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Tasted blind: 1991 Ridge Monte Bello, 1986 Phelps Backus, and 1984 Duckhorn

February 9, 2017 1 comment

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Last night Lou and I gathered to blindly taste through several bottles of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.  For fun, we each unknowingly threw in an Australian blend of Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon.  Perhaps this is unfair given the stature of our main selections but it was for fun.  As we settled down to cheese, charcuterie, and cork removal we checked out a bottle of 2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray.  I do not have enough experience with Huet so I found the lifted, aromatically textured nose a delight.  It starts off in the fruit spectrum eventually to take on a honey character.  In the mouth this is a fresh, grippy wine with a nice balance of fruit supported by hints of yeast and oxidation.  Fine stuff!  I look forward to finishing my leftover glass tonight.

It was then on to the bagged red wines.  Guessing is fun when you are not pressured.  Wine #1 is firm at first though you can detect some maturity and herbaceousness.  It is the most structured wine out of all tasted and I, admittedly clueless, narrowed in to the 1979-1981 vintages.  For those who enjoy structured, rather than opulent wines the 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley will develop for years to come.  It eventually reveals a bit more of its bottle aged maturity.

Wine #2 showed signs of old seepage under the capsule but the fill was where the neck met the shoulder.  You could get a sense of this on the nose which leaned towards meat rather than fruit but in the mouth the flavor and delivery of the fruit flavor is gorgeous!  What luxury it is to drink glass after glass of 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains.  This is a sophisticated wine of ideal balance with youthful, complex fruit flavors that seek out every part of your mouth with wave after wave of flavor.  Also excellent is wine #4.  After some bottle stink blew off, this is highly aromatic of eucalyptus.  In the mouth an impressive amount of energy unfurls dark fruit, ripe structure, and wood box.  The 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley is perhaps more mature in flavor than the Ridge but the Phelps needs more time to open up.  It is fascinating pair to drink together.  No one spat these two wines!

Just a few final thoughts with regards to wines #3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, avoid, and #5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia.  Wakefield River Estates was founded in 1972 by Dr. Douglas Hewitson who planted just over 2,100 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the wheatbelt area of Balaklava.  The wines were made by the highly regarded James Irvine who still produces wine today.  James Irvine got his start at a young age having developed the Siegersdorf brand in 1959 as winemaker at Hardy’s.  As the Wakefield winery had no buildings the wine was made at Saltram, an historic Barossa Valley winery founded in 1859.  Wakefield River Estates was short-lived and curious enough, the label on the bottle tells the history including the demise indicating this bottle was imported in the mid 1980s.  It was in 1982 that all of the fruit was eaten by starlings and in 1983, due to severe drought conditions, there was a sparse crop.  The fruit was sold off and the winery ceased.  As for the vintage Decanter states the wines are of “richness and longevity” with the wines around Adelaide being “robust”.  So perhaps it was a bit unfair to include this wine with the Ridge and Phelps but the potential is there.

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2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray
Imported by Robert Chadderdon.  Alcohol 12%. It is the color of a light apple cider.  On the nose are finely textured, lifted aromas of dried apricots and apple cider.  With air the nose reveals honey aromas.  In the mouth this is a mildly weight wine with a vein of acidity and hint of yeast towards the finish.  It wraps up with a fresh and grippy finish.  Additional complexity is gained from a hint of oxidation. ***(*) Now – 2027.

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#1 – 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%.  This is less dark than #2 but of similar color.  The nose offers hints of maturity with the slightest hint of herbaceousness.  A lively start brings a little tang and firmness of flavor.  There is still structure in the end which contributes to the lasting sensation.  With air the wine begins to open up maturity becoming more evident.  It also develops a mineral note and a dusty, wood box flavor. ***(*) Now – 2022.

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#2 – 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.3%.  This garnet wine is still fairly opaque in the middle.  The nose is a bit meaty.  In the mouth this wine packs in the flavor with a plum hint at first, mineral middle, then a younger, fresh eucalyptus finish.  There is sophistication to the purple and black fruits There is still a very fine tannic structure and acidity throughout. Impeccably balanced and impressive. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia
Imported by FWE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 64% Shiraz and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The subtle nose is followed by candied and pruned flavors in the mouth.  The acidity stands separate from the core of simple fruit flavors.  Tastes like a cheap domestic port.  Poor.

