Archive for August, 2012

Aug
17

More Grower Champagnes

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Yes, tonight we did yet another tasting of Grower Champagnes.  Just so we are clear….Recoltant Manipulant Champagnes are NOT necessarily better because they are small, or farm their own grapes or make their own wine.  In the finest cases it is an issue more about artisanal & hand crafted.  On this night we tasted several.

J. Lasalle Brut “Preference”

from Chigny-les-Roses…60% Pinot Meunier, 20% each Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, all Premier Cru.

 Although I am not a huge fan of Pinot Meunier, (& in this case it actually muted the ethereal-ness I love about Champagne somewhat), this wine is nonetheless sheer, very pretty & lovely with tiny bubbles.

 

 

 

 

Camiles Saves “Carte Blanches”

This cuvee is 75% Grand Cru Pinot Noir (Bouzy, Ambonnay & Tour-sur-Marne) & 25% Premier Cru Chardonnay (Tauxieres).  For my palate, Camilles Saves can be hit or miss.  On this night, however, it was a very popular choice for many of the tasters.  It undoubtedly showed breed & class coupled with a fine bead & a long finish.

Coquilletes Blanc de Noirs “Les Clefs”

 

 

 

100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir from Ay.   This Grand Cru Grower Champagne showed breed, depth & character & was another popular choice by the tasters.

 

 

 

 

Varnier Fanniere Brut Zero “Grand Cru”

100% Chardonnay from Avize with NO dosage added.  It is a wine about the purity & transparency of their Grand Cru terroir.

Categories : Sparkling, Wine
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Aug
17

Ornellaia

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A very high profile Super-Tuscan who has a cult like following because of all of its awards & high acclaim.  The 192 acre estate is located in Bolgheri out on the Tuscan Coast with alluvial, volcanic & marine terrain. Starting with the first vintage, 1985, the wines have been world renown “wines of supreme class, lively, refreshing acidity, silky smooth, glossy tannins“.

On this night we tasted the 1998 & 1997 side by side, thanks to our long time friend Tawfig Khoury.

The 1998 was produced from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot & 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in top caliber French oak barriques (50% new) ) for 18 months and 12 months in bottle before release.

We agreed of the 2 this wine thankfully tasted very Italian.  (For me that was not the case upon release…so the 14 years of bottle age help to resolve the wine’s obvious oakiness in its youth to an integration & a fabulous framing of the wine).  At this point of its life, a distinct earthiness was the first aromas followed by cedar, sandalwood, cigar box nuances, & with a leaner mouthfeel than the 1997.  This wine exuded sophistication & class & just kept opening up with more & more air.

IN comparison the 1997 was 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot & 5% Cabernet Franc, also aged in top caliber French oak barriques (50% new) for 18 months and 12 months in bottle before release.

Upon your first taste, it is very apparent this is a super high scoring wine, dazzling, superbly crafted, reminscent of a beautiful black stallion thoroughbred with innate power & class.  I am not sure what kind of scores this wine received from the wine media, but I am sure it was through the roof!  Having said that, not that it matters, I am not sure how Italian this wine tastes though.  Just a small comment.

Categories : Red, Wine, Wines Revisted
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Aug
09

1990 Gentaz Dervieux Cote Rotie

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Winemaker/owner Marius Gentaz owned a little under 2 hectares of vineyards in the Cote Rotie.  He told us his family traced their roots in Cote Rotie back to the 1700’s.

He produced his wines under the Gentaz Dervieux which (also included parcels he got from the Dervieux Thaler family).

I had the good fortune to visit Marius Gentaz (with Richard Field) in the early 90’s where we actually tasted both the 1989 (out of bottle) & barrel samples of this very 1990!

Because he spoke virtually no English, Marius drew us a picture showing us his parcels in the Cote Brune & in La Landonne (2 of the 5 hillsides he sketched).

