Here is yet another tasting we did for a growing group of young sommeliers from throughout Hawaii in our continual search for “what is good wine”.
We actually started this winetasting off with 3 wines, which will remain unnamed. 2 of the wines, I had purchased from a specialty wine store based upon the recommendation of the salesperson. The first wine, however, was one I had chosen, which we tasted with 1 of the purchased wines BLIND. They were both around the same price point. It was an attempt to show the difference between what I thought was a “good” wine–good intensity, good seamless & complete flow from beginning to end & one that finished balanced. The other was way too oaky, hollow in the middle & quite bitter & alcoholic in the finish.
The next wine we served was a very popular “name” brand also recommended by the salesperson. I also poured the 2011 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” to compare. Both wines were served blind. I chose the 2011 vintage on purpose. 2011 was a vintage largely lukewarmly received by most of the wine media. On this level of winemaking, however, I am one of those die hards who still believe many can make good wines in high profile vintages, whereas, in the challenging years, we can see the true skill of a winemaker, especially when they can show another perspective on what the vineyard wants to say given the growing conditions. What a difference!!!! Given that they both were around the same price, the choice was an absolute NO brainer. I found Brand X to be very hollow in the middle & quite oaky, bitter & alcoholic in the finish. In comparison, I found the Au Bon Climat to be elegant & long with a wonderful seamless & complete flow on the palate from beginning to end. We then served the 2005 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” right afterwards. Most wine aficionados would prefer this wine to the 2011. For me, it was a block of rock–hard, severe with oakiness, some bitterness & alcohol poking out in comparison to the 2011. Having had this bottling in many previous vintages, my take would be I loved the transparency, elegance & class of the 2011. The 2005 just needs MUCH more bottle age to resolve itself. It certainly will eventually be the grander of the 2 vintages, but I can’t wait to also check out the evolution of the 2011.
For the next duo of wines, I wanted to show tasters another look at what many would refer to as “Burgundian in style”–2013 Au Bon Climat “Hildegard”, followed by the 1999 Au Bon Climat “Hildegard”. The 2013 was so stony, oaky…full of grandeur & sophistication, eventhough it was almost painfully youthful, hard & primary in its character! The 1999, on the other hand, had mesmerizing minerality in all its glory–reminiscent of well aged Chablis or Champagne–because of its sherry/slight oxidative edges. The core was still solid with lots of vigor. It was a great opportunity to taste young versus old….& what can be. In case you are not familar with this wine, it is a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc & Aligote, which is named in honor of Hildegard, the wife & once thereforefore the matriarch of Burgundy. Yes, I am also one of those who believe the white Burgundies of old also included grape varieties like this in addition to Chardonnay. And tasting these 2 wines gave a whole ‘nother “look”. Furthermore, I was further amazed at the each wine’s minerality, considering these grapes were grown in sandy loam soils rather than limestone.
The next white wine we served was the 2013 Faury Condrieu. It seems Californian Viognier based white wines are gaining in momentum, even if it is a relatively small category. I just wanted tasters to taste a really “good” rendition of this grape variety AND from the “home” country, just to have something to compare to. Furthermore, I wanted young, aspiring sommeliers to experience yet another “aromatic” white wine to help them grow their repetoire of wines to pair with fusion foods. I thought this wine was so pretty, enticing & captivating in its perfume. I also really liked its seamless flow on the palate & its superb balance. Its been far too long since I had had such a captivating example. (Quite candidly, I have yet to taste one nearly as good, produced in the U.S..
For the next flight, I chose to serve 4 sparkling wines, which I had previously written about in an earlier blog. The intent here was to remind all that there are well priced sparkling wine alternatives, other than those from Champagne, the U.S., Italy & Spain, available.
Lambert Seyssel “Petit Royal”……….Punta Crena Spumante Brut “Colline Savonesi”………Nicole Chanrion Brut “Effervescence”………..Achard-Vincent Clairette de Die “Tradition”
For over well over 30 decades, I have felt so compelled to include German wines into the tastings I do, especially for those geared for the younger generations. Yes, part of the reasons I have to admit, is because these wines are such underdogs in the world of wines & so grossly under appreciated. At the same time, I have to say that some of the VERY finest wines I have experienced over the years have been aged German Rieslings, as they can show such incredible class, refinement & true nobility….AND, quite effortlessly so. Furthermore, I am continually amazed & re-amazed at how wonderfully food friendly they can be AND with such a wide range of foods. Lastly, I am so absolutely blown away at how under priced they usually are, especially given the supreme quality.
So, in an effort to show “Young Sommeliers” what all of this can mean, we included 5 German wines in today’s tasting from 3 of the country’s (& world’s) finest producers.
