Archive for Red
We had a wonderful opportunity to sample some Bordeaux wines which had some bottle age recently. As always, we are thankful to all who brought them & shared.
This has been a property, which for me over the years, has been hard to predict what you will get in terms of true quality for the dollar. Being a Second Growth, when they hit the nail on the head, the resulting wine can be unforgettable (1959 & 1961 were like that). However, there are many other years, where the dollars warranted by its Second Growth status seems to be over priced. Still, there is a reason why this property garnered a Second Growth status. One can smell it in the wine, even in this fully matured 1981. Yes, it is very light, approachable AND VERY mature (perhaps pre-maturely aged), but the nose had the pedigree, intricacy & character, albeit a bit washed out & therefore vague. A pretty wine nonetheless.
This wine sure got a lot of hype upon its release & ending up with a 97 point score from 1 publication & 95 from the other. Today, this wine still shows a lot of stuffing, ripe fruit & structure, which has been surprisingly slow to evolve, considering it is now 15 years old. Some would say this is a vin de climat, as it certainly benefited from a generous amount of sunshine & it will have a lot to say once it really opens up again. I just hope that as opulent, lavish & intense the stuffing of this wine is, the terroir & Second Growth qualities are too.
What a huge contrast in comparison to the 2000 Leoville Barton, we tasted just before it. Graphite, pencil lead, camphor, tobacco, cedar–lots of classic Pauillac character AND more masculine then the Leoville. This wine, too, has depth intensity & structure for much longer cellaring. It actually made me appreciate the 2000 Leoville Barton even more.
This was a very eye catching wine, probably because it was much more open & strutting its stuff. The fruit is ripe, dense, classy, provocative with lots of finesse, elegance & class. My wife added the words….absolutely delicious. VERY impressive, to say the least!
This wine brings back so many wonderful memories, as it was one of the first Grand wines I had ever experienced. I was absolutely floored by this wine on first taste. It was immense, incredibly intense, masculine, powerful & grand. This was a monument! & built to last. Black & murky. Although I adored the ’70 Lafite’s incredible perfume, ’70 Palmer’s class & the innate grandeur of the ’70 Petrus, the 1970 Latour was for me the wine of the vintage in Bordeaux. Furthermore, I have been fortunate to have it over the years since & therefore is one of those I have watched it evolve through various stages. I was very apprehensive to try the 1970 today. I had put this wine on a pedestal, so how could any wine live up to such high expectations. Yes….it did. I loved the maturity….still with grandeur, sophistication….a classic……timeless. Thank you,. thank you, thank you. Michael also graciously opened a 1982, which sadly was corked. The wine’s wonderful ripeness & amazing depth, however, clearly showed this wine has a VERY long way to go.
Chateau Cos d’Estournel
For Carl’s birthday, a bunch of friends showed up, armed with a whole slew of venerable wines from Champagne to solera Montilla to the evening’s piece de resistance–a vertical of Chateau Cos d’ Estournel.
……1973…1983…2 x 1985….1988…1989….1990….1995….1996….1997….1998….1999…2000.
What a golden opportunity! Thank you all for sharing. The highlights? The second bottle of 1985–much fresher with a solid core & great structure. 1990–really quite closed, but it certainly has all of the right stuff. 1995–again, another wine really quite closed, but one to watch out for. 1996–along with the 1985, probably showed the best on the night. But, who’s choosing? The overall experience was really amazing!
Yes, we have been tasting quite a slew of aged wines lately. Thank you to all who come by to share!
Although quite modern in style, I find Elio Altare’s Barolo wines are much more elegant & refined than those from other contemporaries such as Paolo Scavino or Domenico Clerico & certainly Angelo Gaja & some tasters (even knowledgeable/experienced ones) may be underwhelmed at first because of Altare’s style. This 1998 was quite a stylish, classy, highly refined, majestic red with superb elegance & balance. Having said that, I would also say the pedigree of this bottling was surprisingly muted, even after considerable time of being open. Let it sit in your cellar. I really think with 25 or so more years, this will be a glorious, wonderfully perfumed aristocrat, which tasters will wish they had put away more bottles.