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#4 – 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.3%.  Some bottle stink at first but that blows off to reveal a highly aromatic, eucalyptus nose.  In the mouth is dark flavor, more structure, and a touch of ruggedness in the finish.  But over the course of several hours this wine unfurls itself.  It adds both wood box and blood.  The energy is impressive as framed, ripe, inky fruit coats the mouth. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia
Imported by San Francisco Traders LTD.  This wine is a blend of mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak puncheons.  Alcohol 12%.  A mature garnet color.  There is a ripe fruit start but the wine quickly turns soft only to end at the short finish.  Simply too old at this point.  Fair.

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A Rare Chateau de Beaucastel Vertical from 1964 to 2001

August 3, 2016 2 comments

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When the end of Prohibition in America was in sight, the “potent” and “celebrated” wines of Chateauneuf du Pape were mentioned as amongst the “Legendary Potions” that the Europeans were waiting to ship to our shores.  Once the purchase of wines was legal The New York Times published a thorough description of international wines that Americans should drink.  It was, in short, a refresher to the world of wine.  From the Rhone were recommended Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, and Chateauneuf du Pape.

Chateauneuf du Pape soon became an American favorite.  It was always listed for sale typically along with Pouilly Fuisse, at reasonable prices from the 1940s into the 1970s.  These were frequently negociant wines but the occasional estate bottled selection like Mont-Redon was available at a premium price.  In the 1950s a new style of early-drinking Chateauneuf du Pape was developed largely relying on carbonic maceration.  This dip in quality was soon met with a rise in price.

The American wine boom of the early 1970s led to the massive price escalation of the 1971 and 1972 Bordeaux vintages.  These price increases far exceeded the effects of the revaluation of international currencies from the fixed Bretton Woods system to a free-floating system.  This caused most European wines to increase in price some 10% to 20%.  In 1973, however, the favored Chateauneuf du Pape doubled in price in a matter of months.

The popularity of Chateauneuf du Pape plummeted due to price and by 1981 The New York Times called it “France’s Forgotten Red”.  Over the next year wines from such traditional estates as Chateau de Beaucastel and Chateau Mont-Redon were once again available  at reasonable prices.  These offerings began with the recently released and outstanding 1978 vintage.  A few older vintages were available too.

Lost amongst the turmoil of price escalation and carbonic maceration is discussion of the vintage of 1964.  This vintage is considered excellent but yields were significantly reduced by a summertime hailstorm.   Throughout this post-war period, Chateau de Beaucastel is consistently described as a traditional Chateauneuf du Pape estate fashioning wines meant to age.  Curiously enough, it is the first vintage in which Jacques Perrin employed his vinification a chaud technique where he heated the grapes.

John Livingstone-Learmonth considered the 1964 Beaucastel “a supreme wine”.   It was recently served as the oldest wine at a tasting of thirteen vintages of Beaucastel.

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The Beaucastel tasting was organized by Darryl Priest and stocked with wines from a total of ten attendees.  Darryl felt that lamb would be an ideal accompaniment to old Beaucastel.  It was from a single lamb that six out of seven courses were created for us by Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley at Ripple in Washington, DC.  Here is the menu:

*
lamb tenderloin tartare, sicilian pistachio, za’atar cracker
**
glazed lamb rib, corn pudding, crispy squash blossom
***
lamb loin carpaccio, baby heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, smoked labneh
****
lamb neck ragu, roasted potato gnocchi, fillet beans, harissa, parmesan
*****
rack of lamb, roasted leg, charred eggplant, oven roasted tomatoes
******
slow roasted lamb shoulder, merguez sausage, braised rainbow chard
*******
lemon verbena panna cotta, raspberry coulis, apricots, sable

After starting with a very drinkable NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose we launched into the Beaucastel.  We drank the wines from oldest to youngest.  The two bottles of Hommage were decanted and the old bottles were simply popped and poured.  We largely rotated who started off pouring the wines so no one person would be stuck with the dregs.

