the favorite wine of everyone that evening.  There is no requirement that old and mature wines be great in my mind.  They must simply exhibit tertiary flavors that only come with age and drink well.  This bottle clearly met that requirement.

I also opened a bottle of 1975 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, St-Estephe which had the lowest fill of the quartet recently purchased.  Unfortunately, the fruit on this bottle had subsided such that the acidity and structure were more prominent.  Still, the bottle was finished and it was done so before all of the young 2012s were touched.

There were some questions about how wines age so I brought up a trio of 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape that I had opened the night before.  There was no denying that the 2005 Domaine La Barroche, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape is drinking great right now.  Actually, it is drinking at its peak right now and honestly was not such a hard follow-on from the older Bordeaux.  I even had to bring out another bottle! In contrast the 2005 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Telegramme, Chateauneuf du Pape is still dialed down tight.  It was unforgiving the first night but while it gave up more bright, red fruit on the second night, there was not a single sign of a mature flavor.  This will probably last a very long time.  Finally, the 2005 Domaine Saint-Prefert, Reserve August Favier,  Chateauneuf du Pape exhibited a personality in the middle.  The maturity is coming out but the wine oscillates with air all the while showing ample power.  I would try this again in two years for it has a great future ahead.

I should note that all of these wines came from a cellar purchased by MacArthur Beverages.  I will continue to report on other old bottles that I have opened.

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1971 Chateau Montgrand-Milon, Pauillac
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons.  This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot sourced from a 10 ha vineyard near Chateau Lynch Bages and Chateau Mouton Rothschild.  Top-shoulder fill.  Alcohol 11.8%.  There was a delicate Claret nose with attractive cedar notes.  In the mouth was a dense core of black and red fruit.  The wine had a slightly earthy and foxy start with a moderate amount of ripe structure.  The wine finished with a vintage perfume note.  A bit short in the finish but totally enjoyable.  ** Now.

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1975 Chateau Gruaud-Larose, St-Julien
Imported by Majestic Wine and Spirits.  Most likely a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot.  Top-shoulder fill.  Alcohol 11-13%.  This was a more rustic wine with thinner fruit but remained solid throughout the evening.  Though rustic, the acidity was attractive * Now.

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2005 Domaine La Barroche, Reserve, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Small Production Wines.  This wine is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Cinsault.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose was immediately aromatic with mature, garrigue notes.  This mouthfilling wine became grippy with air offering ripe, mature flavors and ample amounts of garrigue.  It took on a dense creamy, blue fruit with enough acidity to carry everything forward.  It was rounded and earthy with a touch of roast.  Drinking great right now so why hold on?  **** Now-2018.

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2005 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Telegramme, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre sourced from younger vines.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was the most taut and structured of the three Chateauneuf du Papes.  There were bright red flavors, almost metallic minerality, plenty of acidity, and no signs of maturity.  *** 2020-2030.

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2005 Domaine Saint-Prefert, Reserve August Favier,  Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines.  This is a blend of mostly Grenache with some old-vine Cinsault and Syrah.  The fruit was whole-cluster fermented then aged for 18 months in concrete vats and used oak hogsheads.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There was a generous mature nose. The wine had more red flavors to start then with air both creamy flavors and flesh developed. After two days there were brighter, blue fruit flavors that oscillated with ripe black cherry fruit while maintaining a grippy nature.  This round, dense wine remained fresh with a lot of power.  **** Now-2025.

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Tasting Old Wines with Darryl and Nancy at Blue Grass Tavern

February 11, 2014 2 comments
Baltimore, Maryland, skyline and waterfront. Detroit Publishing Co. 1910-1915. Image from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Baltimore, Maryland, skyline and waterfront. Detroit Publishing Co. 1910-1915. Image from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

On a snowy evening Phil and I drove up to Baltimore to taste several flights of wine.  Darryl and Nancy were hosting an evening of old wine at the Blue Grass Tavern.  Their contributions and those of the other attendees were beckoning.  There were both familiar faces, including Jeffrey Snow, and several new ones.  We sat in the intimate back room which glowed  inside and allowed views of the coating of snow which was still falling as we sat down.  The dinner was a satisfying meat fest which was punctuated at the end by plates of cheese and an incredible amount of dessert.

