As far back as I can remember, Riesling was & is one of the world’s most under appreciated grape varieties. Absolute bewilderment!
Back in the 80’s, 90’s & early 2000’s, it seems whenever I asked a Californian winemaker what grape variety they wish they could do well, it seems the word Riesling regularly popped up. I could say the same when I asked sommeliers & wine professionals, what wine (& therefore grape variety) really wows them, especially at the dinner table.
Then why hasn’t/doesn’t this kind of buzz filter down to the general public?
There must be some kind of conspiracy or something of the sorts going on to supress Riesling’s success, otherwise I cannot & have not been able to figure out why more & more people just don’t jump on the Riesling bandwagon.
When you mention the word Riesling, wine tasters make their funny faces, a way of saying, “ohhh…..I don’t like sweet wine”.
Why is that most people look for a pineapple, a tomato, an orange or a lychee to be “sweet”? In fact, in these cases, if the fruit is NOT sweet, then it is a disappointment. The sweet-sour teeter totter, especially when done well, is part of the magic of a good tomato, lemonade or shave ice. Why not with wine?
Another thought to consider is maybe you are having the Riesling too young. I have had many winetasters over the years, proclaim to me how their once apparently sweet Kabinett, now tastes dry after 30 years of proper cellaring! Yes, I am continually amazed how the once apparent sweetness of a wine seems to “dry” out & actually create a more creamy viscosity in its texture, along with allowing the minerality to once again step forward.
Interestingly, especially in the past 20 or so years, many of the top producers of German Riesling also seemingly ramped up their production of dry & medium dry wines in addition to their fruity, slightly sweet (lower alcohol) renditions. Although clearly marked as “trocken” (dry) or “halbtrocken” (medium dry) & all of the attempts to help educate tasters & especially professionals, it created further confusion for the general public.
Furthermore, especially at the top echelon, producers looking to gain world wide prominance & esteem added yet another quality layer–Grosse Gewach (or Estes Gewachs for some). For the lay person this just added to their confusion. For the true connoisseur, this was Germany’s attempt to establish a Grand Cru stature, along the lines of what Burgundy has been able to accomplish.
In my humble opinion, the way to better appreciate & therefore at least somewhat understand the true potential of these dry & medium dry wines, I would suggest you try one 15 years old from a venerable estate–a 2001 Fritz Haag Riesling Spatlese trocken (dry), for instance. In short, slightly aged Rieslings like this gets glorious because of the additional cellar time. Glorious in perfume AND glorious in taste…….with a much rounder, viscous, creamy mouthfeel & blossoming to the point of being gorgeously harmonious & breathtaking.
One just has to be patient.
Interestingly, the conversion curve from youthful/primary to glorious is VERY different for more fruity, slightly sweet to sweet Riesling. AND, it is so different wine to wine, producer to producer…..vintage to vintage.
The dangling carrot, however, is how incredibly glorious aged Riesling can ultimately become.
The current “curve ball” for wine professionals is how the global climate change has greaty affected the ripening of the Riesling grape variety, even in Germany. It wasn’t that long ago, when Germany was lucky to fully ripen their Rieslings 2 or 3 vintages out of every 10. Since 1988, however, we have essentially had a “ripe” vintage virtually every year. Yes, that is a very drastic change!
FYI–Germany measures the sugar in the grapes by öchsle. 20 years ago, good Mosel River Kabinett level wines were harvested at somehwere between 67 & 82 degrees öchsle. 3 weeks ago, I tasted three 2013 Mosel River Kabinetts & each were above 92 degrees öchsle (which would have been considered 2 levels higher-Auslese-20 years ago). The point being, the wines are riper, bigger & more dramatic today. For the wine consumer this a great thing. One can get an even higher quality wine more so now than ever before. For the sommelier, however, one now has to change/recaliberate their window of foods to pair these wines with, and/or then look to change the wines they have been buying accordingly.
For the German wine producer this is usually also a great thing. They now get 9 or 10 vintages out of 10 where they can make quality wines to sell. Plus, their wines, at least at the top echelon, get higher scores than ever. They therefore can now make more money.
Is this the virtual end of an era, although some would say otherwise–the beginning of a new, great era?
