What a night, a celebration for a wife’s birthday & a husband who wanted to create something special & memorable. And, we were part of that evening! Here is their menu–
KUMAMOTO OYSTER– tapioca pearls, Osetra caviar, konbu-tomato granite & chervil
PAN SEARED BRISTOL BAY SCALLOP —with forbidden black rice, Kahuku corn, Thai basil, pancetta, Maui onion & shaved black summer truffles
LOBSTER UOVO–butter poached Kona Maine lobster, lemon ricotta, hijiki & tarragon brown butter
FRESH UNI PASTA–fresh angel hair pasta, squid ink sauce, shiso, ikura and lobster butter
Spanish Octopus–with baby mizuna, roasted Roma tomato & sherry vinaigrette
Dragon Tongue Beans–with crispy pork belly, truffle aioli and cilantro pesto
Kako’o’owi Heirloom Baby Carrots–with carrot top pesto, pickled turnips, pecorino romano & cumin aioli
SEARED TAJIMA BEEF “ROULADE”—with roasted beets, Ali’I mushrooms, baby mizuna, balsamic reduction, basil, chili aioli and roasted garlic demi
KOJI CURED KING NATURAL BEEF STRIPLOIN–with charred Swiss chard, konbu gnocchi, bay leaf chimichurri & parsnip puree
Kula Strawberry Panna Cotta
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with ganache
Roasted Banana Profiterole vanilla bean ice cream & butterscotch glaze
We love to work with wines where the families own their vineyards, use more heirloom and heritage vine material and farm sustainably. These are NOT Grand Cru or Grande Marque wines by any means, but are instead 4 true artisan, traditional-minded & “out of the box” French bubblies which reflect the culture and heritage of the families, in addition to be tasty, unique & undoubtedly offering great value for the dollar for pure enjoyment, especially during the upcoming hot Summer days & warm nights. This tasting was interesting and fun!
“Seyssel may be unknown to many oenophiles today, but the vineyards of this small Savoie appellation of eastern France are regularly mentioned in documents dating back to at least the 11th century. With the development of sparkling wine production methods in the 19th century a new Seyssel mousseux was created that quickly gained great popularity with 70% Molette and 30% Altese grapes grown in clay and limestone soils. The sparkling wines of Seyssel indulge in the same méthode traditionnelle production techniques used for Champagne and the bottles are stocked sur latte for two years”.
Punta Crena Spumante Brut “Colline Savonesi”
“The Ruffino family has been tending their neatly terraced vineyards on the slopes and in hidden clearings on the peaks of Liguria, 1000 meters from the Sea for over 500 years. They pass their knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next without hardly changing a thing. This bubbly is produced from the Mataossu grape variety in a similar secondary fermention in the bottle as in Champagne”. FYI–the true Mataossu grape variety is grown by only 1 family & in 1 village (Varigotti). One can smell & taste the salinity, which I believe comes from the nearby Sea, as well as the sunbaked rocks & wild shrub & herbs which surround the vineyard. The bubbles are just icing on the cake!
Nicole Chanrion is one of the true standout producers of the Côte-de-Brouilly, an appellation that “sits on the hillsides of Mont Brouilly, a prehistoric volcano that left blue schist stones and volcanic rock along its slopes. These stones yield structured wines with pronounced minerality and great aging potential”. A true artist and brilliant wine mind, she decided to produce “Effervescence”, a vintage sparkling wine, although Nicole uses a non-vintage label. This is Gamay Noir grown in schist & porphyry soils, vinified in the Méthode Champenoise, fermented in stainless steel tank, aged 18 months sur latte, hand riddled twice a day, then manually disgorged. What a wonderful, completely refreshing bubbly.