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To start with 1990 Moet et Chandon, Dom Perignon was great not only because the bottle was in top form but also because it was the second youngest wine of the evening.  We tasted through a number of wines at a reasonable pace and I never felt rushed nor short on my own pours.  The most physically satisfying flight was that of the 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape.  There great wines came from excellent cellars so the provenance showed.  If you have not yet drunk mature Chateauneuf du Pape then make every effort to do so.  I also really enjoyed the old Barolo flight.  There was nothing dried out or difficult about these wines, they really do develop for an incredible amount of time.  They were subtle in a way that when I tasted through the mixed French flight I kept wishing I was drinking the Barolo instead.

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1990 Moet et Chandon, Cuvee Dom Perignon, Champagne
Alcohol 12.9%.  This was opened right before serving.  There was a light toasty nose which was initially subtle before it blossomed with air to reveal mature white wine aromas and riper fruit.  In the mouth there was a fresh and crisp start carried by very fine bubbles that turned into a soft, lovely mousse of mature yellow fruit.  There was a chewy finish and long textured aftertaste which haunted my mouth.  This wine was in great shape and really was evocative of mature white Burgundy.

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1983 Staatsweingut, Rauenthaler, Baiken, Riesling Spatlese, Rheingau
Imported by Atlanta Wholesale Wine.  Alcohol 10%.  There was a killer nose with a little petrol.  The wine opened up quickly in the mouth bringing on petrol and riper fruit.  There was seamless acidity, drier flavors towards the finish and a hint of tartness.  The palate was not quite up to the  nose but still a very fine wine.

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1983 Kirchmayr, Solist, Traminer Spatlese, Neusiedlersee 
Imported by Domaine Select Wines.  Alcohol 12%.  This was very aromatic, rather Gewurztraminer like.  It provided a ripe, round mouthfeel with a woodsy mineral note.  It still had some sweetness, a racy hint,  and with air, a mellow personality.

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The Barolo flight had been decanted such that they had about four hours or so of air before dinner.  The 1962 Cappellano was bottled by Giovanni Troglia who was a wine merchant in Turin.  Darryl reported the oddly shaped bottle was sealed with a glass top fused with metal to the bottle.  So he had to delicately pry away before gaining access to the cork.

1962 Cappellano label scanned by Darryl Priest.

1962 Cappellano label scanned by Darryl Priest.

1962 Cappellana label scanned by Darryl Priest.

1962 Cappellano label scanned by Darryl Priest.

I thought the 1967 Francesco Rinaldi the darkest and freshest of the three.  This impression was not only due to it being the youngest of the trio rather, as Mannie Berk (Rare Wine Co.) pointed out to me, it was aged in demijohn.  Indeed in Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman’s Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1991) they write that Luciano Rinaldi “keeps some of his Barolo in these 9- and 14-gallon (34- and 54-liter) jugs for ten years or more.  The wine is decanted off its sediment into bottles or magnums before being put on sale.”  At the time of their visit there was still 1967 in demijohn.  This was practice was common in the old days of Barolo so perhaps this younger vintage was the most traditional of the three.  Michael Garner and Paul Merritt note in Barolo: Tar and Roses (1990) that it was the old practice to transfer wine from botte to damigiana for maturation.  However, the deep frost of 1929 wiped out vast stocks of these glass demijohns providing incentive to shift aging methods.  The 1958 Giacomo Borgogno showed more mature with earthy and ethereal flavors.  I thought an interesting contrast.  The 1962 Cappellano with its funky bottle quickly took on a nose of pure cumin with funky flavors in the mouth.  It reacted a bit to the air, putting on more flesh, and provided a third unique Barolo experience.  In the end a very satisfying flight.