I remember being wow-ed when the 1998 was released, but its immensity, sun drenched depth & prolific structure & tannins. Yes, it was a monster. It’s really nice to see now, however, the breed & stoniness of the La Crau vineyard making its way back to the forefront, both in the nose & the taste & all of the parts are starting to resolve & harmonize. Make no mistake, this is an infant with quite a ways to go, but one can get a better feel for where it is headed.
There is no doubt that Alvaro Palacios is one of Spain’s true game changers in the wine arena. His is a fascinating story, as he left his family’s domaine in Rioja to first study abroad, including an eye opening, imagination stirring stint with Christian Mouiex at Chateau Petrus, before founding his own winery in Priorat, Spain. Although his first major acquisition was Finca Dofi in 1990, it really was the later acquisition of L’Ermita, a higly revered, steep, northfacing 4 acre parcel of well drained schist soils, which would position him to shoot for the stars. L’Ermita (planted in 1900 to 1940) is not only one of Spain’s most iconic superstar wines, its meteoric rating, accolades & considerable pricing would create, along with Pingus, a whole new niche for wines in his country, similar to what Sassicaia & Angelo Gaja had done in Italy. And, like what Sassicaia has done for Bolgheri & the Tuscan coast, L’Ermita (& Pingus) has inspired a boom of vineyard & winery growth in the Priorat appellation. I must say, however, I think it is too early to make a true qualitative call on this phenomenon & specifically L’ Ermita, given that 1993, or so I was told, was the first vintage. My quandry? Although the winemaking is top notch, I wonder if that is what the hoopla is more about. Granted, L’Ermita is mainly old vine Grenache with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon & perhaps Carignane blended in, BUT I don’t seem to get the depth of character, vinosity or breed of other red wines in this upper echelon. Since I have such limited experience tasting L’Ermita, having had only the 1995, 1998, 2001 (3 times) & this 1999 (4 times), I guess only time will tell.
Again, one of our goals for 2014 is feature more & more good wines……those which others can be compared to. This will help, tasters create a solid base to work from as their tasting adventures continue. It is not as easy as one would think. Here are 4 standouts from the superb 2007 vintage! Yes, just another really good opportunity to learn! Wines like this just don’t happen along!
Back in the late 80’s, 9 artisan producers from Beaujolais caught my eye. Please keep in mind, this was still a time when Beaujolais wine was not taken seriously. I find it truly remarkable that despite the fact that many years have passed, & I have tasted & found so many new wines, from all parts of the world, my list of tasty, interesting, artisan Beaujolais has NOT changed! This is one of those standouts…….from the Cru village of Fleurie. Now 7 years old, the wine has evolved in the bottle & offers us new dimension, which has emerged with age. A must to try!!!!
Albino Rocca has been one of our all time favorite Barbaresco producers. We, in fact, visited him in 2007, walked his vineyard with him & tasted some of his “library” wines to get a better idea of how special his vineyard, Brich Ronchi is & how truly talented Angelo was as a winemaker. It was one real eye opening visit, believe me. We were subsequently very saddened to hear of his untimely passing. We taste his benchmark 2007 on this night as a tribute to his incredible winemaking gift & his fierce passion for his craft.
There is no doubt, Meo Camuzet is one of the iconic, contemporary producers of Burgundy’s modern era. Here is your chance to taste one of his Premier Cru wines from the 2007 vintage. One really needs to be patient with this wine. It really does need some time.
When you see this panoramic, truly breathtaking vineyard you will be awe struck. There are very few majestic, magnificent sites like this in the wine world. Thankfully, the resulting wines are equally majestic & breathtaking. There is a reason why Theo Haart was selected as “2007 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & here is your chance to see why.
Again, one of our goals for 2014 is feature more & more good wines……those which others can be compared to. This will help, tasters create a solid base to work from as their tasting adventures continue. It is not as easy as one would think. Here are 4 standouts from the Mediterranean basin. These are some of the most interesting & provocative rustic reds we have run across. I think soulful is a really good word to use here. If you want to better understand what we mean when we say soulful, then you should come & try these wines. Yes, just another really good opportunity to learn! Wines like this just don’t happen along!