“The great historian Pliny the Elder was the first to record the greatness of the Clairette and Muscat here, celebrating a pétillance and freshness widely believed to predate those of Champagne. Among the most well-known of Clairette de Die’s producers today is the tiny Domaine Achard-Vincent. The vineyards are organically and biodynamically farmed. Though the name Clairette de Die suggests the emphasis of the Clairette grape which goes into the blends, it is actually the Muscat à petits grains for which the appellation is best known. The Clairette de Die “Tradition” uses the méthode dioise, an ancestral method that allows a secondary fermentation in the bottle without dosage, because the wine is bottled with residual sugar remaining, typically at 6% alcohol. The bottles are then decanted off of their lees and rebottled under pressure following the secondary fermentation”.
Jacques Selosse–what a treat to try yet another Selosse Champagne, having had 2 others in the past couple of weeks. While the 2 earlier bottlings were not really my cup of tea because of too much oxidative character, this one was much more “fresher” & much easier to understand & appreciate for me. There were so many nuances, complexities & breed to the core, with a rounder, more expansive palate, which reminded me more of an aged white Burgundy (without the bubbles) than Champagne. Thumbs up!
Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrieres”–I have been very fortunate to have had this bottling in many different vintages on many different occasions. It is without a doubt one of my favorite white Burgundy bottlings. Having said that, this certainly makes me quite biased in this wine’s evaluation. Yes, I am one of those who believe this particular wine should be Grand Cru. Because of Jobard’s unique, old style winemaking, however, most wine “experts” would not agree, as his wines are quite controversial & therefore grossly under appreciated. To me, the wines in each case, exhibit Grand Cru pedigree. The 2000, for instance, has a truly mesmerizing, glorious nose–intriguingly stony with all kinds of nuts & spices that just kept opening up with each additional whiff. Furthermore, the wine was absolutely solid & gorgeous in the core, although I think the even-ness of finish changed to a somewhat coarse-ness after 2 hours & as the wine warmed up. Still, I absolutely loved the wine’s perfume so much. It certainly made having this wine quite a memorable experience. The 1986, on the other hand, was amazing right out of the gates. It really was the first time I had had a Jobard Meursault “Genevrieres” which was wide open, transparent & strutting its stuff. (They normally are so tight fisted & therefore closed & take hours to truly open up). In thinking about it further, how many 30 year old white Burgundies would even still be alive & kicking? The nose was so glorious, compelling & captivating with all kinds of nuances, layers & breed. On the palate, this 1986 flowed so evenly, seamlessly & was so refined & majestic. Talk about having a wine at the perfect time of its life! I was also amazed at how long this epiphany sustained itself after being open. Yes, it did start to fade as time wore on, but was still an amazing experience. Thank you Jamm & Erika for sharing!
1997 Robert Chevillon–we have been huge fans of the Robert Chevillon wines for a long time. This estate remarkably owns parcels in 8 Premier Cru vineyards within the Nuits St Georges appellation. The reds display such sublime purity, superb seamless-ness & balance. On this night, our friend Brent brought two 1997 Premier Cru bottlings–Les Chaignots & Les Cailles. As the importer notes, “Les Chaignots originates from old French, meaning “the place where the oaks grow”, & is located on the northern side of the appellation closer to Vosne Romanee with an eastern sun-exposure. The vines average 60 years in age, grown at 260-280 meters in altitude, with a grade ranging from 8-20%. The 1997 was so charming, gracious, graceful, classy & much rounder & seemingly lush than the Les Cailles. In short, it was a really lovely wine & definitely Premier Cru in quality. Les Cailles, on the other hand, “is derived from the word cailloux, or pebbles, not the common assumption that it is derived from the modern meaning, “quails””…….& is located on the southern of the appellation nearer to Premeaux-Prissey also with an eastern sun exposure. The vines average 77 years in age, grown at 250-260 meters in altitude, with a grade between 7-8%. The 1997 had much more obvious pedigree (& more ethereal/rock character) than the previous wine, which again supports the argument this vineyard should be elevated to Grand Cru quality, along with neighboring Les Vaucrains & Les St Georges vineyards. Wow!!!! Yes, I was really taken by this wine! Very aristocratic without being pompous or any fanfare. Just pure class, done with grace, wonderful texture, fine detail & great balance! Thank you Brent for sharing!