Both wines were produced mainly from 70 year old vines….50% “Maurves” Syrah (cuttings he had gotten from Hermitage) & 50% from a traditional selection (looser packed & smaller berries).  In both cases there was less than 1% Viognier blended in & both wines were aged in old oak.

The 1989 was sweet, ripe, seemingly higher glycerine, cassis-like concentration, yet focused & UN-heavy.  The nose was very floral, earthy, peppery, gamey, the mouth concentrated, tannic, yet elegant & majestic.

(On the same trip we were fortunate to find the 1989 at a Chinese restaurant in Paris, of all places.  The food was nothing like what we eat here in the islands, but we really didn’t care, because the wine was glorious.  Just glorious!  I, in fact, ended up purchasing the last 3 bottles they had & took them home with me).

The 1990 in contrast was full of violets, smoke, tar aromas, not as rich on the palate, by a long, long, floral finish.   It seemed the more classy of the 2 wines with lots of pedigree.

I have been fortunate to have tasted the 1990 twice in the past 12 months.  One bottle definitely still has the pedigree with lots of roasted chestnut, musk, pepper, sandalwood & forest floor aromas. Unfortunately the other was somewhat tired & dull.  The palate in both wines, however, was far better than the nose…..with all kinds of  nuances, breed, intrigue, complexities & a long finish.

I believe 1992 was Marius Gentaz’s last official vintage.  sadly, the end of an era.

Categories : Wine, Wines Revisted
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Aug
08

An Article from Midweek Magazine

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http://www.midweek.com/chuck-furuya/

Categories : Wine Thoughts
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Aug
07

1993 Noel Verset Cornas

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One of the world’s true winemaking icons is Noel Verset of Cornas.  His Cornas was a profound, eccentric red wine which truly was like NO other.

On this night we tried a 1993 magnum of the Verset Cornas.  It was a superb treat & a reminder of why he is so highly revered.

The wine displayed a roasted-ness with smells of smoke, andouille sausage, roasted green peppercorns, bay leaf, dry aged game with a tang one gets from fresh raspberries early in the season.  After 19 years in the bottle, this wine also was very harmonious with superb texture & balance.  The other thing which I have learned to re-appreciate is the youthful vigor still present in the core of this wine & how it still  impacts the palate.  There is not doubt…..I will definitely remember this wine for the rest of my life.

Sadly, Verset is today retired.  having no heirs willing to take over his domaine he sold his old vine Les Sabarottes parcel to August Clape & Vincent Paris.

Having visited Verset a couple of times, I had always assumed that the wildness & rusticity which his wines innately displayed was due in part to his old school winemaking & his rather humble, rustic winemaking “garage” with its earthen floor.

In 2009, however, during a visit to Clape & tasting through their various cuvees, we clearly recognized the Sabarottes one, as it has the same kind of character displayed in the Verset wine.  Then trekking up to the Cornas hillside & walking around with Olivier Clape, one could better understand the different parcels that Clape, Paris & Allemand use, which created a much better understanding of why their wines are so different.

Having said that however, there is really is only one Noel Verset.

Categories : Wine, Wines Revisted
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It is always a real treat to open an older Bandol from Domaine Tempier.  Tempier Bandol wines are really like no other.

I will always remember something I once read, which in my mind best describes Domaine Tempier & its wines– “if any wine can be said to have soul, it’s Tempier.”

In actuality, it has taken me a long time to understand & appreciate  these wild & rustic Mourvedre based red wines from Provence, France.

Patriarch Lucien Peyraud lobbied hard & for many years towards the “resurrection” of the Bandol appellation, which was finally granted AOC status in 1941.  He also championed the Mourvedre grape variety as the main foundation in producing true Bandol.

“…..the celebrity of Domaine Tempier also lies deep in the soils of Bandol. Variations of clay and limestone soils between the vineyards produce wines that are undeniably world class.”

Their two most famous single vineyard bottlings are La Migoua & La Tourtine.  Recently I found a piece which Kermit Lynch wrote back in the early 80’s, which  will hopefully shed some light on their differences, just as it did for me.