Corsica’s star is rising on the American wine scene. Sommeliers & wine professionals across the country are jumping onto the Corsican bandwagon on the fast track. The rugged & very remote countryside produces some equally rugged, masculine red wines, of which the very finest are crafted from indigenous grape varieties. Certainly leading the charge is Abbatucci. Genius!!!! AND, a true champion of tradition & authenticity—in their wines & especially their environment.. Here is their Ajaccio (southwestern Corsica) which is produced from the Sciaccarellu & Niellucciu grape varieties, which are biodynamically farmed. A must to try!!!!
2007 D’Aupilhac “Le Carignan”
The family has been working this special tract in Montpeyroux down in southern France since the 1800’s, although the vineyard itself dates back to Roman times. (The Romans were true experts on where to plant their vines!) The neighbors across the way include Daumas Gassac & Grange des Peres (talk about an unreal neighborhood!!!). The ancient Carignane vines were planted on severe terraced hillsides with all kinds of crazy, extreme soils, which, at least partially, explains the completely wild & rustic character of this standout French “country” red. You never had something like this before!
2008 Guido Porro Barolo “Santa Caterina”
Here is our chance to show tasters a Barolo as it was made BEFORE roto fermenters & all of the other modern technology which is used to make modern/contemporary renditions. Yes, this is a winery who is dedicated to traditional methods both in the vineyards & in the cellar. The Caterina monopole vineyard is located at roughly 1200 feet elevation in the limestone heavy soils of Serralunga d’Alba. The region is most noted for producing long lived, full bodied Barolo. I therefore smile that the Porro version is much more elegant & refined, yet masculine, traditional & truly authentic in its core!!!!
2008 Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”
Tempier has to be the most storybook wine of all. Their wines & estate is iconic, steeped in tradition, history & regional culture. It is hard for me to separate the wine from the family & its history. There is really nothing else like Domaine Tempier. The La Tourtine bottling usually is dominately Mourvedre, with some Grenache & Cinsault for finer details. I find the resulting wine has wonderful structure, more refinement & needs bottle age to really strut its stuff. Here is your chance to taste one of their treasures yourself & experience the magic of Domaine Tempier & its wines.
When I was growing up in this industry, I was taught there was only 5 nobble grape varieties—Chardonnay & Riesling for whites AND Syrah, Cabernet/Merlot & Pinot Noir for reds. That was the inspiration for this tasting. 3 “noble” reds….each epitomizing “classical” & each being a standout for their appellation. Yes, these are benchmarks for others to be measured by….another set of stellar example of what “good” wines can be. Just another really good opportunity to learn!
“Along the steep, narrow valley that traces the northern Rhône, the appellation of Saint-Joseph takes its place among the great wines of France, and Domaine Faury is one of the region’s most artisanal producers. The steep slopes of the northern Rhône present a challenging terrain where farming is only feasible through terracing. On these terraced slopes, the Faurys’ vines take full advantage of the southern and southeastern sun exposure, benefitting from optimum ripening. A combination of the predominately granitic soil, partial de-stemming (in about 70% of the grapes), soft crushing of the grapes with a pneumatic press, and temperature controlled fermentation offer a liveliness and freshness that one does not often find in wines from the northern Rhône. There’s a real attention to detail here, and nothing is done in haste. Every method used encourages the grape towards greatness with the ultimate respect for its fragility. Pigeage, the punching of the cap, is not carried out with tools, but gently by foot – not just poetic but also pragmatic. Unlike many other vignerons in the region, the Faurys have a strong aversion to new oak. Though the reds definitely see time in barrels, there is a rotation between new and old alike, along with a variety of sizes, ranging from the smaller barriques to the larger 600-liter demi-muids. Unfined and only lightly filtered before bottling, these wines are loaded with classic flavors and show a remarkable rustic elegance”. Classic, wonderfully captivating northern Rhone Valley Syrah–explosive, expressive Syrah perfume (of hillside grown….NOT just tooty fruity, varietally correct)….masculine, sultry, musky, floral, peppery, gamey….done without a heavy hand. Gorgeous is a good word here.