Jacques Selosse–his avant garde bubblies are getting harder & harder to come by AND the prices keep getting higher & higher. Still, the wines are unique, though probably not for everyone. For me, for instance, they can be real hit or miss. We recently were fortunate to try 2 different bottlings, 3 nights apart. The first was the Extra Dry “Premier Cru” which was shared by a VINO guest from Japan. While this wine has a very solid core, it displayed too many oxidative qualities for my taste. I am all for what used to be called “English style” (aged & developed), but this was just too much. It took away from my appreciating the wine itself. I found the same to be true with the Exquise Sec, we were fortunate to taste a few nights later. I don’t mind little flaws in a wine (even some brett or volatile acidity), but when it excessive & really takes away from focus of the wine, then I believe it is too much. I haven’t had enough of Selosse wines to say if the overt oxidative qualities were intentional or not., but in these 2 cases, they were just not my cup of tea.
1983 Von Simmern Auslese “Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen”–Back in the day, Von Simmern was making some stellar Riesling from his holdings–Erbacher Macrobrunn, Hattenheimers– Mannberg & Nussbrunnen. In fact, his 1983 Eisweins from Mannberg & Nussbrunnen were real standouts & very memorable. I have since had some of his 89, 90, 92 & 94 wines (Spatlese & Auselse quality) & was quite frankly underwhelmed. I therefore did not know what to expect from this wine as it was being opened. Wow…..what a real surprise it proved to be! This 1983 really was drinking wonderfully with a very intriguing combination of complexities & breed. It was also quite remarkably youthful still in its core given the 33 years of bottle age & had superb structure & balance with a much more gentle, graceful flow on the palate. Thank you to Ryan & Sarah for sharing.
1990 JJ Prum Auslese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”–Manfred Prum sure has a masterful touch with his Rieslings, especially those from his iconic Wehlener Sonnenuhr parcels. I was astounded at the great purity, filigree & deft balance of this 1990. The once apparent sweetness has since changed (at least 2/3’s) to a more tactile viscosity, which also allowed the wine’s minerality & pedigree once again to show so brilliantly. The wine’s now seemingly racy acidity was scintillating & very refreshing. It is rieslings like this which keeps me going back for more & more. Outstanding! Thank you to Vern & Gail for sharing.
1999 Dönnhoff Auslese “Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle”–yet another of the iconic, top echelon producers & vineyards from Germany. Hermannshöhle is a relatively steep hillside on the northside of the Nahe River & generally considered by many to be the best site in the whole region. The soils are a blackish slate with igneous rock, porphyry & limestone. In its youth, these wines can be quite hard, closed & is essentially what I would refer to as liquid rock. Helmut Dönnhoff is without a doubt, one of the world’s true master winemakers & his showpiece wines combine power, breed, grandeur & balance. At 17 years of age, I was sad to see this wine was completely shut down. Those cellaring this wine should really hold off for a while before popping one open.
1989 Chateau Lafite Rothschild–someone just handed me this glass of wine as I was walking by one night in VINO. With one whiff, I knew it was Lafite, as it had such a magnificent, majestic quality to its aromas. The 1989 also displayed the gravel, graphite, cedar nuances of older Bordeaux, but with ripe, generous fruit which I had really noticed in the Chateau’s wines, from the 1978 vintage on. Global warming? I don’t know what to say about that, but will say, the Lafites of old had an ethereal-ness to them & were therefore surprisingly lighter on their feet with an intoxicating, seductive perfume. Still, this wine was undoubtedly grand & majestic, just done in a riper style. Thank you Mike for sharing.
Here was another opportunity to taste some wines which have bottle age.