1958 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli, Red Capsule, Barolo Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Acquired from a Private Collection and auctioned by Acker Merrall & Conduit, November 2013.  There was a strong, earthy nose with a hint of band-aid.  In the mouth were fresh, earthy flavors of black and red fruit.  The acidity was there, perhaps a hint of banana, followed by more piercing flavors in the finish and a haunting aftertaste.

1962 Cappellano, Barolo
Giovanni Troglia bottling.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a funky nose which cleaned up to be a pure aroma of cumin.  The funk followed in the mouth where the wine was dry.  It reacted well with air, became a touch savory and fleshed out.  An interesting wine.

1967 Francesco Rinaldi & Figli, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Acquired from a private collection by Chambers Street Wines.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This was very dark and the darkest of all three in the flight.  The nose was initially subtle then became more aromatic.  There was tangy red fruit in the mouth, lots of pleasing grip, and acidity which was very present.  It still had tannins, was a little dry, and puckering towards the end.  It remained very fresh and engaging.

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This was a mixed flight and a little underwhelming given the old Barolo and 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape flights it was sandwiched between.  There was a connection in that the Ausone and the Francesco Rinaldi were of the same vintage.  This vintage of Ausone came from the period when the vines were becoming increasingly older as there had been no replanting since 1950.  Both the Ausone and Montrose were fermented in old wooden vats.  I preferred the Montrose which was fresher.  To have mature Trousseau from Arbois was probably a first for many.  This particular bottle of 1988 Camille Loye came from a small parcel imported by Crush.  While it was not a wine I would want to drink an entire bottle of, it was enjoyable, and not near decline.  Finally, the Nicolas Potel was young with an interesting flavor but the powerful tannins were still too obvious.

1967 Chateau Ausone, Saint-Emilion
Imported by DKDJ Imports.  Acquired from a private collection.  There was a nose of beef stock and perhaps a hint of a sweet note.  There were flavors of black and red fruit in the focused start.  It had watering acidity, ripe spices, minerals, and a structure that still had tannic grip in the finish.  Ultimately, it was on its decline in life.  It did not seem to get better with air.

1970 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Alexis Lichine & Co.  There was a curious nose which was both fresh and animale.  There was levity in the mouth, a greenhouse hint, and a young core.  It was a good wine that did not show the level of evolution that the Ausone did.

1988 Camille Loye, Cuvee St Paul, Arbois Rouge
Imported by Vineyard Road.  There were flavors of red cranberry, citrus pith, and fresh acidity.  It was an interesting wine, in fine shape, and I can see why one person said  an “orange red wine” and another “curious”.

1999 Nicolas Potel, Latricieres-Chambertin, Grand Cru
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by C’est Vin.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was very fresh.  There was a little earth to the flavors, a ripe note and an interesting flavor profile.  There was a lot of unevolved oak which showed in the powerful and very fine tannins in the finish.  This wine packed a punch at the end.  Clearly the youngest tasting bottle of the even.

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We almost had a quartet of 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape but the Rayas, Pignan was badly corked.  Still, the remaining three bottles were excellent.  The Charvin had been double-decanted ahead of time so it probably had two hours of air before it was poured. The other wines were opened just minutes before and not decanted.  While this difference should be noted there is no denying the Charvin was a great wine.  This vintage represents the first produced by Laurent Charvin for all of the wines had been previously sold off.  It remained excellent to the end.  I also really liked the Pegau which can be so satisfying to smell and to drink.  This bottle came from a good cellar and even with some air kept a youthful nature.  The Beaucastel may have been more polarizing and not with the same depth of flavor but I very much enjoyed it.  That three different wines could be so satisfying was evidenced by how quiet the table became.