2000 Chateau Gombaude Guillot “Pomerol”
In the heart of the Pomerol plateau, on the Right Bank of Bordeaux, are the vineyards of Château Gombaude-Guillot Though the estate is already certified organic, they are now pursuing the more stringent requirements of biodynamics. As a recently discovered jewel in the crown of Bordeaux, Pomerol does not have an official classification system, yet the standards set for the vignerons here are high. The château’s vineyards are comprised of glacial gravel deposits and clay, and vineyard work is focused around soil health, low yields, and maximizing ripeness. Cover crops are planted between vineyard rows to encourage microbiological activity in the soil. No chemical or synthetic herbicides or fungicides are used, and Claire, the current proprietor, is also careful not to eliminate vineyard pests entirely, citing their importance to the vineyard’s ecosystem. The vines average forty years of age and give naturally low yields. The wines of Gombaude-Guillot are classic reflections of Pomerol: rich and supple, with a deep gravel mineral structure. This vin de garde has all of the grace and finesse for which the appellation is known, without any of the highbrow pretention or price. The legendary 2000 is 85% Merlot & 15% Cabernet Franc aged in Allier oak (50% new). This 2000, eventhough from a highly lauded, ripe vintage, is done more in a style I grew up with. NO fruit bombs here! Yes, this wine is certainly more about the soil than about grape variety, winemaking or oak use. I really appreciate its finesse & more classical, sublime soil driven intricacies.
Domaine Maume’s wines are deep, profound Pinot Noir experiences. They are wines of mystery – constantly changing and evolving, both in barrel and in bottle, like the Burgundies of the past. They are bottled from barrel by gravity without any pumping, fining or filtration. The secret to Maume’s success is his rigid adherence to selection massale cuttings in his replanting of the family’s vineyards. By isolating vines with the healthiest grapes, they replant only the best. Most of their vines are quite old, too, averaging 50 years of age across all parcels. Maume does not believe in using new clones but is a strong believer in the diversity of old Pinot stock. Maume’s “En Pallud” is a particularly well-suited lieu-dit just south of the village on the slope, below the premier cru Les Corbeaux and at the same elevation and exposure as the grand crus. The Maumes have a sizeable parcel here of 65 year-old vines, produced in 2007 with NO stems & only a tiny bit of new oak. A great bottle from Maume takes you about as deep into the Burgundian soul as you can get. I was saddened to hear that this domaine recently sold to a larger company.
The other night, our friend, Dr Chris, surprised us all by bringing in a selection of some interesting wines from the Isle of Corsica. As VINO regulars well know, I have a real hankering for Corsica, as I have wanted to visit there for well over 25 years, ever since I tasted my first glass of Luigi Clos Nicrosi. The wine had such interesting flavors, viscosity & unique character. I am sad the wine is no longer produced. Well, the importer, Kermit Lynch, has uncovered several other interesting producers over the past few years & is now importing them into the U.S.. Thank you Chris for a wonderful tasting AND including the map, pictured to the right, which gave everyone a better picture of where each of the wines come from.
Michel Angeli is the man behind this winery, which is located in Cap Corse at the northern tip of the Island. As the map will show you, this region actually looks like a finger pointing north. The soil is mainly schist-clay & Michel had first planted Vermentinu & Codivarta & later Niellucciu (he got from Patrimonio) & Aleatico he got from Elba. 1952 was his first harvest. This particular bottling is typically around 50% Niellucciu, 25% each of Aleatico & Merlot, which he ferments in 100% stainless steel. Yes, it is rustic in smell & taste, is quite masculine in character, but flows on the palate surprisingly well from beginning to end. Merlot makes a surprising appearance, given Michel’s appreciation of native grape varieties, but as expected, it really seems to round out the edges in this case. (By the way, we have also purchased some of his rare Rappu wine, which is Aleatico, dried out on straw mats for 10 days, pressed, fermented in concrete (a touch of residual sugar, 16% alcohol) & then aged in old oak barrels for 7 years.