Jasmin Côte Rôtie–I first visited this small, family owned domaine in 1991. Back then the domaine was run by Robert Jasmin with his son Patrick helping. Robert had a larger than life personality, was jovial & full of life. I could later see these kinds of qualities in his wine, as we tasted through several vintages with father & son. They were proud of their 4 hectares of vineyards, which were spread throughout the Côte Brune & the Côte Blonde. (Today the Domaine lists 5.5 hectares). They were champions of Petite Sérine, which was the only Syrah they used in their Côte Rôtie, (the one wine they produced, at least as far I knew). I was especially taken by the 1989 vintage on that visit because of its ripe black fruit & wild cherry, savory bay leaf, peppercorn, roasted nuances, its richness & surprising openness for such a young wine. I could also detect new oak qualities, eventhough there was only about 10% new oak used in that vintage. On this night, the 1989 Jasmin Côte Rôtie, was a completely different wine. It was earthy, smoky, feral, gamey with lots of burnt sandalwood nuances. It was ripe, round, well resolved. I used to think of Cote Rotie, especially in comparison to Hermitage, as the Queen of Syrah. Well, there was nothing Queen like or feminine or aristocratic about this wine! It was manly, blue collar & Old School to say the least, but without heaviness or being beefed up or testosterone driven. Fascinating! Kind of like a warrior tribal chieftain rather than a European king or queen of the old, grand days. The 2000 Patrick Jasmin Côte Rôtie, on the other hand, seemed to have changed stylistically–more forward fruit, more oak, more modernized, without being internationalized–a definite changing of the generations.
1986 Chateau Haut Brion–this wine had lots of gravel character both in the nose & in the taste. The wine has greatly resolved itself in many ways since the last time I was fortunate to taste it. There are no hard edges, & the oakiness I remembered the last time I tasted this wine is further in the background, as the gravel has really emerged to the forefront. This wine has class & deserves a second, third & fourth dive back into the glass to better appreciate all of the nuances that have evolved from the bottle age.
1986 Chateau Cheval Blanc–This wine was so compelling on first whiff. OMG. & I was quite taken initially. I loved its deepness, its earthiness, its grandeur, aristocratic/regal, qualities to its nose, despite the huge dollop of oak & still surprising, unresolved youthfulness, especially on the palate. Quite impressive to say the least. Thanks Mike for sharing!
2004 Maume Mazis Chambertin–Over the years I have been quite a fan of this domaine & many of their wines, especially their Grand Cru, Mazis Chambertin. I know many wine tasters, whose palate I greatly respect, who don’t really care for this old style Burgundy producer’s wines & I completely understand why. It is not perfect or any of the other qualities just mentioned, but is without a doubt Grand Cru quality. I am not looking for a perfect wine & I certainly do not always look for precise & correctly made wines, nor do I always get caught up in the newer snazzy, flamboyany styled wines from the media darlings. I seem to have a soft spot for wines which have something to say, gutterly & in their own voice & especially those over delivering quality for the dollar. I could say the Bandol wines from Domaine Tempier truly helped lead me down that path. Well, here is just another example. I love the musky, dark, provocative, mesmerizing pheromone scented character of this wine. The 2004 is really in the zone right now–with lots of bottle age development, character & Grand Cru pedigree, BUT still with a more rustic, virile, masculine, soulful core. I was sorry to hear this winery sold.
1990 Leroy Vosne Romanee Premier Cru “Les Beaux Monts”
1990 Henri Jayer Echezeaux Grand Cru
What can one really say about superstar status wines like this? Cherries? Sandalwood? Long finish? Hardly does the wine any real justice. What instead tends to happen, is tasters will instead start pointing out the wine’s flaws, even if they are really so minute, & therefore not really appeciating the 90%, 95%, 99% that is really good…..& enjoying/ celebrating having such a wine. Stop & think for a moment. How many people have the opportunity to even try wines of this caliber (& expense)? Plus, when one is looking on this quality level of site & this kind of winemaker, I find that the vintage variation shows a very different perspective on what the vineyard wants to say. (rather than clamouring whether it should be rated 89 or 100 points). I was astounded how profoundly ethereal & majestic each were. Yes, these wines showed incredible pedigree & it was clearly evident how special & unique each independently were. What a REALLY special opportunity, one I will certainly remember for a long time! Thank you Nunzio & Joanne for sharing! On that note, I would like to say, when I checked on line how much each were worth, I questioned my friends about in fact whether to even open these wines. Joanne’s answer was simple–“Who better to share them with?” It is true & when I think about all of the wines we have experienced together over the years, it really is mind boggling. So, I say, thank you VERY much again!