We began with a duo of Spätlese from Gunderloch & their red slated hillside vineyard–the 2012 Gunderloch Spätlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg” & the 2001 Gunderloch Spätlese “Nackenheimer Rothenberg”–from the Rheinhessen region. (please go to “archives to check out an earlier post I did on this winery). Just as various soils & micro climates can greatly affect the resulting wines in other wine regions throughout the world, the same is true in Germany. Most of the more famous & iconic vineyards of Germany have dominantly slate soiled vineyards. So, in the Mosel for instance, one regularly sees gray to black slate dominate the “Cru” sites. In the Rothenberg, however, the soil is RED slate, which creates a much deeper, bass versus treble character in the finished wine. Furthermore, because the temperature in this area is typically much warmer than the Mosel (& therefore typically lower total acidity in the wines), the wines seem more forward, much lusher, rounder & deeper. In the case of the Rothenberg, however, its red slate & resulting stony character helps to create buoyancy in the wine which greatly supports the innate acidity, thus helping to keep the wine fresh & alive on the palate from start to finish. The 2012 showcases young, fresh, tropical fruit, with an underlying stoniness. It really exudes such a bright personality with lots of vigor & eager vitality. The 2001 (donated by our friend Brent Curlow), in comparison is less apparently sweet, much more tactile in texture AND the minerality has totally come forward, completely overshadowing any kind of fruit nuances.
In comparison to the Gunderloch duo (which we used to refer to as “brown” bottle Riesling), we then followed with a duo of Mosel produced Riesling (“green” bottle Riesling)–the 2012 Reinhold Haart Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen” & the 2007 Reinhold Haart Kabinett “Piesporter Goldtröpfchen”. The soil in this breathtaking, panoramic, steep vineyard is various shades of blue, gray, to brown tinged to black slate. The resulting fruit is more delicate–apple, pear, slight lychee–with a pronounced pencil lead quality. The wines seem lighter in body & weight–leaner–with a crisper, most riveting levels of acidity. FYI–Theo Haart was “2007 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year”…..& deservedly so. (please go to “archives to check out an earlier post I did on this winery). Theo makes such profound, thought provoking, age worthy wines which exude pedigree, class & nobility.
We ended the tasting & the day with a gift–the 1994 Rudolf Fürst Spätburgunder Trockenbeerenauslese “Bürgstadter Centgrafenberg”–from Kevin Toyama, wine cellarmaster of the Halekulani Hotel. Owner/winemaker Paul Fürst was the “2003 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & essentially specializes in world class Pinot Noir, almost all still & red. (please go to “archives to check out an earlier post I did on this winery). I highly encourage all to really check them out as they can be that good! Interestingly, in 1994 he decided to make this wine from his home Centgrafenberg vineyard & its hilly red sandstone soils. Back in the late 90’s, although I originally thought this wine would be just a novelty, upon first taste I was astounded how wonderful it truly was. I expected there to be botrytis present, as is often the case with late harvest grapes like this. Nope. That means he must have picked grape by grape to make this wine. I just loved its resulting, unique character as it was NOT like any wine I had before or since. Now 22 years later, the color became much more pronounced & the high levels of apparent sweetness has essentially partially dried up to make a VERY viscous, vinous, wine that showed me something different with each sip. Wow! What an experience. Thank you Kevin!
After a flurry of white wines, we continued this “Young Sommelier” tasting with several flights of red wines.
The first quartet featured New World Pinot Noir & we started off with the 2012 Neyers Pinot Noir “Roberts Road”. This limited bottling is produced from the heritage Swan selection ( as opposed to clones) planted in a very cool, fog laden vineyard greatly affected by the gusting coastal winds from the Petaluma Gap & farmed by the Sangiacomo family. In comparison, we then tasted a VERY highly acclaimed, quite pricey New Zealand Pinot, which was much more about very ripe, forward fruit (exhibiting much Dijon clone qualities), hard edges & high alcohol & glycerine. This was not to down play what New Zealand has to offer at all. Since both wines were served blind, the purpose was instead to determine what was good wine & assess the quality for dollar ratio–both factors I believe are very important skills that a wine buyer needs. Not only was the Neyers a much better & more complete wine, but it was remarkably less than half the price! We then continued by serving the 2011 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard”. I chose this wine because it was from the much less heralded 2011 vintage AND to show what the 40 year old, own rooted Mt Eden heritage vine selection, grown in this cool, rocky site could do in such a challenging year. How can one not love such elegance, purity, vinosity, seamlessness, wonderful texture & balance? We also appreciated how refined & long this wine really was. In comparison, I though the 11 year old 2005 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard” would show what can happen with bottle age. We were all so surprised how incredibly youthful, closed & unyielding this wine unexpectedly tasted on this day. AND, the rocks have now overtaken the more primary fruit nuances that once was. I really wish I had more of each stashed, they were that interesting. At the last moment, because we were talking about the significance heirloom/heritage vine material can have on a wine & the true stand out character the iconic Sanford & Benedict vineyard innately has, we decided to open a bottle of the 2010 the Hilt Pinot Noir “Vanguard”, yet another standout wine project by the Jonata/Screaming Eagle group, led by star winemaker Matt Dees. The core & soul of this wine is Mt Eden & Martini heritage vine selection from the Sanford & Benedict vineyard, planted in 1971 on its own roots & organically farmed. (FYI–the Jonata group leased the first 30 acres or so of this vineyard on the right side of the road, hence the organic farming. The left side of the road & the rest of the vineyard is overseen & operated by the owners–the Terlato group). What a completely different take on what this vineyard wants to say through the finished wine! The Hilt wines were the true standouts from our June trip up & down California & the various appellations. That is saying alot, considering all of the people & vineyards we visited!) Definitely a project you should check out!
