Archive for Wines Revisted
Angelo Gaja certainly has been quite the controversial figure in his neck of the woods & for many reasons. Still, he certainly has brought Italian nebbiolo to the world-class stage (with a huge cross over potential for Cabernet & Bordeaux drinkers) AND set the pace for top echelon prices & therefore a completely new standard for quality. The wine media have, for the most part, enthusiastically jumped on to the fast moving Gaja train, which is reflected by the perennial big scores & high praise. One would have thought with such a high profile meteoric rise to superstardom, there would have been a hitch, stall, or some kind of decline along the way. No such thing. The Gaja Piemontese train seems to be running at full steam & these 3 wines showed why.
Gaja produced some interesting red wines in the 90’s. I was, however, apprehensive about how his showy, flambouyant style would do in a big, ripe vintage like 1997. I knew the press would certainly love the wines, I just wondered if I would. Furthermore, I had recently had the 1998 & found it to be quite closed down & a shame to have opened the bottle at this atge of its life. It is so intense with a massive structure & quite a tannic grip. The 1997 in comparison, although also quite closed, is decidedly riper, with much more lavish, opulent fruit (MUCH rounder) & darker base notes than the 1998. A very powerful, mega-concentrated red which, in this case, can be quite the cross over wine for avid Bordeaux & California Cabernet collectors. You will be thrilled with this one, that’s for sure!
“Gaja’s Conteisa, although the grapes are grown in the Barolo appellation, is classified as Langhe DOC due to the 8% Barbera that is added to the Nebbiolo. Much to the chagrin of the local cognoscenti, Angelo believes the Barbera addition adds acidity and freshness to the wine. He also firmly states that this is no indication of a trend towards making Super Piemonte wines and his relatively new approach is used only in vintages that merit the addition. The wine is named for the medieval ‘conteisa,’ or quarrel, between the zones of La Morra and Barolo over the prime vineyard land of Cerequio“. Quite a different take on Nebbiolo than what I had previously experienced through his Barbaresco–seemingly more masculine, muskier & leaner. I have not had many Conteisa, so cannot make any broader statements, but will say I don’t think this 1997, as resounding as it is, is of Grand Cru kind of quality, at least in its youth.
I liked this wine alot. I remember thinking upon release how tight fisted, seemingly lean & mouth puckering this wine was. It has really started to open up again, even in comparison to 5 years ago when I last had it. It is pretty, has enticing perfume, wonderful fruit, structure & balance, done with class & superb craftsmanship.
I remember, for instance, a group of us, back in the 1970’s tasting lots of German wines–Rauenthaler Baiken; Rauenthaler Gehren, Erbacher Marcobrunn, Steinberger & Bernkastler Doktor, just to name a few. Yes, these were some of the standout German vineyards of the time & tasting the 1971, 1975 & 1976 was truly awe inspiring. & me being the youngster I had to write down the names phonetically, so I could try to remember each & its pronounciation. Today, I wonder how many here in the Islands know what each of these names represent? It has, in fact, been a while since I have even seen a bottle of any of these locally.
Back then, I think many insiders would say each of the above sites could be considered Grand Cru, if there ever was such a thing in Germany.
I was also reminded how much the climate has changed since then. At least on the top echelon of producers, a Kabinett back then was VERY different from a Kabinett today in terms of weight, extract, physiological ripeness & potential alcohol. Part of this is due to the generous sunshine, but something can also be said about top producers looking to make much more impactful styles of wine. I just tasted, for instance, through a line-up of Kabinett from the 2012 & 2013 vintage. I was astounded to see that most of these were harvested somewhere around 90 to 93 degrees Oechsle, which in the old days would have been labeled as an auslese. For me, then, the window of suitable food pairings changes significantly. Not better or worse…..just different.
And what has happened to the Syrah grape variety? It seems to have fallen off in popularity. What a sad state of decline. Syrah was once at the top of the quality pyramid.