We are so fortunate to have so many opportunities to taste some very special older wines at VINO. Here are some of those which truly re-inspired the tasters.
2007 Coche Dury Meursault Premier Cru “Perrieres”–Over the past couple of decades Coche Dury has garnered huge accolades & a cult like following. Theirs are therefore some of the most highly sought after, expensive white wines out there today. While their Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru is their crown jewel, a case can also be made for this particular bottling. On this night, this wine was glorious with such aristocratic grandeur. Truly mesmerizing! It truly was like liquid rock or like licking a piece of limestone, it was so soil driven. After tasting this kind of power & breed, it is understandable why insiders insist that the Meursault Perrieres vineyard should be considered for an upgrade to Grand Cru status.
2007 Lafon Meursault Premier Cru “Charmes”–I was one of those wine lovers who once thought that the Meursault Premier Cru Charmes vineyard should be elevated to Grand Cru status, mainly because of the many vintages I was fortunate to taste from Francois Jobard. I now think otherwise & this wine was yet another example which reconfirmed that for me. Although this 2007 was superb, stylish & VERY captivating with its elegance, refinement, texture & balance….& quite a memorable wine in its own right, it just wasn’t Grand Cru in pedigree. Please don’t take it like I am poo-poo-ing this wine…..I am NOT. I would ceratinly & absolutely love & cherish having bottle after bottle if I could. It just reminded me how wise the decision makers of old were when they classified this vineyard as Premier Cru.
1997 Francois Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrieres”–This was truly an amazing, breathtaking Chardonnay, one I will remember forever! While Jobard’s wines don’t have the grandeur or flamboyance of those from Coche Dury or even Roulot, they certainly have the pedigree (Grand Cru quality in this case from my point of view), intensity & soulfulness in the core of top echelon wine. This is Old School white Burgundy in all its glory, one after 19 years of bottle age, has blossomed into the “swan”, most tasters would not have foreseen in the wine’s youth. I would also say, this is an ideal time of having this wine, eventhough I was astounded how it just kept opening up more & more as it sat open. I am sure in a blind tasting, I would say this is Grand Cru quality. I would also say, this style of wine is not for everyone though. I know lots of professionals, whose palate I respect, would not really care for this style & profile, especially this aged. I just think……great!…..that just means more for me. Since then, we have tasted the 2002 Francois Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrieres”, have to say what poor timing. Eventhough the wine was 14 years old, it was so tight, closed down & seemed a waste that we opened it at this time. I learned once again, ripe vintages like this just need WAY more time. I must say, though, this is going to be some kind of wine once it has a chance to resolve itself. Interestingly, I surmise that wine collectors will taste a wine like this, at this state & wonder why they bought it. Some will then look to sell it off, which is why one can sometimes see these kinds of wines offered online & at surprisingly good prices.
2003 Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru “Les Vergers”–here is yet another aged. majestic wine from one of Burgundy’s great white wine producers. This wine was much more civil, classy, aristocratic in style than the previous Jobard wine, which surprised some because 2003 was such a hot vintage. Ramonet has a distinctive style to their wines. While their more famous Grand Cru bottlings display such grandeur, I liked this wine because of its sheer elegance, etherealness, finesse, sophistication & seamlessness, & was clearly reminded why this superstar producer is so highly regarded & why their top tier wines just seem to be harder & harder to get. Furthermore just to shed some light from a different point of view, I remember reading somewhere the following quote (which I apologize if I didn’t get it absolutely right), which said something like– “More importantly, Ramonet wines are very individual. A Ramonet wine is a Ramonet wine before it is a Chassagne, or a Bienvenue, or a Bâtard….or a Montrachet“.