Because we were tasting at our VINO restaurant, I also wanted to include at least some Mediterranean red wines. The first was the 2006 Domaine Tempier Bandol “Classique”. Well, everyone attending certainly had heard of this iconic Provencal estate & its noteworthy wines, but having one 10 years old offered most a new experience. The wild, rustic gaminess just leaped forward in a very masculine, feral manner. Although there were nuances of raspberries in the core still, the wine really has transformed with the bottle age & the earth was now in the forefront. While Domaine Tempier has over the years been the real standout of the Bandol appellation, I would have to say Domaine Terrebrune is the one to now also keep your eye on. For example, the 2006 Terrebrune Bandol, we poured in comparison, was much more striking with charm & a truly outgoing, uplifting personality. Yes, the wild herbs, shrub & earth still showed through, especially in the perfume, but this wine was clearly more refined & transparent than Tempier. I really found this wine to be so captivating. Interestingly, as a side note, I have also tasted the 1997 & the 1998 recently & was also similarly impressed. It is a good time to jump on their bandwagon….before the accolades & rising prices that come with being discovered & the ensuing high demand. It will happen with this estate.
Another interesting category of red wines we wanted to reiterate to these “Young Sommeliers” was Beaujolais. We have done many tastings featuring a small list of absolute standouts in the past to show how the Gamay Noir can have such deliciousness, umami & wonderful food friendliness. On this day, we decided to instead showcase how different they can become with a little bottle age. While it can be said that while many Beaujolais can age, the question is always, however, do they get better with bottle age. That is a question each taster will have to ask themselves…..as each palate & preference is unique & different, just as each example (& vintage) will be too. To show what can be, though, we chose to taste a 2014 Foillard Morgon “Cote de Py” versus a 2006 Foillard Morgon “Cote de Py” (out of Magnum). By serving them side by side BLIND, the group had no idea what was in front of them–no grape variety, no region of origin, no vintage, no winemaker. The question was simply, which of these wines were “good”. A wonderful & intriguing fruitiness with underlying gunflint, stony, earthy nuances just leaped out of the 2014’s glass. The taste was equally as exuberantly fruity, intriguing, charming & outgoing with the vinosity, stones & earthiness definitely in the background. This wine also had a very unique viscosity & texture to it, a signature facet I regularly find in Jean Foillard’s Morgons. I thought the wine was fabulous! The 2006, on the other hand, showed a completely different perspective. No fruitiness now. Stones, gunflint, earth, exotic spice, musk, sandalwood, more aged Pinot Noir like in character & much more intellectual. Seemingly lighter on its feet, acidity more pronounced & much more soul. Wow!
We then continued with a quartet of Pinot Noir based reds from Burgundy. The first duo paired the 2006 Francois Jobard Blagny “La pièce sous le bois” (Côte de Beaune) versus the 2004 Maume Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru “Lavaux St Jacques” (Côte de Nuits). The intent was to remind tasters there is an innate difference between the southern & the northern subregions of the Cote d’Or in profile & character. Furthermore, these differences can get further magnified with some bottle age to them.
The next duo paired two Premier Cru wines, both 2004 & both from the Chambolle Musigny village–2004 Berthau Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru & the 2004 Louis Jadot Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru “Les Amoureuses”. The intent here was to show how different the wines from this village can be from both of the above 2 wines & appellations. Interestingly, a side note that came up while tasting these 2 BLIND was how the Jadot bottling seemed to have a veil covering it, as one taster noted. Muted, as another added. Perhaps it was because of poor storage/shipping or the wine was in a funk at this stage of its life?