Though a few bottles were shamefully off, such as 1978 and 1989, there were many excellent wines. My favorites list includes 1964, 1979, 1981, 1990, and 1995 Hommage.  For this post I will just comment on the oldest vintages as they are the least known.

The biggest surprise of the night was the 1964 Beaucastel. Due to the high prices of Chateauneuf du Pape in the 1970s, less was imported and sold in America.  This in part contributes to the difficulty of finding older vintages here.  This particular bottle came from a parcel that Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Company, purchased several years ago from a European cellar.

The bottle, label and capsule were in pristine condition and so was the cork when I extracted it.  A quick sniff revealed good fruit on the nose and a remarkable amount of fruitiness in the mouth.  Incredibly, the wine opened up with air and continued to drink well for nearly four hours.  David Bloch was reminded of a bottle of 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart that he, Lou, and I drank this summer.  They both taste of a similar period and style.  If you review older articles about Chateauneuf du Pape it was at times equated as a less expensive Burgundy.  In fact there are a handful of advertisements in England and America where Chateauneuf du Pape is listed under the heading Burgundy!    Everyone at the table commented on this wine.  Though no consensus was formed, there was discussion of the 1981, 1990, and 1995 Hommage as being favorites of the night.  I will add one observation.  The bottle of 1964 was the first one finished off including the very last dregs.

This was my second time tasting the 1976 vintage this summer.  Both from bottles Darryl sourced. This evening the 1976 was less advanced but it is still a solid wine at best.  The 1979 vintage proved very interesting.  It is an acidity driven vintage, bright and not ripe like the 1964.  I kept returning to my glass to be consistently surprised at how youthful it stayed.  Bill is spot on with his comment that it is on the same glacial pace of development as the 1964.  In contrast the 1981 vintage is a beautiful, elegant, and gently ripe wine that is drinking very well right now.  Please find my tasting notes below.

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NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by T. Edward Wines.  Alcohol 12%.  There is a good, fruity start followed by the presence of a yeast bit but the fine, ripe fruit soon takes over.  This is a generous wine with balanced bubbles, and even some grip in the finish.  I would not be surprised if some wine saw oak for there is a sense of old wood.  Drinking great right now.  ***(*) Now.

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1964 Domaine de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Though light in color there are plenty of aromas and flavors.  It begins with earthy, garrigue infused aromas that open with air to reveal sweaty, red strawberry fruit.  In the mouth the flavors quickly fill with ample flavor and incredible amounts, for its age, of red fruit.  This wine is very much alive with brighter red fruit towards the finish and lively acidity throughout.  It ends with an ethereal, mineral finish. This bottle drank great over four hours.  Clearly this is a wine from a different era. ****(*) Now but will last.

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1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Darker than the 1964.  The nose sports more stink and barnyard but does reveal a floral and herbal freshness.  The flavors are controlled with an acidity driven start and short finish.  There is a fair amount of barnyard character here but it is not off putting.  Less advanced than the bottle tasted last month but it leaves a similar impression.  ** Now.

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1978 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is rugged, smells older and past-prime, eventually of blood.  The palate confirms this is not in the best shape for it is compact and short in flavor.  The acidity and aftertaste are there but this bottle is old and not a good representative.  Not Rated.

1979 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The lively color is promising and fulfilled by the sweaty aromas of leather and smoke.  This is an acidity driven wine with red fruit, structure, and surprising youth.  It is well-balanced with gentle earthiness and watering acidity.  This old-school wine will never be as generous as the 1964 but it will certainly drink well just as long.  **** Now – 2031.

1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The beautiful and fine nose balances earthy and olive aromas.  In the mouth the fruit, earth, and acidity are well balanced.  This wine has levity with elegant, ripe fruit and a gentle, ripe sweetness that lingers in the mouth.  **** Now – 2021.

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1983 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A very different wine with aromas of flowers and candy.  With some rough and hard flavors, plenty of acidity, and a tangy finish it is time to drink up.  ***(*) Now.

1985 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Lactic nose.  Not right.  Not Rated.