2005 Raveneau Chablis Premier Cru “Monte de Tonnerre”–What did I learn tasting this wine? Yet, another case of opening a wine at the wrong time. Formidable, intensely structured wines like many from the 2005 vintage need lots of time! I sadly did not really enjoy this wine, at least at this point of its life (11 years old). It was like a block of rock. Impenetrable. There really was nothing delicious or ethereal currently present & there was a noticeable bitterness in the finish. I am sure time will resolve all of the hard edges, as Raveneau is a master of his craft & this wine does have a lot to say. Because we are experiencing more & more ripe vintages today, I just need to get better at understanding & estimating when to open a bottle like this, as I know it has a lot to say once it has a chance to resolve itself some more.
2006 Roulot Meursault Premier Cru “Perrieres”–here is yet another example of why so many “insiders” think this vineyard should be elevated to Grand Cru status. This 10 year old wine had mesmerizing perfume–full of minerality, vinosity & pedigree, all done so masterfully & effortlessly AND with such a fine touch. I have heard several wine aficionados were lukewarm about Roulot’s 2006 whites. I liked them at the winery before they were released & I certainly liked this one on this night!
The 1990’s was a standout decade for German wines. Where previously we were lucky to find 2 or 3 vintages out of every decade where all of the variables came together to make really good wines, the 1990’s had at least 8 quality years. Lucky us! Here was a chance for me to revisit 2 of the wines. It can be such a thrilling experience to taste how wines like this can change with years of bottle age.
1993 Zilliken Spatlese “Saarburger Rausch”–I have been a huge fan of superstar German winemaker Hanno Zilliken & his wines. I remember how taken I was with his 1993 offerings way back when. I thought they were some of my favorites from Germany that year. Upon release, his 1993’s were so tight fisted & UN-showy, but still displayed great minerality, filigree & fine tuned, masterful balance with lots of tartaric (ripe) acidity. I bought the Kabinett & Spatlese that vintage, because I thought they way over delivered for the dollar. The wine’s once apparent sweetness has now completely changed to a more tactile creaminess, which is actually not really so noticeable because of the racy, scintillating acidity & completely riveting minerality which is now totally in the wine’s forefront. I, in fact, think most tasters would think this is a medium dry to dry wine today, because of the tactile change from the years of bottle age. This wine is another reminder that true wine lovers just need to be more patient & allow Zilliken’s wines to age in order to better see its true core & innate complexities like this. I am more of a believer now than ever.
1996 Fritz Haag Gold Kapsule Auslese “Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr”–In the early months 1996 was looking to be a challenging vintage, but things seem to change as the growing season progressed, especially in the last couple of months & there were therefore some really good wines to be had. Of the wines I tasted, I specifically zeroed in on those from Fritz Haag, especially the those of the Auslese quality level. I still vividly remember how really impressed I was with Fritz Haag’s 1996 wines upon release. They were rounder than the 1995’s & more elegant & refined than the rich, prolific 1997’s. I felt they would be so captivating & glorious with bottle age AND at a younger age than the 95’s & 97’s. Having the 1996 now is having a wine still WAY too shamefully young & has been much slower to resolve & develop than I had expected. Yes, this baby has a long time more to go. Although the nose proudly shows the pedigree & breathtaking nobility of this vineyard in the hands of legendary Wilhelm Haag, the core, structure & residual sugar still needs much more time so it can really strut its stuff.
On another note–
2002 Fritz Haag Gold Kapsule Auslese “Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr”–I was so looking forward to trying this wine. We popped open a bottle, because we had an opportunity to buy some more & wanted to check it out first. When the 2002’s were released, Fritz Haag was at the top of my list. Back then, however, I actually preferred the 2001’s, but thought the ’02’s would be well worth cellaring for the long term. With first whiff, I was flabbergasted. Despite being 14 years old, this 2002 was merely an infant–so undeveloped & primary. Still, this wine is certainly one to be reckoned with in the distant future, as it effortlessly combines resounding fruit, mega-intensity, unreal physiological maturity, profound depth, structure & pedigree…..kind of like a top notch 1961 Bordeaux First Growth was like in its youth. I will definitely be trying to get some more.