Here are some of our thoughts about the 4 wines we tried in VINO tonight–
Just so you know, we are not presenting here 4 esoteric wines, just to showcase the latest fashion/trend. Each of these are stellar, standout wines, so much so, one can readily measure other wines you taste to, they are that good. It begins with very individually unique vineyards that truly have something special to say. And, these wines also feature truly masterful, artisanal winemaking. The combination is game changing. Over the years, finding this truly remarkable quality of wines is what rings my bell. Finding them from lesser known appellations before the high acclaim & therefore high prices & scarce availability is just the icing on the cake.
Bet you’ve never had a Beaujolais like this before! Jules Chauvet was a true yoda of his craft & was so far ahead of his time with his au naturale approach to grape growing & winemaking. Much later, contemporary icons like Marcel Lapierre & Jean Foillard followed in his footsteps with his approach. At the same time, so did Jean Jacques Robert over in the Maconnais & his small portfolio of single, old vine parcel Chardonnays. Here is the first red wine from him which has come to the Islands. The parcel is leased from Jules Chauvet’s niece (20 & 70 year old vines grown in sandy decomposed granite) & the grapes are wild yeast fermented in old barrels & then aged for an additional 16 months in 7 year old barrels. The color is very light & the wine quite transparent. The wine’s nose had a distinct gunflintiness in its core, with a rustic Old World charm. So pretty with understated vinosity & character. It is surprisingly light on the palate, but still with good intensity & concentration, just done with remarkable lightness & fabulous deliciousness.
2009 Chateau Belle-Graves “Lalande de Pomerol”
A fabulous, relatively new discovery for us. Situated in Lalande de Pomerol, just north of Pomerol, Belles-Graves produces Merlot-dominated wines with a lush, velvety texture and very fine tannins. The vineyards are planted on slopes that descend to the east, south and west of the estate, which sit just across a small stream from some of the famous estates of Pomerol (& of all of Bordeaux for that matter). Their greatness comes from their own terroir of varied clay and gravel where flint, quartz, and mica offer distinct mineral components to each parcel. How can one not love the lush, velvety plumpness in the front & middle with the prominent gravelly finish. It is really nice to find an true artisan, estate grown Bordeaux which truly over delivers for the dollar.
2011 de Villaine Rully “Les Sainte-Jacques”
From the truly iconic Aubert deVillaine & interesting vineyards near his home in the lesser known Chalonnaise appellation. Their single-vineyard parcels are stunning examples of what this complex and amazing terroir can yield. These wines have great purity, true character & intricacies, qualities one might expect from a true Master such as de Villaine. “Much of this is due to both the diversity of his vinestock and his organic and biodynamic methodology in the vineyards, both of which Aubert stands by with great conviction“. I bet you’ve never had a Chardonnay like this! The nose has great purity–slightly honeyed, floral (in the limestone kind of way) & totally captivating in its minerality. I was really taken by its compelling “presence” & seeming vinosity. On the palate I was also quite taken by how wonderfully seamless & textural this wine masterfully is. What a fabulous drink!!!!! It is wines like this, from a vintage like 2011 (generally lukewarmly received by the media), which reminds one that vintage charts are generalities & scores, just one person’s opinion.
2013 Faury Condrieu
Condrieu was once considered one of the great white wines of the world & here is your chance to try one of the most pure and most interesting. “The steep slopes of Condrieu have a grade of up to 55% & present a challenging terrain where farming is only feasible through terracing. The work is therefore back breaking & is done because of true passion“. Domaine Faury is one of the northern Rhone Valley’s true artisanal producers & the resulting wines exemplify authenticity, done with soul & deliciousness, a rare combination. The primary fermentation is done in stainless steel cuves & then the wine is aged 11 months on its lees, in 10% new barrels, 30% 2 to 5 year-old barrels, and 60% stainless steel. What an exotic perfume!!! Apricots, jasmine, stone, honeysuckle, plumeria–all so pretty & enticing. The palate is rich with all kinds of exotic fruit coupled with definite stone nuances & a slight nuttiness. What a real pleasure to drink & savor!
For the longest time, southern France was never thought of as producing top flight, world class wines. Over the past 20 or so years, we are seeing, however, an emergence of really interesting, terroir driven wines produced from various nooks & crannies & by families who had a vision to bring their wines into the modern era, without compromising what makes them so special & unique. Here are four true standouts!–produced from indigenous grape varieties and masterfully crafted by some of the very best. Yes, this is a quartet one can readily measure other wines you taste to. I think this is an incredible learning opportunity.