2011 Canarelli “Corse Figari”
Canarelli comes from the southern tip of Corsica. The vineyards lie inland from the sea, along a plateau, on granitic-alluvial soils rich in minerals & is both organically & biodynamically farmed. The climate is greatly moderated by the winds gusting off the Gulf of Figari. The 2011 Rouge is 80% Niellucciu, 15% Syrah & 5% Sciaccarellu, 100% destemmed & aged in large foudres for 14 to 18 months. One could readily detect the Syrah in the nose & taste. Eventhough people say this is a rustic style, I think it would be an easier wean into Corsican red wines for the Californian palate than any of the other reds we tasted on this night. (On another note, they also have indigenous grape varieties such as Carcahjolu Nera, Biancu Gentile, Paga Debiti, Barbarosa & Minustellu planted & featured in some of their other bottlings).
Yves left his family domaine to create his own, which specialized in a single terroir–“E Croce” E Croce faces the Gulf of St Florent & features a chalky soil, which lies upon a thick bedrock of pure schist. This is essentially another 1 man show. This bottling is 90% Niellucciu & 10% Grenache, which was fermented in stainless steel & aged for 12 months before release. One could detect on first smell & taste there is some Grenache in the blend. (We tasted the wines with NO knowledge of the soils the vines grew in nor the grape varieties used). Leccia’s wines are more refined, elegant & quite classy. They are really a pleasure to drink.
Antoine Arena Patrimonio
Arena is certainly one of the most revered producers of the Island. His vineyards are located in the Patrimonio appellation. Within Patrimonio he organically farms several parcels. Carco (2 hectares, planted in 1987) is mainly Niellucciu in chalky-clay-limestone soils. Morta Maio (2 hectares, planted in 2001) on clay-limestone soils. Of the 3 tasted on this night, I much preferred the 2010 Carco, which had a complete-ness, balance & soul. This wine surprised me, as I usually find Arena wines too much for my palate. Yes, it was rustic, perhaps too much so for many tasters, but it really had something to say, in a VERY unique way.
Although, this wine was NOT tasted on this night (mainly because we have not been able to get for the past couple of vintages), I just have to mention it here, because it is so damn good! I remember Kermit Lynch once saying–“Drinking her rose is like drinking a cloud. There is an absolute weightlessness to it. Nothing is left on the palate but perfume“. Marquiliani is located on the island’s eastern coast (Costa Serena)….in the village of Aghione, high altitude, & therefore, cooler nights. The terraced vineyards are a mix of schist, granite & gravel with silt. The rose is typically 90% Sciaccarellu & 10% Syrah, direct pressed, fermented in stainless steel with NO malolactic.
- Our friend, Bruce “Big Red” Liebert, has been patiently waiting for us to do another Big Red tasting. Yes, limestone & minerality can be nice,
- pretty & ethereal, BUT can we just get some wines with substance & guts please? Here is that tasting….masculine, rustic red wines from California–
- 3 standouts (& 1 added by a participant just for fun). Each are grown in marine soils (sand, limestone or siliceous clay). One can get BIG, extracted, full flavored red wines without heaviness…..
- which will shed a different perspective for this evening’s tasters. Yes, just another really good opportunity to learn!
- 2009 Freakshow Petite Sirah “Heretic”
- A big, BLACK (as shoe polish), brooding, masculine beast from the winemaking genius
- of Christian Tietje & some interesting Paso Robles grapes.
- 2006 R Wines “Amazed”
- The grapes come from vines which, today, are 140 years old….so back in 2006, they were younger….only 132 years old–
- Carignane & Mourvedre. The soils is has lots of sand to it, which is why these vines are also own rooted.
- “Amazed” was crafted by superstar Australian winemaker Chris Ringland. I wonder if any winemaker has garnered more
- 99 & 100 point wines (according to the Wine Advocate) than Ringland. His are decadent, lavish, deeply flavored red wines.