I am sure there are many wine drinkers who go to a store’s wine section, get overwhelmed by all of the different bottles, labels and names that are lined up on the shelves. Yes, it can be quite confusing. And because of that, I have heard countless times, how people select wines based upon the eye catching label, pretty packaging, the 96 point rating or the fact that the wine was on sale. There is so much marketing jargon and image building in today’s world, it is hard to find out what the real dealio is on wines, even for the professional.
With a little research and digging around, however, one can find great values, which will deliver much more quality for your dollar spent.
For example, one of the aspects of wine I relish is those where a family owns the vineyard. The really passionate and dedicated ones are then vested in the wine from the ground to the bottle.
Another good sign then is if they farm their vineyard sustainably and try to create a “living” vineyard, one they can later proudly turn over to the next generation. This says something about them & their core values.
I then usually dig around in the less en vogue wine growing areas to find true value, where the land is much less expensive, especially if it was bought a generation or so ago, as this can greatly affect the store shelf price tag.
To help you get started, here are a few of our favorites.
2014 HYBIRD CHARDONNAY–The Schatz family purchased their vineyard in the 1950’s, out in Lodi, California. They farm sustainably, the first grower In the region in fact to certify 100% of their acreage by a third party. The resulting estate Chardonnay is wonderfully tasty, pure, refreshing, thirstquenching & hard to beat for the price…and on many different levels.
2013 ANCIENT PEAKS MERLOT “MARGARITA VINEYARD”–The Ancient Peaks estate vineyard is roughly 1000 feet in elevation in the hills of southern Paso Robles, California and is owned by three ranching families. Certified “sustainable in practice”, the 2012 Merlot comes from 3 different parcels, each with ancient seabed soils. There is therefore nothing simple or tooty fruity here, just lots of “mountain grown” flavor, depth and earthy character, which is why its perennially gets so much accolades and acclaim. It really is too hard to beat for the price and therefore well worth searching out for.
2012 ERNESTO CATENA CABERNET SAUVIGNON “TAHUAN”–Ernesto is the oldest son of the iconic , Argentinean wine legend Nicolás Catena. He decided in 2002 to branch out on his own to fulfill his vision of what the foothills of the Andes Mountains could create in the vines and the resulting wines. Like his father, Ernesto also has vineyards high up in the foothills, which he organically farms. The Ernesto Catena Cabernet Sauvignon is one of our favorites in terms of great value, as it is elegant, suave, classy in style and certainly over delivers for the price.
2013 DOMAINE de FONTSAINTE CORBIERES–Historically, the vineyards of this domaine were planted by the Romans, way back when. The Laboucarié family came on the scene sometime in the 17th Century and have been farming their vineyards & making wine since. This is one of our all time favorite southern French “country” red wines, because of how delicious, lighter bodied and gulpable it is year in and year out. You will also be amazed how diverse this wine can be with foods, from pizza, to meatloaf to vegetarian oriented foods to lighter pasta dishes to even more complex fish preparations when served slightly chilled. With every cork popped and subsequent taste, I am always utterly re-amazed at the still very reasonable price tag.
Today in our VINO wine bar we did a tasting of 4 different Pinots from a very unique perspective.
2009 Movia Pinot Noir “Modri” –we began the tasting with a Pinot totally “out of the box”. We wanted to get the tasters out of thinking & evaluating Pinot with preconceived notions. In doing so, this wine was like serving a wine to the tasters blind. Furthermore, we did not ask participants to identify the grape variety, soil, vintage, producer. We instead asked if this was a “good” wine, eventhough it was not something they were used to. What would they pay for this wine…….& what kind of foods would they think of serving this wine with.