The Chave family, as an example, was & still is, one of the world’s all time iconic wine families, mostly because of their grand Syrah based Hermitage red wine. Yes, the family has been working their magic on this legendary hillside since the late 1400’s. We just tasted a 1987 tonight & it was truly majestic & full of pedigree. 6 nights ago, we tasted another standout Syrah based red wine, the 1996 Noel Verset Cornas, & it too was an unforgettable experience we will treasure forever. So, what’s up? Why aren’t more people getting it?
It probably has, at least partially, something to do with deliciousness. The same can be said about Italian Nebbiolo based red wines–Barolo, Barbaresco & Gattinara. I would have also readily have said the same kinds of things for St Emilion red wines several years back, but the garage-ists, Christine Mouiex & Michel Rolland has helped changed all of that, just as Angelo Gaja has done in Piemonte & Guigal has done with Cote Rotie.
Hopefully, Syrah based wines will not become an “endangered species” kind of thing, where wine lovers report rare sightings of the nearly extinct–rustic, typical, authentic wines of the world such as traditional styled Hermitage, Cote Rotie, Cornas, Barolo & Barbaresco, just to name a few. I am hoping we as an industry look to appreciate, celebrate & sell BOTH the traditional & more modern styles of each. In the field of music, after all, isn’t there a niche, appreciation & occasion for Bach, Mozart, Frank Sinatra & the Beatles still, in addition to the new tunes?
Lastly, we have also seen a whole generation of winemakers change……maybe even 2 generations. Who keeps track? Marius Gentaz, Gerard Chave, Wilhelm Haag, Noel Verset, Aldo Conterno, Giovanni Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello…the list goes on & on. The remembrance of a young boy creating a chalk drawing….& many years later…. 3 months before his passing…..scribbled his name below. This picture sits above our hostess stand at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas & I am reminded daily of those game changers who have brought us here.
Today, who will represent the new generation in the Hall of Fame?
2007 was a pretty good vintage for Pinot Noir up & down California. Even before any wines were actually released, several of the wine media were hyping the vintage as one of the best ever for Pinot. That was 8 years ago. We did this tasting to see how a few are doing today. Yes, just another opportunity to learn.
2007 Roessler Pinot Noir “Alder Springs Vineyard”–the founder, Roger Roessler, had a real fascination for Pinot Noir (& Chardonnay) & sourced fruit from some pretty interesting vineyards in his search for excellence. Alder Springs, for instance, is made up of rolling hills with many different sun exposures in the northern part of the Mendocino county near Laytonville. It is very remote & quite breathtaking in its scope. Owner Stu Bewley is a vineyard fanatic with all kinds of viticultural & farming techniques/experiments going on there. I also recall that Wells Gutherie at one point was helping Roessler produce the wines, all making for a very intriguing wine project, which insiders have kept an eye on for some years…..that is until Roger sold the project. I am not sure what to make of this 2007 today. It might have been in a dumb stage, as it was really dominated by oak nuances, even in the taste with the alcohol really poking out in the finish. We have 1 bottle left & will look to retaste again in the near future.
2007 Cobb Pinot Noir “Rice Spivak Vineyard”–the Cobb family own the highly revered Coastlands Vineyard. Son, Ross Cobb, has his own label & also made the wines at Hirsch Vineyard, after a stint working at Williams & Selyem. The roughly 6 acre Rice Spivak vineyard is a combination of Dijon clones & the Swan heritage selection, all planted in sandy loam/volcanic ash soils. Wild yeast fermented & the juice spent 17 months in French oak, 30% new. This is a very graceful, classy, suave style of Pinot & is showing really nicely right now, with harmony & wonderful balance.