La Migoua is a wild site with vines planted irregularly here & there upon rugged mountainous terrain.  The air is scented with pine, wildflower, rosemary, thyme & anise.  Amidst the rows of vines you still see cherry, olive & apricot trees, struggling leftovers from when the ancients covered the mountainside with orchards.  This aromatic feast gives the cuvee la Migoua its special character“.

A vineyard  must have been in Mother Nature’s mind when she designed this steep amphitheater-shaped hillside (La Tourtine) with its perfect south facing exposure to the path of the sun.  No one knows when man thought to tame it by unearthing the largest stones & arranging them into a series of walls up the hillside that would hold enough soil in place to permit cultivation.  Nowadays terraces are repaired, but the task of constructing new ones, stone by stone, is rarely undertaken, even at Cote Rotie.  La Tourtine is also special because here one finds some of the oldest Mourvedre vines at Bandol“.

On this night we tasted the 1994 “Cabassaou”.  I believe Cabassaou was first designated separately with the 1987 vintage & “is produced from “a small portion of their La Tourtine vineyard, which is their oldest vines

I was somewhat taken back by how “dumb” & tired the wine seemed in the nose.  However, with the first taste the wine just exploded on the palate.  WOW!…..with a profound, youthful vigor packed with all kinds of flavors, nuances & character which is solely that from Tempier–dry aged meat, musk, bay leaf, sandalwood, exotic spices & sun baked earth & more seemingly with each swirl.  It reminded us why we looked so forward to trying this wine in the first place…..& it was certainly as inspiring as we had hoped it would be.  With more & more air time, the nose started to open up & unfold its treasures, which was a reminder to us how wines can have quite the mood swings during its evolution in the bottle.  This particular bottle just needed to be vigorously splashed around a bit.

Yes….it was truly memorable.

Categories : Red, Wine
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Aug
04

A Tasting of 2004 Tuscan Red Wines

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It has taken me a long time to understand & fully appreciate the Sangiovese grape variety & what Tuscany has to offer.  There is & has been no doubt that there are many truly superb wines coming out of the region & this grape variety.  I just question whether they have the level of nobility (in comparison to Nebbiolo for instance), especially at the price point the top echelon wines are asking for.  Furthermore, since Sangiovese is one to “take a back seat” in blends with Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah & whose nuances are easily masked by the over use of French oak, I felt too many of the early on Super-Tuscans overpowered the Tuscan-ness of the respective wines.  Fortunately now, however, there are more & more winemakers/wine consultants who are swinging the pendulum back & skillfully incorporating modern technology in the vineyards & in the winery & are therefore today thankfully making better & better ITALIAN red wines.  Furthermore, the use of French oak, I have found can be quite strong for the surprisingly precocious Sangiovese grape, even though it is needed to frame the wine for long term consumption.  Interestingly, in some cases, the resulting wines need years to resolve the wine’s oakiness to the point where the grape & the terroir wonderfully re-appear & step forward.  In tonight’s tasting we taste 4 top notch Tuscans…..from the 2004 vintage (& therefore 8 years of bottle age) to see it first hand.  Another aspect to to this tasting one might find interesting is that the first wine is produced mainly from the Sangioveto clone of Sangiovese…..the 2nd wine from the Prugnolo Gentile clone of Sangiovese…..the 3rd wine from the Brunello clone of Sangiovese….& the 4th wine from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon & 30% Sangiovese. Yes….just another opportunity to learn.   

 

2004 Castello di Rampolla Chianti Classico

the estate vineyard is in southern Tuscany near Panzano, 900 to 1200 feet elevation, calcareous-marl-clay soils facing south, southeast & southwest. The blend—95% Sangioveto & 5% other grapes, 16 months in Slavonian oak & 4 months in bottle before release.  The wine on this night was very pretty, classy, highly refined & wonderfully harmonious. 