- This is an interesting, unique combination of character, vinosity & viscosity. Definitely one of a kind..
- 2010 Jonata “Todos”
- Jonata is another standout estate vineyard from the Central Coast of California which is “changing the game”. Owned & developed by Stan Kroenke (who also owns Screaming Eagle in the Napa Valley), the 586 estate is actually located in the Ballard Canyon, down in the Santa Barbara appellation. There are 84 acres planted on rolling hills, mostly comprised of careaga sandstone. We were fortunate to see & walk the vineyard just before they released their first wine (2004 vintage) with winemaker Matt Dees. We just knew they would hit it…..AND boy have they hit it! The 2010 Todos is a wine of the vineyard….& is therefore a blend of many grapes–78% Syrah, 8% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Viognier, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petite Verdot, 1% Sauvignon Blanc & 1% Semillon, aged in French oak, 50% new.
- 2011 Saxum “Booker Vineyard”
- Here is your chance to taste a Saxum wine! Yes, it is one of the hardest red wines to get out of California.
- It is a lucky thing, we were at the door, before they bottled or released their first wine. Interestingly, Cheryle,
- Mike & I tasted this 2011, just before it was to be bottled, along with their other bottlings. For me, his 2011’s are
- some of the very best I’ve had from them. I love how gorgeous & long they are. The Booker Vineyard seemed
- the darkest, the most mysterious/provocative that day, maybe because the blend is 67% Syrah & 33% Mourvedre.
Syrah is undoubtedly one of the true “noble” grape varieties of the world & has been for a long, long time. Unfortunately, Syrah is not in fashion right now & I am not sure exactly why. I, in fact, wish I had a dollar for every time a wine professional/wine buyer/server has told me in the past 5 years, how Syrah based wines, (especially New World versions) do not sell so well for them. I would be rich!
I am saddened to hear of this plight.
Well grown & crafted Syrah deserves a niche in the wine world. Not only does this grape variety have world class potential, it also can fill the big puka between Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of weight, drama & profoundness. The very best can have intricacy, pedigree, UN-heaviness & texture a notch or 2 away from Pinot Noir, with the depth, masculinity & regality a notch or 2 away from Cabernet Sauvignon. Syrah can be an ideal “tweener”.
Here are 3 examples which reminded me of this thought.
The Ogier family had been farming their vineyards & selling off to their grapes for many years (more recently to prominent producers such as Chapoutier & Guigal), until 1987 when they decided to grow & produce their own wine under their own label. At that time, they owned roughly 6 acres in Cote Rotie. Son, Stephane, started working alongside his father in 1998 & took over the domaine in 2000. Where previously, the winemaking was much more traditional with NO stems & NO new oak, Stephane changed his style to 100% Syrah, 80% de-stalked, 3 to 4 week stainless steel fermentation & 18 month barrel aging (30% new). In addition to their Cote Rotie, Ogier also began producing special bottlings–Embruns (2001) from purchased fruit & 50% new barrels; Lancement “Terroir de Blonde” & Belle Helene (a cask selection from their Cote Rozier parcel–30 months in 100% new oak). This is a producer of northern Rhone Valley Syrah well worth checking out. This 2001 Cote Rotie (13 years old), for example, was elegant, classy, refined, masculine, majestic with a surprising velvety texture. It had a gamey, rustic core with garrigue character & a sandalwood edge. I can imagine all kinds of meats & rustic meat preparations which one can have a field day with!