2007 Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir “Ampelos Vineyard”–here was an opportunity to taste a BC Pinot with some age on it. Because they typically use a lot of stem inclusion, the resulting wines need some bottle age to resolve itself some….& this wine has finally started coming out of its shell. Yes, this is a surprisingly big, flambouyant Pinot, with the minerality definitely there in support, which by the way also helps with the wine’s buoyancy as well. Well worth checking out! Ampelos is a hillside vineyard on the eastern side of the Santa Rita Hills. The 2 acre parcel which BC works with is 828, planted in 2004.
2007 Scherrer Pinot Noir “Big Brother”–Fred Scherrer produced his first “Big Brother” Pinot Noir with the 1999 vintage. His next one was the 2006 & here we are with his 3rd. The fruit is mostly Dijon 777 grown near Annapolis out on the true Sonoma Coast. This very cool spot is why there is much structure & hutzpah in the wine. Amazingly, even though this wine is 8 years old, one wouldn’t even notice on first taste. This is a gorgeous, delicious, well balanced beauty with a long way still to go. Save your bottles for another day. You will be glad you did.
The pursuit of superb red Burgundy is such a challenge. It really is hard to imagine a more elusive, fickle grape variety than Pinot Noir, even those from its home turf in Burgundy.
In a recent discussion with a wine friend & whose palate I greatly admire, I was amazed at how he diligently spends so much time looking for flaws & imperfections in wine. Well, one would have such a hard time looking for pure perfection in wines, especially in Burgundy.
I, on the other hand, now look whether I enjoyed the wine or not, a little brettanomyces, or a huge dollop of oak or not, especially in Burgundy.
Which brings us to the 2 red Burgundies we recently tasted, which we enjoyed, flaws & all.
I don’t think the Burgundies of Domaine Maume were or are on too many top 10 lists. There are many possible reasons for that, but the fact is, I tend to enjoy their idiosyncratic, more rustic, old style approach to their Gevrey Chambertin based Pinot Noirs. I was amazed watching their wine ferment in underground cement tanks, unlike those in so many other luxury domaines. The wines have a musky masculinity & a deep, resounding stoniness woven throughout the wine which sets it apart. Maume has 2 Grand Cru parcels–1 in Mazis Chanbertin & the other in Charmes Chambertin. 2000 certainly had its challenges for many producers & their resulting wines, but I don’t care about that in this case. I enjoyed this wine. It was like seeing an old friend again. I was saddened to hear that this domaine sold a little while back, which made tasting this wine even more memorable. I am sure what once was, may be only a memory shortly. Change is inevitable at this domaine.
1998 was yet another vintage with its challenges. I remember once hearing a winemaker say “anyone can make a really good wine in great vintages. It’s those challenging vintages which really shows the true skill of a master“. This wine had wonderful perfume & pedigree…..& definitely Grand Cru in character. There is a lot happening in this bottle & one can understand why Leroy has such a huge reputation for their wines. The biggest challenge for me is the price tag, so I am most thankful for having the opportunity to even try this superstar cuvee.
1989 Emmanuel Rouget Vosne Romanee “Cros Parantoux”
One of the true iconic collectibles from Burgundy today! I have tried in vain to write something logical, coherent about this wine & still express something that is not expressible to me. So….instead, here are some excerpts fromto the rescue–
Our first winetasting of 2015! We begin the year with a trio of slightly aged French classics, produced in a style reminiscent of the old days. It is a homage & a remembrance of the way wines used to tasted or aspired to be like……Yes, PRE-fruit bombs, PRE-Robert Parker.
Again, it is a friendly reminder of estate grown wines, where the owners are vested in their land & their wines from the ground to the bottle.
Where, they look for heritage/heirloom vines rather than scientifically propagated material. Where they farm sustainable & therefore have a living vineyard.
Where, the winemaking is the way it used to be, much less scientific & much more about the way their ancestors taught them.
PLUS, because each wine has some bottle age, one can better experience what the vineyard wants to say. Yes, this definitely a different kind of tasting……at least for these times.
Just, another opportunity to learn!