Here is your chance to taste the scarce white wine from one of the true stars of the Bandol appellation. 70% Ugni Blanc, 30% Clairette. They farm sixteen hectares of vineyards on the rolling hillsides around La Cadière d’Azur, composed of both clay and limestone, imparting a pronounced structure of earthy, splintered rock. Yes, this wine is very stony & masculine with lots of vigor & structure that’s for sure. I wonder how it would taste with some bottle age?
Historically, this is one of THE true, iconic white wines of southern France. 40% Marsanne, 30% Ugni blanc, 25% Clairette, 5% Bourboulenc. The vineyards of Clos Sainte Magdeleine jut out on a private cape to meet majestic limestone cliffs, poised spectacularly above the sparkling, azure Mediterranean. One can smell & taste the resulting ocean character, which also makes it quite the pairing with bouillabaisse & other seafood stews.
Primarily Grenache Gris Some Grenache Blanc in schist-limestone soils in steep, high altitude vineyards & farmed organically & biodynamically. It was but only a few years ago when we couldn’t get any of the Magnon wines to Hawaii. Here is your chance to taste one of them! While this wine star produces more delicious, seemingly fruit forward red wines, this white bottling is quite masculine, stony &, hearty with lots of mojo & attitude.
70% Grenaches blanc et gris, 10% Macabeo, 10% Roussane, 10% Vermentino. The seaport village of Collioure is located right on the Mediterranean, where the Pyranees Mountains dives into the sea, near the Spanish border. Domaine La Tour Vieille is the standout producer. They passionately farm the very steep, schist hillsides to make produce their standout red (& one white) wines. This is a virile, masculine white born of the rock & sun baked earth surrounding this impossibly steep site. Intriguing, totally unique & a fabulous, mesmerizing drink!
We haven’t done a “Communal Table” in VINO for a while, so we thought to do another on this night. For those who don’t understand the concept, everyone sits on one long table to enjoy a meal with wine pairings by Chuck. You might not know each other in the beginning of the night, but by the end of the evening, hopefully, you will have new found friends. Kind of like what a family does at home…..good food, good wine…..good fun! Isn’t that the VINO way?
Stromboli with soppressata, mozzarella & fresh basil
FIRST COURSE (served family style)
–spicy fennel pork, veal, sage
–chicken & sun dried tomatoes
with roasted peppers, moustardo, pickled Kako’o ’Owi Farms vegetables
wine: My Essential Rose–since the pork-veal-sage sausage had some heat to it, we needed a wine which would cool. Furthermore, this lighter, ethereal pink wine also acted like cranberry does at the Thanksgiving feast–refreshing the palate between bites.
Hamakua mushrooms, braised Big Island beef shank, Nalo Farms Swiss Chard & chimichurri
wine: Hybrid Petite Sirah–just enough hutzpah for the braised beef shank, earthiness & spice for the chimichurri, but still delicious & gulpable needed for a family meal.
Brick Oven Roasted Organic Chicken
herbed Yukon Gold potato, creamy truffled polenta, charred baby bok choy
sauces—romesco, creamy basil pesto, country sausage gravy
wine: Tedeschi Valpolicella “Lucchine”–these kinds of delicious, food friendly “country” styled wines are ideal for the family dinner.
Fresh Berry Crostata
It was a very busy night in VINO. My wife, Cheryle, came in to help. It’s not often the staff get to hear her insights of the world of wines, so we took this opportunity to open a bottle of wine to show the staff a different perspective on wine & have Cheryle chime in.
We chose to showcase the 2006 DeVillaine Mercurey “Les Montots”. Why? Mainly to remind people that, while BIG, opulent, powerful, lavish red wines are IN right now, hopefully there is still a niche for more finesseful, pure, elegant & refined wines like this too. And so, by tasting such a wine, it will make our younger team members experience a different perspective.
I absolutely loved the alluring perfume, the sheer purity & transparency, finesse, fragility, etherealness & the superb balance of this wine. OMG.
Several other thoughts came to mind, since tasting it last night.
Interestingly, when this wine was released, it showed alot of fruit, in fact, too much so for my taste, but I bought it anyway because it was from DeVillaine. Today…amazingly…..the mineral is in the forefront, not the fruit…..& this uplifting, mesmerizing minerality makes this wine so captivating, ethereal & interesting both in the nose & taste.
Furthermore, I thought 2006, though only lukewarmly received by the media, would evolve into wines that would be refined & offer wonderful perfume. This is an example of what one could only hope for. I only wish I had more!
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.