1989 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There is some VA on the nose which the palate confirms as a slightly underperforming bottle.  There is however plenty of ripe, strawberry fruit, and strength.  Not Rated.

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1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  There is a great nose which conveys tension and complexity with fresh aromas of garrigue, fruit, saddle leather, and stink.  In the mouth, this wine has youthful grip, lovely balance, a firm finish, and an inky aftertaste.  There is plenty of flavor in the end.  ****(*) Now – 2035.

1998 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  There are pure flavors of clean, assertive fruit driven by acidity.  It shows the grip and tang of the vintage.  This is a strong wine with old-school flavors of Kirsch.  A good wine. **** Now – 2036.

2001 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  This is so young with clean flavors of strawberry and cherry fruit.  It is still in early development as it oscillates between flavors of fruit then garrigue and cedar.  Good acidity.  ***(*) 2021-2036.

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1994 Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is subtle with mature, earthy aromas.  The softer and gentle entry brings dark, sweeter fruit and garrigue in the finish.  A fine wine that could use a longer finish, suggesting it is time to drink up.  **** Now.

1995 Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Those nose offers animale aromas with bits of berries and Kirsch poking through.  In the mouth the concentrated, powerful flavors of ripe fruit cling to the mouth leaving extract in the aftertaste.  The flavors are also accented by animale notes.  The power is driven by acidity leaving fine, drying tannins.  **** Now – 2030.

The dessert wines were led off by the 1973 Domaine des Baumard,  Quarts de Chaumes.  This is a vintage that Phil Bernstein recently tasted at Baumard, where it is still available, so he imported a small quantity.  It is lovely stuff!  It is complex from decades of age but it is also very lively.  There is even a curious red berry fruit flavor.  The combination of residual sugar and acidity will see this wine through for decades to come. The 1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes is drinking great right now.  I love Sauternes and this bottle did not disappoint.  The 1989 Huet, Moelleux Le Mont Premiere Trie, Vouvray reminds me of an apple orchard but it was too subtle and short in the finish to warrant much excitement.

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1973 Domaine des Baumard,  Quarts de Chaumes
The nose was stinky at first with cheese and some tuna.  This is a tight and vigorous white wine with flavors of apricots, apple spice, and creme brulee.  It is a little thick with noticeable residual sugar.  It is quite complex and offers surprising red berry fruit in the middle.  There is plenty of acidity that will see this wine through many years to come.  **** Now – 2036+.

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1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The attractive amber color is followed by a robust nose.  The tangy fruit is matched by well-balanced residual sugar and acidity.  It soon becomes clear there is great sweetness here from ample residual sugar.  Drinks well right now.  ***(*) Now-2020.

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1989 Huet, Moelleux Le Mont Premiere Trie, Vouvray
The subtle nose is followed by apple and fallen orchard fruit making it the most vinous of the dessert wines.  It is perhaps, a little subtle and short to warrant future aging.  *** Now.

Huet to Go!

David Bloch drinks a fine bottle of Chenin Blanc.

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2011 Domaine Huet, Vouvray Sec Le Mont
Deep egg yolk yellow in the glass.  Nose showed plenty of citrus and snappy green apple.  In the mouth, this full-bodied wine displays orange, lemon, granny smith apple and a combination of spices, smoke and maybe some flinty notes too.  If there is any residual sugar it is well hidden and the wine drinks dry.  This is a youngster and will benefit from further time in the cellar.  Finishes very long.  Serve cool.  A very fine bottle.

Two Good Values from Vouvray

I recently asked Phil for some Chenin Blanc recommendations.  He promptly suggested these two wines which are featured in this post.  I must admit they are quite nice for the price.  Similarities include floral white fruit, ripeness, lively acidity, and minerals.  From there the Monmousseau is a bit more soft and generous with the Margalleau showing rather energetic acidity.  Why not try them both at the same time?  You do not have to worry about finishing the bottles right away for the drink very well over several days in the refrigerator. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Monmousseau, Clos de Vigneau, Vouvray – $15
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This special cuvee is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from vines averaging 35 years of age.  Alcohol 12.5% vol.  The color is a light straw-yellow.  The light+ nose reveals melons and dry floral aromas.  In the mouth there are initial ripe flavors which are a touch sweet then tangy acidity kicks it.  The flavors are generously full with a mineral finish.  This tastes young. *** Now-2017.