 

2004 Poliziano Nobile di Montepulciano “Asinone”

the highly revered Asinone vineyard is 1000 feet elevation in Montepulciano with soft clay soils & this single vineyard wine is produced only in certain vintages.  The 2004 is mainly Prugnolo Gentile with a little Colorino & Merlot…18 months in French oak, 12 months in bottle before release.  On this night, the wine had lovely, lovely perfume, mesmerizing & wonderfully nuanced with pedigree.  We referred to this wine as the “Queen of Tuscany”.

2004 Brizio Brunello di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello) grown in limestone soils with fossil fragments.  The wine is aged in 300 liter French Allier & then 12 months in bottle.  Definitely much more masculine & intensely structured with lots of bravado.  Unfortunately it actually was surprisingly unyielding & shut down & definitely needs some time to resolve itself. 

2004 Querciabella “Camartina”

the Querciabella estate vineyard is a spectacular “crown” at roughly 1400 feet elevation above Greve.  The soils is so rocky, even the weeds have a hard time & has been organically farmed since 1988 & biodynamic since 2000.  The 2004 is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% Sangiovese, 24 months in French oak, 40% new, 60% 1 year old barrels.  The intent in featuring this French oak-ed, high percentage Cabernet based wine was to show tasters it is possible to produce a Super Tuscan, which still tastes Italian!  In this case it REALLY is starting to show its magic, pedigree & sophistication after 8 years of bottle age.  

 

Categories : Red, Wine
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Aug
02

Beaujolais

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Someone asked the other day what type of wine do I feel deserves more attention than it is getting.  There are actually many, but for this unusually warm Summer, I answered Beaujolais.

Historically Beaujolais is a much maligned wine, one a friend once categorized as an “Ugly Duckling”.

At least part of the issue is sadly “fruity” wines are not in fashion.

I have often wondered why?  Fruity after all can be cooling, refreshing, uplifting and delicious. Apples, pineapples, papaya & tomatoes, for example, are fruity and a lot of people enjoy each on a regular basis.  Imagine on a hot day biting into a cold apple or pineapple.  How refreshing would that be?  Then why not a fruity wine?

To me, fresh, exuberantly fruity, remarkably light & delicious Beaujolais is one of the world’s quintessential warm weather sipping wines, especially if it is served slightly chilled.

Furthermore, the really good ones are also amazingly food friendly and with a wide array of foods.

A really good example is the Thanksgiving turkey.  How many people enjoy their turkey with cranberry?  I certainly do.  Creating this combination was a stroke of genius.  Next time try a Beaujolais with your turkey.  This is also a really good combination for similar reasons.

There really is a food type, time, mood, or occasion to enjoy a Gamay Noir (the grape variety used to produce French Beaujolais), just as there is an opportunity to enjoy a Cabernet, Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir.

Why compare, why not appreciate their differences, just as at home, I appreciate my son for who he is and my daughter for who she is. Each of these grape varieties have VERY different characteristics and should just be enjoyed accordingly.

We really should assess a Beaujolais, a Napa Valley Cabernet and an Australian Chardonnay using different criteria.

For example I evaluate Beaujolais based upon its delicious-ness, food friendliness and gulp-ability.  These are the attributes of Beaujolais I adore.  Based upon this criteria there are at least ten 100 point Beaujolais currently available in HawaiiI I could readily recommend to you!

Last night for example, we tasted the newly arrived 2008 Celebration Beaujolais Villages from the Evening Land wine group.  This wine is remarkably light, delicious and wonderfully refreshing.  Produced from old vines, under the watchful eyes of French star winemakers Christophe Vial & Dominique Lafon, this is the very style of wine regional vignerons serve at their dinner table.

A similarly naturally made, stellar Beaujolais worth checking out is from Domaine Dupeuble.  Produced from 50 year old vines, organically farmed and bottled unfiltered and unfined, this is a Domaine whose Beaujolais we wait for every year.  You will be amazed at how delicious AND how food friendly this wine really is.

Categories : Wine, Wine Thoughts
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