Chave Hermitage –there is so much one can say about Chave’s Hermitage, not only because it is one of the world’s true wine treasures, but also because they have been around since the 1400’s. Having tried 2 different vintages, 1987 & 1997, in the past few days, I am always so surpised & amazed that the Chave Hermitage is not continuously listed in the various media’s Top 100 standouts of the year! I wonder how is that possible? Furthermore, I am also quite astounded that there are other northern Rhone Syrah based reds on the scene today, which get higher scores at 2 to 3 times the price! Utterly amazing! The 1987 was not nearly as good of a bottle as the previous times we have tasted it in the past year. Still, it was quite impressive in its majestic-ness & pedigree. This wine certainly has breed that’s for sure. I also liked the elegance, refinement & especially the transparency of this wine, more so now than before. It is much more about the stones than ripe, dense, sundrenched body, which usually takes much longer to resolve itself. The 1997, on the other hand, was gorgeous, just full of grandeur & seeming opulence. It is a mouthful! Boy, one can make alot of friends with this kind of stuffing & ample “flesh on the bones”. On this same night, we also had the 1996 Noel Verset Cornas, which provided quite alot of insight & from a completely different perspective. In comparison, the Cornas was more masculine & devoutly soulful with great intensity & lots of character. The 1997 Chave, on the other hand, was much more majestic, aristocratic, & effortlessly so. Plus, the Chave seemed soooo much younger in the nose & especially on the palate. How many Syrah based red wines can stand along side a Verset Cornas & not be dwarfed? Wow!!!
1996 Noel Verset Cornas–what an unreal surprise! An old friend. Imagine going to your parents home & checking through their old photo albums & seeing a picture of your best friend in grade school. How are you, my dear friend! It has been far too long since I last saw you…..kind of thing. You catch up quick. Verset’s Cornas is one of kind wine. No others like it. He worked & toiled hard in his steep, rocky hillside vineyard & his wines were truly made through sweat & gutteral passion. Why else would he have worked so hard in search of his dream wine? Feral, raw, aged meat, andouille sauage, peppercorns, smoke, black pepper, dried red fruit, wild herbs–wildly rustic, Old School & soooooo soulful. I am sad to say, the number of bottles are fast diminishing & soon the Verset Cornas will only be a memory. So sad, as this is certainly one of the true iconic wines & winemakers of all time. Thank you my friend. It was really great to spend time once again. I hope our paths will cross again soon.
Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol–I have seemingly spent a lifetime completely infatuated with the Bandol wines from Domaine Tempier. These are more than wines showcasing a “sense of place”. They really are about a bon vivant attitude, a culture, a family & its heritage. When, importer Kermit Lynch started also bringing in the Terrebrune wines, I really didn’t pay so much attention to them. Even when I first visited them & tasted in their cellar, my mind was really thinking more about “when will we be headed to Tempier down the hill”? Imagine my surprise when I started enjoying the Terrebrune wines even more than those from Tempier! They were much more elegant, refined, fresh & minerally…..especially with some bottle age! I am now a true believer & these 2 wines clearly reminded me of that thought & appreciation. The 1997 was so exotically perfumed–a collision of the gamey, feral, animal-ly nuances of the Mourvedre grape variety with nuances of the surrounding wild herbs, flowers & sun baked countryside & the mersmerzing minerality of the limestone under soils. I was sooooo taken by this wine on this night! I really wish I had purchased more. The 1998 was also quite captivating, though more masculine, robust & much deeper in its earth driven character. I had a hard time comprehending all that has come forward in this wine with the bottle age. I was really blindsided, as I never even knew any of this was there when I tasted the wine in its youth! Plus, the piece de resistance is the Terrebrune Bandols are WAY better priced than those of Tempier. If I was smart, I would be keeping this fact to myself, so the prices stay low. Oh well, one of the true joys of wines is finding a new gem & sharing it with others, right?
1983 Domaine Tempier Bandol–Over the years, Domaine Tempier & its wines, in my humble opinion, stood heads & heals over anything else from southern France. Plus, they work so well with the regional foods of the area, which makes sense, since Tempier matriarch Lulu Peyraud is & has been the “face” for Provencal foods around the world essentially her whole life. Yes, it is so easy to get caught up in the romantic tale of the iconic Peyraud family & their story. Still, the wines can have magic, beyond stories. Many detractors, however, will talk about the frequent flaws found in Tempier Bandol wines. The wines’ frequent brettanomyces presence, for instance, was quite distracting for me on many occasions. (some would say poor cooperage). So was the uneven quality I often experienced from bottle to bottle. Still, when the wine was “on”, it truly was like no other. Interestingly, the 1983 was really one of their first Bandol red wines that I really “got it”. Because of this “revelation”, I remember sharing a bottle of the ’83 with a quartet of very respected winemakers & a herd of top sommeliers back in the 90’s. I also remember getting a barage of “holier than thou” reactions in response to the wine’s obvious brett character. I was really moved to hear on that same night the great Andre Ostertag’s response to his American counterparts. In short, he stated something along the lines of–“I don’t completely understand your comments. Would I make a wine like this? No! This, however, is a wine from a family & much about their sense of place, their culture & their heritage. And, this wine has soul!” I totally agreed with him. The “hook” for me is the wine’s innate soulful-ness. & the Tempier Bandols can capture soulfulness like few other wineries can. Since then, I have been fortunate to taste the ’83 a number of more times over the years. One of the most memorable was celebrating one of my wife’s big birthdays a few years back. On that night, I was enthralled with the wine’s freshness in its core, despite the 31 years of bottle age. Yes, it had some kind of refreshing raspberry essence which peeked through the wildly scented, feral, smoke, gamey, earth driven qualities the wine is most famous for. In comparison, on this night, although this bottle showed quite well, I am not sure if I had any more that I would hold on to it much longer. (As a side note, there were many questions about the “#25” colored in red on this bottle’s label in the upper quarter of the right corner. Apparently, there are some internet wine sites offering this wine for auction as Domaine Tempier “Lot 25”. Just FYI, in checking, we received word from both Kermit Lynch & the Peyraud family, they have no knowledge of where the #25 came from or why).