2010 Domaine du Margalleau, Sec, Vouvray – $14
Imported by DS Trading Company.  This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from vines on clay-siliceaous soils with flint stones.  It is fermented then aged on the fine lees in stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol 12.5% vol. The color is a light straw-yellow.  The light+ nose reveals floral white fruit with a light ripe texture, and aromas of ripe pear.  In the mouth there is an immediate burst of fruit riding a wave of acidity then a fresh, gentle ripeness.  There is good, not quite creamy, body and acidity on the tip of the tongue.  The flavors are of floral fruit in the middle and stones in the finish.  *** Now-2016.

Bubbles For Jenn

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

You will not find many sparkling wine posts on this blog.  Since the blog was started last Spring the sparkling roses from Bugey-Cerdon have been our constant companions.  However Jenn has become interested in drinking drier, white sparkling wines. I asked Phil at MacArthurs for three diverse selections so we could begin searching for our next house bubbly.

Jenn does not care as much for German Rieslings so I poured her a glass of the Dr. Loosen without revealing the bottle.  She smelled the Sekt and upon drinking it, looked at me suspiciously.  “It is Riesling,” I commented. “Ah, ha! I can taste that,” she replied.  After finishing the glass she noted, “Not bad, it is different, but there are too many Riesling flavors for me.”  She is correct but I really enjoy Riesling and found this bottle quite flavorsome for the money.  Jenn immediately liked the Lonko for the “more classically dry” style.  I did not like it at first but after two or three days, I found it had become quite good with its subtle balance of yeast, fruit, bubbles, and dryness.  We wrapped it up with the Catherine & Pierre Breton wine.  A good wine, tilting towards apple and chalk flavors, that really shines after two or three days.

All three of these bottles were quite different so if you know the style you prefer then my notes should help you pick a bottle.  If you do not know then try all three.  The Dr. Loosen is a strong value in a quenching style.  Both Lonko and Breton reveal themselves after two or three days.

NV Dr. Loosen, Riesling Sekt, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer – $12
This bottle was imported by Loosen Bros.  This Trocken wine is 100% Riesling that was produced using the Charmat method.  There is a good nose of yeasty, stones.  In the mouth the ripe bubbles deliver fine flavors which are initially fruity then turn to stones.  The flavors become mouthfilling with notes of yellow stone fruit.  There is a stoney aftertaste.

2007 Lonko, Extra Brut, Patagonia – $12
This wine is imported by Kysela Pere et Fils.  This wine is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir that was produced using the traditional Champagne method.  It is a light yellow stone color in the glass.  In the mouth the flavors start off yeasty before a little burst of fruit then the wine dries out with fine, sweet bubbles.  The flavors then return in the aftertaste with yeasty, toast, and dark notes.  On the third night it developed sweet citrus flavors with the finish stepping out with ripe fruit flavors.  This is young and needs air.

NV Catherine and Pierre Breton, La Dilettante, Brut, Vouvray – $20
This wine is imported by Kermit Lynch.  The fruit for this Vouvray Petillant  is produced from 40-year-old Chenin Blanc vines.  It is produced using the traditional Champagne method and is typically a blend of two vintages.  It is a light yellow color in the glass.  The nose is light and yeasty with apple aromas.  In the mouth there are ample bubbles which easily bursting bubbles and a pronounced apple flavor.  The flavors morph into cider before taking on a minerally and chalky aftertaste.  On the second day the apple aromas subdue as spices come to the forefront.  The bubbles themselves become lush in this delicately balanced wine.

The Extra-Long Lonko Cork Compared with that from Breton

Taking an Early Peek at Lou’s Cellar

January 5, 2012 1 comment

It had been four months since I last checked out the expansion of Lou’s house which includes a wine cellar and tasting room.  During this period Lou has photographed the construction and sent me pictures.  While viewing pictures and blueprints makes me excited, walking into his cellar allowed me to appreciate the balance of the design and appreciate the need for a tasting room.