Their best parcel—1 hecatare, a limestone hilltop of 50+ year old vines, organically & biodynamically farmed. This is Bourgueil, NOT a Bordeaux or Californian wannabee & the Cabernet Franc therefore manifests itself very differently. NO bigness or showmanship. Wildly rustic character with refinement, etherealness & structure throughout. We tend to think wines of an appellation, like Bourgueil, to all be representative of the appellation. While that is a noble thought & while many producers certainly try, it just doesn’t end up that way. Bourgueil is located in France’s Loire Valley & over the centuries, I am sure it was greatly influenced by the ocean at one time or another, as well, as the powerful Loire river. These 2 factors had to affect the soils. Hence, the sandier soils from the flat parcels would certainly result in a different Bourgueil than those grown on the rockier hillsides & their strong limestone influences. This is a more masculine Bourgueil, with a wildly rustic, intriguing, provocative, dark nuances & lots of structure. The 17 years of bottle age has done wonders in harmonizing the components. AND, it has way more verve & vitality than the 1993, 94, 95 & 96 I have tasted recently.
Located on the Pomerol plateau of Right Bank Bordeaux. Mostly Merlot with a dash of Cabernet Franc, grown in gravel/flint/clay soils (rich in iron), organically & biodynamically farmed. The results—a classic reflection—rich, supple, yet with grace & finesse & a deep, gravelly minerality & structure. This is done in style reminiscent of Bordeaux in the 70’s & before.
The village of Blagny lies between Meursault & Puligny Montrachet, slightly offset & higher in the hills.The higher elevation & the high percentages of marl in the soils create very different wines than those of the lower vineyards. This Premier Cru parcel is only 1/3 of a hectare & was planted in 1934. Domaine de Cherisey is a stalwart of classic wines of intensity, structure & integrity rather than showiness & fashion statements. I am always amazed at how ethereal their Pinot is. It reminded me how pretty, intricate, sheer & haunting a Cotes de Beaune Pinot Noir can be. Wow!
In January of 1991, I had the good fortune to visit France’s northern Rhone for the first time & walked away with a real fascination for the Syrah grape variety, & its iconic home turfs–Hermitage, Cote Rotie & especially Cornas. Cornas is a small appellation, & the best parcels are on the steep, mostly granitic hillsides rising above the town. Cornas is 100% Syrah, very masculine in character, chunky, sultry, wildly rustic & so intriguingly provocative. The 3 finest maestros of this appellation, each of whom I visited, are–Noël Verset (now retired), Auguste Clape (now run by his son Pierre Marie & grandson Olivier) & at a later date, Thierry Allemand.
Inexplicably over the years, Cornas, especially Clape Cornas, has not garnered the prestige & clamour it deserves, which I never could understand. I guess I should be thankful that one can still get some & at prices a fraction of those of the top echelon Syrahs from Chapoutier & Guigal. The Clape Cornas wines are so personal, have such sincerity & soulfulness as these 2 wines (1996 & 2000) clearly reminded me of. In both instances, these wines are really vin de terroir oriented, meaning they showcase the Cornas hillside character, rather than the Syrah grape variety or the opulence of a sun rich vintage. While they both may never get HUGE scores & accolades, I found both wines to be so fascinating, soulful & full of old vine vinosity & the true character of a special piece of earth. (Tasters should not expect BIG, opulent fruit, eventhough both wines are quite masculine & vin garde).
I fell in love with Noël Verset Cornas on first taste. They were so masculine, rugged, hearty & sinfully rustic & sauvage in their youth, yet intricate, nuanced, provocative & UN-heavy. I always thought I was a minority for these wines, until I noticed the skyrocketing, meteoric rise in their prices recently. Although I am sure alot has to do with the scarcity of the wines (since 2006 was his last vintage), but at the same time, I believe there are wine lovers out there who appreciate good old fashion tradition, staunch, passion driven authenticity of a world-class wine & site which really is like no other. With Verset Cornas, I would always get green peppercorn, andouille sausage/raw meat, musk character, which I later discovered must have come from his old vine Sabarottes parcel. (Clape bought some of the parcel, which we tasted & found it to have a similar character). Cornas is a VERY different slant on what Syrah can be, AND Verset was a pillar of what it was traditionally like. I am sad to say that the number of his bottles are dwindling. I am also happy to say tasting this 2000, at this time of its life, is a memory I will cherish forever. Thank you for sharing.