1995 Rostaing Cote Rotie “La Landonne”–Boy, did this wine show beautifully on this night & clearly reminded me of the innate greatness, class & grandeur the Cote Rotie hillside has. Talk about having a wine at a perfect time of its life! I would further add this was without a doubt the finest bottling I have had from this venerable estate. I clearly remember visiting this young domaine in 1991 & seeing lots of high tech equipment & lots of new barrels in rows upon rows. I really felt like I was touring a Californian winery. I left somewhat saddened because I had previously visited Rostaing’s uncle, Marius Gentaz (a traditionalist & certainly one of the greatest Syrah producers of all time), the visit before & had found out that Rostaing (a modernist) would be taking over Marius’s treasured, old vine holdings. I wondered to myself, what would happen to the glorious, beguiling Syrah that once was? Part of my answer was evident tasting this 1995, 25 years old. This was top notch Cote Rotie! Much more modern in style than his uncle’s, but still so majestic, compelling & grand, in a very masculine though refined way. The once obvious oak is now superbly well integrated & really helps to frame the solid core of meaty, smoky, leathery, earth driven character. Thank you John for sharing!
2001 Quintarelli Cabernet “Alzero”–Giuseppe Quintarelli was one of the true iconic wine figures on the world class stage. The wine world still mourns his passing. Here was a man whose “vision” was realized through passionate farming, meticulous grape selection, great detail, care & patience in the winery. His Amarones, therefore, were & are some of the most sought after, pricey wines out of Italy. Uniquely, he took a similar approach to produce his Alzero wine, using partially dried Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc & Merlot berries instead to produce this mega-intense, decadently thick, unctuous & powerful red. Alzero’s raw-ness is then somewhat tamed & harnessed by its 2 to 3 years aging in French oak & an additional 4 years in large Slavonian oak barrels. Although most wine drinkers are taken back by the perception of sweetness/port like qualities upon first taste, this is without a doubt a very unique & provocative red wine of epic proportions. And despite being 15 years old, this 2001 was unbelievably youthful & primary & therefore needs considerable more aging time in the bottle. Thank you Leland for sharing.
What a night, a celebration for a wife’s birthday & a husband who wanted to create something special & memorable. And, we were part of that evening! Here is their menu–
KUMAMOTO OYSTER– tapioca pearls, Osetra caviar, konbu-tomato granite & chervil
PAN SEARED BRISTOL BAY SCALLOP —with forbidden black rice, Kahuku corn, Thai basil, pancetta, Maui onion & shaved black summer truffles
LOBSTER UOVO–butter poached Kona Maine lobster, lemon ricotta, hijiki & tarragon brown butter
FRESH UNI PASTA–fresh angel hair pasta, squid ink sauce, shiso, ikura and lobster butter
Spanish Octopus–with baby mizuna, roasted Roma tomato & sherry vinaigrette
Dragon Tongue Beans–with crispy pork belly, truffle aioli and cilantro pesto
Kako’o’owi Heirloom Baby Carrots–with carrot top pesto, pickled turnips, pecorino romano & cumin aioli
SEARED TAJIMA BEEF “ROULADE”—with roasted beets, Ali’I mushrooms, baby mizuna, balsamic reduction, basil, chili aioli and roasted garlic demi
KOJI CURED KING NATURAL BEEF STRIPLOIN–with charred Swiss chard, konbu gnocchi, bay leaf chimichurri & parsnip puree
Kula Strawberry Panna Cotta
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with ganache
Roasted Banana Profiterole vanilla bean ice cream & butterscotch glaze
We love to work with wines where the families own their vineyards, use more heirloom and heritage vine material and farm sustainably. These are NOT Grand Cru or Grande Marque wines by any means, but are instead 4 true artisan, traditional-minded & “out of the box” French bubblies which reflect the culture and heritage of the families, in addition to be tasty, unique & undoubtedly offering great value for the dollar for pure enjoyment, especially during the upcoming hot Summer days & warm nights. This tasting was interesting and fun!