Cellar Entrance from the Kitchen

The tasting room and cellar are located underneath the kitchen and dinning room. Situated in a newly excavated corner of the house everything was custom designed and built. The stairway is located off of the kitchen. During the day it is lit from above by a skylight and from the side by a large expanse of windows.

Stairway to the Tasting Room and Wine Cellar

To provide continuity and entice people downstairs, the hardwood floors from above are carried into the tasting room through three methods. The stairway is surrounded by a wooden ledge, which, as Lou commented, might be perfect for a display of empty bottles. The stairway flows down by being built from the very same hardwood, featuring a continuous tread and riser without any bullnose. Finally, the floor from the dinning room seamlessly bends into the tasting room entrance and becomes the ceiling of the tasting room.

The Tasting Room with Door to the Wine Cellar

The wooden tasting room ceiling is framed with a drywall tray-ceiling effect that takes on a structural note as it bends and channels to the floor.  By framing the stairway entrance into the tasting room this structural note implies that it supports the dinning room floor above.  At the same time it conveniently creates two alcoves.  The one to the left of the stairs may be used for glasses and decanters whereas the alcove on the right will feature a desk and computer. The tasting room contains the entrance to the wine cellar. Featuring a glass door, it affords a view into the cellar.

In the Wine Cellar, Facing the Tasting Room

The cellar itself is massively insulated and actively cooled.  The floor is lower than that of the tasting room to allow for a several inch layer of polished stone.  Lou will start off with half-height racking against the walls of the cellar.  There is also an alcove for the storage of cases.  The capacity may inevitably be expanded by increasing the height of the racking and installing racking in the center of the cellar.  Of course the inexpensive method of stacking cases on the floor may be employed as well.

Lou in his Tasting Room

Lou has documented the design and construction of his cellar so I will leave it up to him to publish future posts about this process and provide all of the details of the design.  When the construction completes in roughly one month, I will return during the day to take higher quality photographs and pay more attention to the design.  At one point in the evening Lou showed me a series of old tasting notes from the early 1980s.  Representing the beginnings of his serious attention to wine they made for a great read and will one day be published on this blog.  I can only imagine his excitement now that the construction of his wine cellar, tasting room, and dream kitchen are at the cusp of completion some 30 years after he first drank the great first growths of Bordeaux, vintage Ports, Burgundies, and Californian wines from the golden age.

Of course a gathering with Lou would not be complete unless we tasted some wines.

2010 Peter Lauer, Fass 6, Ayler Kupp, Riesling, “Senior”, Saar
This is imported by Mosel Wine Merchant and available for $27 at MacArthurs.  Named after the style of wine Florian’s grandfather likes this is produced from fruit sourced from the western part of Ayler Kupp where there are parcels of old vines.  The color is very light straw.  The light to medium nose is rich with flavors of stones and other wild aromas with a subtle underlying note of fruit.  In the mouth the flavors start off rich then ripe followed by a perfumed middle as acidity brings delineation to the wine.  The aftertaste is quite long leaving pleasing flavors and texture of stones on the lips and tongue.  There is a wild aroma and flavor,  I am not implying out-of-control, that I can only image is due to the indigenous yeasts.  Interesting and tasty stuff!

2010 Domaine des Aubuisieres, Cuvee de Silex, Vouvray
This is imported by Weygant and available from the store for $18.  Produced by Benrard Fouquet from 100% Chenin Blanc.  Drunk on the fourth night this wine was obviously tired but holding up quite well.  The precise nose featured stone fruits, perhaps passion fruit, and definitely sweet floral aromatics.  The mouth featured similar fruit, though faded, with a good mouthfeel.  The flavors were hard to describe, due to my lack of experience, but the minerals and fresh acidity were great.  This strong value is worth purchasing to provide a proper note.

2009 Domaine Rene Leclerc, Bourgogne
This is imported by MacArthurs and available for $25.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir produced by Rene and his son Francois.  The domaine consists of 12 hectares located in and around Gevrey-Chambertain which feature many old vines.  No more than 25% new oak is used.  Tasted on the second night, there was a very pretty nose of framboise and pure strawberry.  The fruity nose made way to a leaner, structured mouth of red fruit, notes of pencil lead, and some tartness.  The flavors then turned to dark fruit in the aftertaste.  Very pleasing.