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 taste it, a surprisingly amount of times over the years since & therefore it really is one of those I have watched evolve through its 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!
In some parts of the world these would be classified as dessert wines…..in other parts “stickie’s”….for me, pure nectar. AND, the amazing thing is that these 3 wines may have started out as sweet, but now because of the considerable bottle age of each, the once apparent sweetness has turned into more of a visceral creaminess/viscosity AND the wine’s minerality is thankfully once again clearly visible. Really quite fascinating wines.
1983 JJ Prum Spatlese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”
Here is the idiosyncratic genius of Manfred Prum & his iconic vineyard in one of his best vintages. (Manfred also produced one of the best Eisweins I have ever had in 1983). Such great purity, filigree & pinpoint balance, all in great harmony, after 32 years of bottle age.
I still vividly remember all of the hoopla created, when this wine was released. At 32 years of age, it is still an adolencent. It still has much more to resolve & therefore a LONG way to go. Save your bottles.
Talk about obscure! This is 45 year old Chenin Blanc from France’s Loire Valley! And, unlike Vouvray & its limestone soils, this estate’s vineyard has more rock & schist (& some clay & limestone) to its soil composition, which results in a VERY different character, which is plain to see now that the high residual sugar levels have had a chance to resolve itself after 45 years. There are all kinds of smells, layering, nuances & intricacies, beyond just fruit & spice qualities. I suggest you serve such a wine in a big 22 ounce glass, so you can swirl & sniff for a long time so it has a chance to open up. Wines like this don’t come around too often. Yes, in a previous blog, I noted that this winery had been controversial at one time on the authenticity of its winemaking claims & ageworthy prowess, but I suggest you smell & taste this wine & judge for yourself.
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, by 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 now 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.
The 2005 vintage was considered to produce some very profound wines in Italy. We have tasted some pretty, sundrenched, resoundingly structured trophy end RED wines which are seemingly built for long term aging. We thought it would be fun & enlightening to taste three 2005 Italians–2 Reds….& 1 iconic white….….now 9, (almost 10) years old, just to see where they are in the development curve. Rest assured, I decanted these 5 or 6 hours before the tasting. Just another really good opportunity to learn!
an indigenous Italian grape variety made in the old ways (wild yeast in clay amphora & buried in the ground just as the Romans did)…by true iconic winemaker Josko Gravner. This “orange” wine featured wonderful minerality, with all kinds of idiosyncratic, crazy nuances, which just seem to unveil as the wine opened up. Seamless & remarkably UN-heavy though masculine & resoundingly structured in style. It really was an interesting glass of wine.
70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella & 5% Molinara—dried out on straw mats for 3 months & aged in ovals for 30 months. I am not a huge fan of Amarone, as I find them to really be about ripeness & over ripeness rather than terroir. I could definitely say the same about alot of dessert wines. Yet, after 30 or 40 years of bottle age, I interestingly find that the terroir can once again emerge after the wine has had a chance to resolve itself. I wonder if that also happens with Amarone? Although I have tasted some older Bertani bottlings, I am still not convinced.
one of the showiest, most flambuoyant, upper tier single vineyard Barolo. Definitely ultra-modern & way over the top for me. In my early years, I always thought youthful Gaja Barbaresco was too oaky & over the top too. Then, one time, I experienced a glorious 20 year old 1978 Costa Russi & that completely changed my view. I am wondering if that too can happen with the Paolo Scavino wines?