“Seyssel may be unknown to many oenophiles today, but the vineyards of this small Savoie appellation of eastern France are regularly mentioned in documents dating back to at least the 11th century. With the development of sparkling wine production methods in the 19th century a new Seyssel mousseux was created that quickly gained great popularity with 70% Molette and 30% Altese grapes grown in clay and limestone soils. The sparkling wines of Seyssel indulge in the same méthode traditionnelle production techniques used for Champagne and the bottles are stocked sur latte for two years”.
Punta Crena Spumante Brut “Colline Savonesi”
“The Ruffino family has been tending their neatly terraced vineyards on the slopes and in hidden clearings on the peaks of Liguria, 1000 meters from the Sea for over 500 years. They pass their knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next without hardly changing a thing. This bubbly is produced from the Mataossu grape variety in a similar secondary fermention in the bottle as in Champagne”. FYI–the true Mataossu grape variety is grown by only 1 family & in 1 village (Varigotti). One can smell & taste the salinity, which I believe comes from the nearby Sea, as well as the sunbaked rocks & wild shrub & herbs which surround the vineyard. The bubbles are just icing on the cake!
Nicole Chanrion is one of the true standout producers of the Côte-de-Brouilly, an appellation that “sits on the hillsides of Mont Brouilly, a prehistoric volcano that left blue schist stones and volcanic rock along its slopes. These stones yield structured wines with pronounced minerality and great aging potential”. A true artist and brilliant wine mind, she decided to produce “Effervescence”, a vintage sparkling wine, although Nicole uses a non-vintage label. This is Gamay Noir grown in schist & porphyry soils, vinified in the Méthode Champenoise, fermented in stainless steel tank, aged 18 months sur latte, hand riddled twice a day, then manually disgorged. What a wonderful, completely refreshing bubbly.
“The great historian Pliny the Elder was the first to record the greatness of the Clairette and Muscat here, celebrating a pétillance and freshness widely believed to predate those of Champagne. Among the most well-known of Clairette de Die’s producers today is the tiny Domaine Achard-Vincent. The vineyards are organically and biodynamically farmed. Though the name Clairette de Die suggests the emphasis of the Clairette grape which goes into the blends, it is actually the Muscat à petits grains for which the appellation is best known. The Clairette de Die “Tradition” uses the méthode dioise, an ancestral method that allows a secondary fermentation in the bottle without dosage, because the wine is bottled with residual sugar remaining, typically at 6% alcohol. The bottles are then decanted off of their lees and rebottled under pressure following the secondary fermentation”.
Jacques Selosse–what a treat to try yet another Selosse Champagne, having had 2 others in the past couple of weeks. While the 2 earlier bottlings were not really my cup of tea because of too much oxidative character, this one was much more “fresher” & much easier to understand & appreciate for me. There were so many nuances, complexities & breed to the core, with a rounder, more expansive palate, which reminded me more of an aged white Burgundy (without the bubbles) than Champagne. Thumbs up!
Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrieres”–I have been very fortunate to have had this bottling in many different vintages on many different occasions. It is without a doubt one of my favorite white Burgundy bottlings. Having said that, this certainly makes me quite biased in this wine’s evaluation. Yes, I am one of those who believe this particular wine should be Grand Cru. Because of Jobard’s unique, old style winemaking, however, most wine “experts” would not agree, as his wines are quite controversial & therefore grossly under appreciated. To me, the wines in each case, exhibit Grand Cru pedigree. The 2000, for instance, has a truly mesmerizing, glorious nose–intriguingly stony with all kinds of nuts & spices that just kept opening up with each additional whiff. Furthermore, the wine was absolutely solid & gorgeous in the core, although I think the even-ness of finish changed to a somewhat coarse-ness after 2 hours & as the wine warmed up. Still, I absolutely loved the wine’s perfume so much. It certainly made having this wine quite a memorable experience. The 1986, on the other hand, was amazing right out of the gates. It really was the first time I had had a Jobard Meursault “Genevrieres” which was wide open, transparent & strutting its stuff. (They normally are so tight fisted & therefore closed & take hours to truly open up). In thinking about it further, how many 30 year old white Burgundies would even still be alive & kicking? The nose was so glorious, compelling & captivating with all kinds of nuances, layers & breed. On the palate, this 1986 flowed so evenly, seamlessly & was so refined & majestic. Talk about having a wine at the perfect time of its life! I was also amazed at how long this epiphany sustained itself after being open. Yes, it did start to fade as time wore on, but was still an amazing experience. Thank you Jamm & Erika for sharing!