2007 D. Ventura, Vina Caneiro, Ribeira Sacra
This is imported by De Maison Selections. I recently purchased the last bottle at MacArthurs for $22.  Thought I did not take a formal note you may read about the last bottle tasted in May 2011.  I decanted this one to two hours before we tasted it and this bottle continued to develop throughout the evening.  There were concentrated flavors of textured red fruit that were fresh but serious.  There was a good mouth feel and strong expansion.

Lou and Aaron

A Tasting at MacArthurs with Fran Kysela

September 16, 2011 2 comments

This past Saturday I managed to arrive at MacArthur’s in time for their afternoon tasting with Fran Kysela.  He was recently nominated by The Wine Enthusiast magazine for Wine Importer of the year.  Coupled with the fact that Jenn and I drink a lot of the wine he imports, I was particularly excited to attend.  Both Fran and Jeremy Sutton poured wine and chatted about the eclectic range of wine on offer from France, Germany, Australia, and South Africa.  The 11 wines ranged in prices from $11 to $32.  With such diversity there were surely favorites for all who attended.

The Lineup

I spent most of my time chatting with Jeremy, Phil, and eventually meeting Fran.  I was rather enjoying their company, myself, and the wine so I did not bother to take any formal notes.  I should hope that I get to taste wine with them again as they both amiable and there is much I could learn from Fran.  I have already posted notes on two of the selections, tasted at home from full bottles, and will eventually get notes up on some of the other selections.  My overall impression was one of good, fresh aromatics followed by clean, pure fruit flavors.  You may read about my individual impressions below.  I rather liked the Sancerre, went back for more of both Mordoree Liracs, felt the Thorn Clarke Quartage is a great bargain, and would like to restaste the Mullineux again in the near future.

2010 Jean Reverdy, La Reine Blanche, Sancerre
This was enjoyable with its aromatic floral nose and core of sweet fruit.  Not Rated.

2009 Gaudrelle, Clos de Vigneau, Vouvray
This is dry with hints of residual sugar with smooth flavors of stone fruits.  Not Rated.

2010 Bastgen, Riesling, Qba Blauschlefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
This was clean, fresh, leaning towards citrus flavors and some minerals.  I only had a tiny sip but this seemed like a solid wine for the price, if not exciting.  Not Rated.

2010 Mordoree, Rose, La Dame Rousse, Tavel
This sports ripe red fruit and has a lovely mouthing coating aftertaste.  Not Rated.

2009 Mordoree, La Dame Rousse, Lirac
This had been open for some time and was showing quite well.  You may read my impression of a bottle drunk in May hereNot Rated.

2009 Segries, Clos de l’Hermitage, Cotes du Rhone
This was consistent with an earlier impression of rich blue fruits, youthful tannins, and a contemporary profile.  Earlier this month we drank a bottle and I published a note hereNot Rated.

2009 Cave de Tain, Crozes-Hermitage
The weakest of the reds, reminded me of a light Crozes.  Available for $25 I would spend $3 to purchase the outstanding 2009 Colombier, Cuvee GabyNot Rated.

2009 Mordoree, La Reine des Bois, Lirac
This was lovely and quite approachable.  Richer than La Dame Rousse but with primary red fruit, a creamier texture, and balance.  This will age for some time.  Not Rated.

2008 Thorn Clarke, Shotfire, Quartage, Barossa Valley
This was soft, savory, subtle with dark fruits.  Strong value.  We recently drank a bottle and I will post a note soon.  Not Rated.

2009 Thorn Clarke, Shotfire, Shiraz, Barossa Valley
This showed black fruit, youthful flavors, richer than the Quartage but less evolved.  I preferred the Quartage.  Not Rated.

2008 Mullineux,  Syrah, Swartland
This showed dark fruit, some herbs, plenty of acidity, structure from oak but in a balanced manner.  I was rather surprised and pleased.  Tasted blind I would not have guessed South Africa.  Not Rated.