1990 Domaine Charvin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There were aromas of tobacco and red fruit that stood out of the glass.  In the mouth were lovely flavors that were a little savory and sappy with cherry and Kirsch notes.  The wine had weight and purity.  Despite the maturity the flavors had a ripe, dense core.  A real treat.

1990 Rayas, Pignan, Chateauneuf du Pape
Acquired from a private collection by Acker Merrall & Conduit Internet.  An off bottle.

1990 Domaine du Pegau, Cuvee Reservee, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Hand Picked Selections.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was great complexity in the familial nose but the flavors were young.  There was a good mixture of spices and fruit which was black red.  The chewy tannins made way to youthful weight, sweet fruit and sweet spices.  It had a spicy structure in the finish and a long aftertaste that took on ripe notes.

1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This was very aromatic.  The flavors were expansive in the mouth but did not develop the weight or presence as the Charvin.  Some ripe fruit developed, an animale flavor, and the structure was more present.

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Unfortunately, the 1991 QBA was not worth drinking.  The 1995 Beerenauslese had an explosive entry into the mouth with an engaging mixture of black tea flavors.

1991 Carl von Schubert, Maximin Grunhauser, Herrenberg QBA, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – (375 mL)
Alcohol 10.9%.  The nose was oxidative with a hint of apples and apricots followed by beef stock.  There were apple flavors, tart-like fruit but in the end dried out.  No.

1995 Carl von Schubert, Maximin Grunhauser, Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – (375 mL)
Imported by Robert Chadderdon Selections.  Alcohol 6.5%.  There was a ripe nose of apples and apricots.  The wine had a lively burst into the mouth with not-quite bracing acidity.  The complex flavors blended in tea notes and maintained texture on the tongue followed by a tartness in the aftertaste.

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The Baumard was curious in that it was rather clean and almost primary.  Perhaps it needed more air or years in the cellar.  I believe some people continued to work this wine in their glass so perhaps they have a better opinion.  There is not much Terrantez any more on Madeira so the Cossart Gordon bottle was a treat to taste.  It was opened right before tasting and had great aromatics and powerful flavors.  It was a bottle I would be curious to track for a few weeks.

1989 Domaine des Baumard, Quarts de Chaume
Imported by Classic Wine Imports.  Acquired from a private collection by Acker Merrall & Conduit Internet.  The nose was sweet and sweaty but remained youthful and tight.  In the mouth the sweetness over powered the acidity at first, it was in there but bound tight.  Remarkably unevolved.

1977 Cossart Gordon, Terrantez, Madeira
Imported by Premium Ports & Madeiras.  Alcohol 20%.  There was a very aromatic and gorgeous nose.  In the mouth were powerful flavors of salty and rich orange-red fruit.  It had subtle weight.

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Christmas Claret with Lou

December 23, 2013 2 comments

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This past weekend we gathered at Lou’s house for what is meant to be an annual Christmas tasting…with dinner.  We had decided on Bordeaux ahead of time but in the hours preceding we focused in on the 1983 and 1989 vintages.  The red wines were double-decanted such that they had two hours of air prior to tasting.  We began with charcuterie, an old family crab dish, and a bottle of NV Duval-Leroy, Brut.  Lou and I agreed that it nicely revealed bottle age which made it quite integrated and with subdued bubbles, very easy to drink.  I am not entirely sure what the 2009 Strohmeier, Weisswein aus Trauben, Liebe und Zeit is made out of. Apparently Pinot Blanc.  Regardless this self-professed “natural wine” was aromatic and very complex on the nose.  The balance of acidity and skin-contact flavors was quite attractive.