1997 Robert Chevillon–we have been huge fans of the Robert Chevillon wines for a long time. This estate remarkably owns parcels in 8 Premier Cru vineyards within the Nuits St Georges appellation. The reds display such sublime purity, superb seamless-ness & balance. On this night, our friend Brent brought two 1997 Premier Cru bottlings–Les Chaignots & Les Cailles. As the importer notes, “Les Chaignots originates from old French, meaning “the place where the oaks grow”, & is located on the northern side of the appellation closer to Vosne Romanee with an eastern sun-exposure. The vines average 60 years in age, grown at 260-280 meters in altitude, with a grade ranging from 8-20%. The 1997 was so charming, gracious, graceful, classy & much rounder & seemingly lush than the Les Cailles. In short, it was a really lovely wine & definitely Premier Cru in quality. Les Cailles, on the other hand, “is derived from the word cailloux, or pebbles, not the common assumption that it is derived from the modern meaning, “quails””…….& is located on the southern of the appellation nearer to Premeaux-Prissey also with an eastern sun exposure. The vines average 77 years in age, grown at 250-260 meters in altitude, with a grade between 7-8%. The 1997 had much more obvious pedigree (& more ethereal/rock character) than the previous wine, which again supports the argument this vineyard should be elevated to Grand Cru quality, along with neighboring Les Vaucrains & Les St Georges vineyards. Wow!!!! Yes, I was really taken by this wine! Very aristocratic without being pompous or any fanfare. Just pure class, done with grace, wonderful texture, fine detail & great balance! Thank you Brent for sharing!
Jacques Selosse–his avant garde bubblies are getting harder & harder to come by AND the prices keep getting higher & higher. Still, the wines are unique, though probably not for everyone. For me, for instance, they can be real hit or miss. We recently were fortunate to try 2 different bottlings, 3 nights apart. The first was the Extra Dry “Premier Cru” which was shared by a VINO guest from Japan. While this wine has a very solid core, it displayed too many oxidative qualities for my taste. I am all for what used to be called “English style” (aged & developed), but this was just too much. It took away from my appreciating the wine itself. I found the same to be true with the Exquise Sec, we were fortunate to taste a few nights later. I don’t mind little flaws in a wine (even some brett or volatile acidity), but when it excessive & really takes away from focus of the wine, then I believe it is too much. I haven’t had enough of Selosse wines to say if the overt oxidative qualities were intentional or not., but in these 2 cases, they were just not my cup of tea.
1983 Von Simmern Auslese “Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen”–Back in the day, Von Simmern was making some stellar Riesling from his holdings–Erbacher Macrobrunn, Hattenheimers– Mannberg & Nussbrunnen. In fact, his 1983 Eisweins from Mannberg & Nussbrunnen were real standouts & very memorable. I have since had some of his 89, 90, 92 & 94 wines (Spatlese & Auselse quality) & was quite frankly underwhelmed. I therefore did not know what to expect from this wine as it was being opened. Wow…..what a real surprise it proved to be! This 1983 really was drinking wonderfully with a very intriguing combination of complexities & breed. It was also quite remarkably youthful still in its core given the 33 years of bottle age & had superb structure & balance with a much more gentle, graceful flow on the palate. Thank you to Ryan & Sarah for sharing.
1990 JJ Prum Auslese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”–Manfred Prum sure has a masterful touch with his Rieslings, especially those from his iconic Wehlener Sonnenuhr parcels. I was astounded at the great purity, filigree & deft balance of this 1990. The once apparent sweetness has since changed (at least 2/3’s) to a more tactile viscosity, which also allowed the wine’s minerality & pedigree once again to show so brilliantly. The wine’s now seemingly racy acidity was scintillating & very refreshing. It is rieslings like this which keeps me going back for more & more. Outstanding! Thank you to Vern & Gail for sharing.
1999 Dönnhoff Auslese “Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle”–yet another of the iconic, top echelon producers & vineyards from Germany. Hermannshöhle is a relatively steep hillside on the northside of the Nahe River & generally considered by many to be the best site in the whole region. The soils are a blackish slate with igneous rock, porphyry & limestone. In its youth, these wines can be quite hard, closed & is essentially what I would refer to as liquid rock. Helmut Dönnhoff is without a doubt, one of the world’s true master winemakers & his showpiece wines combine power, breed, grandeur & balance. At 17 years of age, I was sad to see this wine was completely shut down. Those cellaring this wine should really hold off for a while before popping one open.
1989 Chateau Lafite Rothschild–someone just handed me this glass of wine as I was walking by one night in VINO. With one whiff, I knew it was Lafite, as it had such a magnificent, majestic quality to its aromas. The 1989 also displayed the gravel, graphite, cedar nuances of older Bordeaux, but with ripe, generous fruit which I had really noticed in the Chateau’s wines, from the 1978 vintage on. Global warming? I don’t know what to say about that, but will say, the Lafites of old had an ethereal-ness to them & were therefore surprisingly lighter on their feet with an intoxicating, seductive perfume. Still, this wine was undoubtedly grand & majestic, just done in a riper style. Thank you Mike for sharing.