Noel Verset, for me, was one of the iconic stalwarths of the tiny Cornas appellation, who not only helped define an appellation, but shed a very different light on what the Syrah grape variety could be. His vines were old, his highly revered Sabarottes parcel yielded grapes like no other on the hillside & his winemaking was very traditional. I have to say, the resulting wines were truly one of a kind. They had a wild-ness–green & black peppercorns, true andouille sausage, raw meat, lots of red fruit, crushed rocks, garrigue with lots of herbal notes. His was a small winery, perhaps 800 case production in any given year. Rumors started circulating around the 2000 vintage, that he was retiring. (He even mentioned his thoughts on retirement on a visit I made in 1991). Subsequent vintages would pop up every now & then–I saw a smidgeon fo the 2003 & a tiny bit of 2006….& then quiet. It was the end of an era. Yes, there are other Cornas (Thierry Allemand & August Clape) which deftly carry on the appellation on the world class stage, BUT there was only 1 Noel Verset. I was completely enthralled with the 1995. It was quintessential Verset Cornas–wildly rustic, rock, peppercorns, wild herbs, with the rank smells of real French andouille sausage. It really sang out & was a thrill to savor.
For many, the Chave Hermitage is the pinnacle of northern Rhone Syrah. The family has been growing grapes & making wines on Hermitage hill since 1481. The vines today are organically & biodynamically farmed. “Every year, we start from zero in assembling the wine.” The core & backbone comes from the Bessards parcel, their largest parcel, located furthest west. Tasting out of barrel once with Gerard Chave, I found the Bessards to have a smokiness, a strong minerality with a certain elegance, velvety middle & lots of tannins in the finish. His parcels have very old vines. I found Le Meal was also smokey, but had distinct floral (violets, jasmine), ripe, jammy black cherry, green olive, spice & pepper with more of a middle, a riper, higher glycerine mouthfeel. Rocoules was fresher fruit, yet not as showy, with licorice, smoke, cassis, green notes & much more tannic. Peleat–more acid/structure with green olive, smoke & even an apple nuance. Diognieres had ripe cherries, jammy, bordering cassis like qualities with a funky/earthy edge. Baume–licorice, cherry, more austere, structured & refinement. L’Ermite–smokey, earthy, barnyard funk, green peppercrons, jammy–the most outgoing right out of the gates. The Chaves are master blenders, using all of the pieces to create a complete Hermitage–or as I used to say about the old Barolo masters—create an orchestra sound rather than just the horn section. Chave is the best at that! and HAS BEEN SINCE 1481!
Some interesting Mediterranean RED wines were opened & shared by the gang on this night. They also made sense for the kinds of foods we do in VINO.
Chapoutier owns 79 acres of prized parcels on Hermitage hill. That is a sizable chunk, to say the least. The core of their Sizeranne bottling comes from Les Bessards & its predominately granitic soils. There is also some Le Meal (old alluvial terraces with gravel & some calcareous) & some Les Greffieux (silt with shingles at the foot of the hill). The grapes are de-stemmed, fermented in concrete & aged in casks for 12 to 14 months. This 1989 was wonderfully aged–a peach/nectarine aroma with red & black fruit, dried flowers/hawthorne, forest floor, leather, peppercorns, camphor, sandalwood….very refined, classy & sophisticated. The various components were very much in harmony & this proved to be a fabulous drink.
I first visited Rostaing, I believe in 1991. Having visited his uncle Marius Gentaz just prior, I was really taken back at first with Rene’s VERY modern looking winery, especially when one compares this to the cellars of Gentaz Dervieux, Clape, Chave, Noel Verset I had visited earlier. In addition to the building itself, I was also quite surprised to see so many NEW barriques in use down in the barrel room. Interestingly, I did taste this very wine on that visit. My notes–“smokey (ash tray like), tarry, PEPPERY, black fruit, cassis, blackberry, tremendous concentration, high glycerine, lots of wood tannins, some caramel in the finish“. Since I did put any stars by the wine, I am not sure that I didn’t like it that much back then. Well, the wine has changed considerably since then. Everything is well integrated, though one could still smell & taste the considerable amount of new oak used in its production. It was, however, stylish, well polished & very well balanced. Typically Rostaing blends in fruit (95% Syrah & 5% Viognier) from 13 different lieu dits (schist, mica & silex soils)…partial de-stemming,..& aged in 228 liter barrels with a big chunk being new (in 1989). I went back to see Rene a couple of years ago. Because it was in the middle of harvest , we did not get to chat so much this go around & tasted but a few wines. I like his wines much better now. I did notice he has a roto fermentor now & also uses demi-muids in addition to the 228l barriques.