We moved down to the cellar to taste through the red wines.  The 1989 Chateau Lalande-Borie, Saint-Julien was purchased over 7 years ago from MacArthur Beverages.  This was opened as a curiosity and surprisingly, the nose was quite deep and earthy.  Most people liked this bottle.  The nose was its strong point for the flavors came up a bit short.  For me the 1983 Chateau Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc had a nose strong in old-school perfume but the flavors remained firm.  It should continued to live for some time but I do not see it improving.  The 1983 Chateau Gloria, Saint-Julien was a perfect example of mature Bordeaux with a fill at the bottom of the neck.  From the beginning the nose was aromatic and deep.  In the mouth were fresh fruit, good acidity, and expansive flavors.  Completely mature but  in no way past its prime.  The 1989 Chateau l’Enclos, Pomerol was quite good by the end of the evening when it opened to show black fruit and minerals.  I wonder if it could develop further.  Unfortunately the 1989 Chateau Cantermerle, Haut-Medoc was a somewhat flawed bottle.  If you got beyond the musty nose there were veiled flavors of good fruit.  Normal bottles must actually be quite good.

Right before leaving I had a quick glass of 2006 Waitrose (Chateau Suduiraut), Sauternes from half bottle.  Lou had picked this up during one of his trips to the UK.  The wine is produced by Chateau Suduiraut using estate fruit.  I thought it already showed an attractive maturity which made it a satisfying drink.

NV Duval-Leroy, Brut, Champagne
Imported by Duval-Leroy Importers.  This wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose revealed biscuit, dark yellow fruit, and some toast.  There were good, frothy bubbles at first which quickly dissipated.  The flavors were fresh before the wine became still.  It tasted as if it had some bottle age.  There were dried herbs and toast in the finish.  There was acidity at first then it returned in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2016.

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2009 Strohmeier, Weisswein aus Trauben, Liebe und Zeit
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This wine is 100% Pinot Blanc.  Alcohol 13%.  The wine was slightly cloudy with a light golden yellow color.  The nose was very aromatic with Christmas spices, clove, orange peeling, mulling spices, and floral notes.  In the mouth the crisp acidity was immediately noticeable follow by weight from skin contact.  The wine then became light in flavor with laser acidity and focus to the flavors.  Really nice wine.  **** Now-2016.

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1989 Chateau Lalande-Borie, Saint-Julien
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The light was was quite inviting with earthy aromas of blue and red berries.  In the mouth there was good acidity to the black and red fruit then a slightly firm middle followed by a wood note.  The finish was shorter in flavor.  The acidity was present throughout.  The nose was the best part *** at first but overall ** Now-2018.

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1983 Chateau Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc
Imported by Calvert Woodley.  This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 11%-13%.  The nose consistently revealed old-school perfume, it did not give up much fruit.  In the mouth the wine was firmer in flavor with black fruit, prominent acidity, and the sense that this will be long-lived.  ** Now-2024.

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1983 Chateau Gloria, Saint-Julien
Imported by N & T Imports.  This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  There was a good nose with light to medium strength aromas of deep berries and roasted meat.  In the mouth were tangy berry flavors at first then fresher fruit.  The flavors were gently mouth filling and balanced by good, lively acidity.  It became higher-toned with powdery fruit.  Nice wine.  *** Now-2018.

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1989 Chateau l’Enclos, Pomerol
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec.  Alcohol 12.5%.  There was a low-lying, serious nose.  In the mouth the black fruit tasted fresh and dense.  There was a tangy middle with a cedar note developing by the finish.  It had minerals, good complexity, and was developing well.  With air there was a gentle cedar note, soft finish, and both minerals and a fresh touch of earth in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2020.

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1989 Chateau Cantermerle, Haut-Medoc
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators.  This wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was affected by some TCA and was musty but there was fruit underneath.  In the mouth were muted but dense black and red fruit with good acidity and mouthfeel.  It tasted unevolved, muted, and unfortunately a little rough in the finish.  Completely drinkable.  ** Now-2023.

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2006 Waitrose (Chateau Suduiraut), Sauternes
This wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc which was aged for 16 months in 10% new and 90% used oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  No formal note but a nice wine, tasting mature already with thickness and spices.  Why wait?  *** Now-2018.

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