Here was another opportunity to taste some wines which have bottle age.
Jasmin Côte Rôtie–I first visited this small, family owned domaine in 1991. Back then the domaine was run by Robert Jasmin with his son Patrick helping. Robert had a larger than life personality, was jovial & full of life. I could later see these kinds of qualities in his wine, as we tasted through several vintages with father & son. They were proud of their 4 hectares of vineyards, which were spread throughout the Côte Brune & the Côte Blonde. (Today the Domaine lists 5.5 hectares). They were champions of Petite Sérine, which was the only Syrah they used in their Côte Rôtie, (the one wine they produced, at least as far I knew). I was especially taken by the 1989 vintage on that visit because of its ripe black fruit & wild cherry, savory bay leaf, peppercorn, roasted nuances, its richness & surprising openness for such a young wine. I could also detect new oak qualities, eventhough there was only about 10% new oak used in that vintage. On this night, the 1989 Jasmin Côte Rôtie, was a completely different wine. It was earthy, smoky, feral, gamey with lots of burnt sandalwood nuances. It was ripe, round, well resolved. I used to think of Cote Rotie, especially in comparison to Hermitage, as the Queen of Syrah. Well, there was nothing Queen like or feminine or aristocratic about this wine! It was manly, blue collar & Old School to say the least, but without heaviness or being beefed up or testosterone driven. Fascinating! Kind of like a warrior tribal chieftain rather than a European king or queen of the old, grand days. The 2000 Patrick Jasmin Côte Rôtie, on the other hand, seemed to have changed stylistically–more forward fruit, more oak, more modernized, without being internationalized–a definite changing of the generations.
1986 Chateau Haut Brion–this wine had lots of gravel character both in the nose & in the taste. The wine has greatly resolved itself in many ways since the last time I was fortunate to taste it. There are no hard edges, & the oakiness I remembered the last time I tasted this wine is further in the background, as the gravel has really emerged to the forefront. This wine has class & deserves a second, third & fourth dive back into the glass to better appreciate all of the nuances that have evolved from the bottle age.
1986 Chateau Cheval Blanc–This wine was so compelling on first whiff. OMG. & I was quite taken initially. I loved its deepness, its earthiness, its grandeur, aristocratic/regal, qualities to its nose, despite the huge dollop of oak & still surprising, unresolved youthfulness, especially on the palate. Quite impressive to say the least. Thanks Mike for sharing!
2004 Maume Mazis Chambertin–Over the years I have been quite a fan of this domaine & many of their wines, especially their Grand Cru, Mazis Chambertin. I know many wine tasters, whose palate I greatly respect, who don’t really care for this old style Burgundy producer’s wines & I completely understand why. It is not perfect or any of the other qualities just mentioned, but is without a doubt Grand Cru quality. I am not looking for a perfect wine & I certainly do not always look for precise & correctly made wines, nor do I always get caught up in the newer snazzy, flamboyany styled wines from the media darlings. I seem to have a soft spot for wines which have something to say, gutterly & in their own voice & especially those over delivering quality for the dollar. I could say the Bandol wines from Domaine Tempier truly helped lead me down that path. Well, here is just another example. I love the musky, dark, provocative, mesmerizing pheromone scented character of this wine. The 2004 is really in the zone right now–with lots of bottle age development, character & Grand Cru pedigree, BUT still with a more rustic, virile, masculine, soulful core. I was sorry to hear this winery sold.
1990 Leroy Vosne Romanee Premier Cru “Les Beaux Monts”
1990 Henri Jayer Echezeaux Grand Cru
What can one really say about superstar status wines like this? Cherries? Sandalwood? Long finish? Hardly does the wine any real justice. What instead tends to happen, is tasters will instead start pointing out the wine’s flaws, even if they are really so minute, & therefore not really appeciating the 90%, 95%, 99% that is really good…..& enjoying/ celebrating having such a wine. Stop & think for a moment. How many people have the opportunity to even try wines of this caliber (& expense)? Plus, when one is looking on this quality level of site & this kind of winemaker, I find that the vintage variation shows a very different perspective on what the vineyard wants to say. (rather than clamouring whether it should be rated 89 or 100 points). I was astounded how profoundly ethereal & majestic each were. Yes, these wines showed incredible pedigree & it was clearly evident how special & unique each independently were. What a REALLY special opportunity, one I will certainly remember for a long time! Thank you Nunzio & Joanne for sharing! On that note, I would like to say, when I checked on line how much each were worth, I questioned my friends about in fact whether to even open these wines. Joanne’s answer was simple–“Who better to share them with?” It is true & when I think about all of the wines we have experienced together over the years, it really is mind boggling. So, I say, thank you VERY much again!