The Ceretto brothers sure shook the bushes in their neck of the woods, especially keen at marketing. When I first visited them in the early 80’s, their newly built winery looked like a modern Californian. The staple of their Nebbiolo was their Zonchera Barolo bottling (produced from a core of Zonchetta of La Morra, just under Brunate, which they discontinued with the 2010 vintage) & their Asili Barbaresco (which they discontinued with the 2011). The 1988 Zonchera was still alive in the core, just lean & refined. It is a pretty wine, but I would have probably liked several years younger, when it still had more flesh to the bones. OR, maybe it just got dwarfed by all of the other standout wines tasted on this night. I am still very thankful at having tasted it.
Now, here was a very interesting wine! Elisabetta Foradori is the master of the Teroldego grape variety. Her biodynamically farmed vineyards (of massale selections) are located in the Campo Retaliano valley. Some say, Teroldego is genetically related to the Syrah grape variety. I am not sure if that is true, but it certainly can make for complex, deeply flavored & colored, compelling wines, that’s for sure. Granato is all estate fruit & produced only in certain vintages & generally aged in OLD oak for 12 to 15 months. The 1999 was still VERY youthful at its core–sweet, black fruit, olives, herbs, earth, even chocolate & spice, while being well focused, hearty, masculine yet so cerebral, graceful & well balanced. This sure was a pleasure to experience.
Aldo Conterno was certainly regarded as one of Barolo’s iconic figures. He left his family’s domaine, Giacomo Conterno & founded his own in 1969 in Monforte d’Alba. His top holdings–Vigna Cicala, Romirasco & Colonello–are all top notch parcels within the Bussia Cru. His Granbussia bottling is a Riserva blend of all 3 parcels, produced only in great vintages which features much structure & depth of fruit. Grandbussia is released at least 7 years afterwards. Unlike his devout “traditionalist” brother Giovanni at Giacomo Conterno, Aldo adapted techniques from both the new as well as the old in pursuit of making better wine. He reduced, for example, the time on the skins, and vehemently believed in long maturation in large oak. This 1996 was stellar–classy, stylish, majestic & sophisticated. The perfume showed classic Barolo/Nebbiolo character, as did the palate, in a very refined, well balanced style. Yes, it can go on aging for a long time, but I loved how well it showed on this night with lots of vigor to its core.
3 epic, rustic red wines from the 2007 vintage (7 yars old)—2 from Italy & 1 from Spain. Each should really ring your bell. It is VERY important for us at VINO to continually feature top caliber wines from the Mediterranean basin. Yes, it is our passion….BUT….it makes sense with the kind of foods Chef Keith creates. How does the lay person sift through all of the labels & marketing jargon to better determine what to buy? Here are 3. Yes, just another opportunity to learn!
There are many top caliber Brunello di Montalcino. Ciacci Picolomini, however, standout because of their desire to make the wines in the vineyard & then showcase its purity in the finished wine. Although many producers may say that in their spiel, Ciacci Picolomini truly delivers it in the wine. Pianrosso is their top site—stony slopes near the Orcia river in the south-southwest corner of Montalcino. This majestic, 100% Brunello is fermented in stainless & concrete & aged for 36 months in 20 to 62 hectoliter Slavonian oak.
This is a very masculine, provocative style of Barolo from Alice Bel Colle in the Alto Monferrato area of Piemonte. Theirs is a contiguous 96 acres of hillside, east to southeast facing at 950 feet elevation. This wine was aged for 24 months in large Slavonian casks & old French oak barrels.
Clos Pissarra is a new standout wine project from Priorat, Spain, under the direction of Mater Sommelier Emanuel Komeiji. They excel at small batches of superstar wines, grown in the VERY steep, non-terraced hillsides of slate with virtually no top soil. La Vinyeta is their top bottling, 2.5 acres of 125 year old Carignane & Grenache. The yield in 2007 was a miniscule 1 ton, for the 2 ½ acres!!!!!!—2/5 of a ton per acre……50 cases worth..