Afterwards, we provided tasters some information from the winery’s website–“The Movia estate dates back to 1700, passing into the hands of the Kristančič family with a wedding in 1820. The estate extends over 22 hectares of land, about half of which lie on the Italian side of the Goriška Brda (Collio). Heading up this iconic family estate is the absolutely brilliant & vanguard ALEŠ KRISTANČIČ, who once noted–Pinot Noir is like a virus. Once you’re infected, there’s practically no cure. At the same time it is one of the most difficult varieties for cultivation: there is no system, there are no rules, neither in selecting the parcel, nor in deciding on the method of planting, nor regarding the right time for harvesting. This is a variety that never ceases to surprise – sometimes it brings joy, sometimes disappointment. It causes so many headaches that even a small success delivers great joy“. The Pinot is grown in Brda marl, hand harvested, wild yeast fermented & spends up to 4 years in 220 liter barrique.
2011 Fürst Spätburgunder “Centgrafenberg GG”–Owner/winemaker Paul Fürst was selected as 2003 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & is today one of the top Pinot Noir maestros in the world. In contrast to Pinots from other well know “homes” of this varietal, I find his renditions to be so hauntingly ethereal & so remarkably delicately nuanced & therefore so incredibly unique & probably “out of the box” for most avid Pinot lovers. This therefore was yet another opportunity for tasters to ask themselves if this was a “good” wine…..how much they would be willing to pay & what kind of foods it might work with. As readers will recall from past blog posts, the initials GG represent Germany’s attempt at a Grand Cru system & therefore the Bürgstadter Centgrafenberg has deservedly been selected as one of those standout vineyards. Located in the Franconia winegrowing region of Germany, its red sandstone-clay-rocky soils create a very different profile of Pinot in comparison to his other holdings, most notably the Klingenberger Schlossberg. Yes, the wines are pricey, but I believe one gets much more quality & pedigree than many equally priced Pinots from the New World. Furthermore, I also think they have a rightful place on the world class mantle even in comparison to many one finds from Burgundy in similar price ranges.
2014 Lucien Boillot “Les Grands Poisots”–here is a white wine, produced from the Pinot Beurot grape variety (a mutation of Pinot Noir), grown in Burgundy, France. While visiting Boillot several years back, my wife Cheryle & I were captivated by the one white wine in the incredible line-up of new releases we tasted at the domaine. It smelled vividly of wild strawberries & all kinds of cherries, which really caught us off guard. So, we ordered the wine. Much to our surprise when the wine actually arrived into Islands & we excitedly cracked open a bottle, the red fruit had taken a back seat to Burgundian minerality. Wow, what a trip! We really loved the wine nonetheless. Back then I was told the wine was produced from a couple of rows of vines in their Gevrey Chambertin holdings, but have subsequently also heard the vines are in Nuits St Georges. In any case, as we have noted in previous blogs, the Cote de Nuits is most famous for their red wines & the Cote de Beaune for their white wines. Here was an example of a Cote de Nuits white which because it was not Chardonnay had a very different character (with qualities/character I also see in other whites from the area). Besides the red fruit nuances, there is a much more copper hue to the color & a rounder, more generous mouthfeel, especially in the middle. Kind of reminds me of the Pinot Noirs vinified white used in Champagne before the extended yeast/less aging. Fascinating to say the least.
2008 Cavallotto “Langhe” Bianco–to continue this thought, we ended this tasting with a Piemontese Pinot Noir vinified white. The wine had wonderful minerality, flowed so evenly & completely from beginning to end & finished UN-oaky, UN-alcoholic & UN-bitter. The wine smelled of Burgundy like minerality & over the years has fooled many of its origin. Many years back, Cheryle & I stayed in & toured Piemonte, Italy. I just wanted to see & walk as many of the Cru vineyards as I could. At the top of my list was the steep hillside, conca Bricco Boschis & the brothers Cavallotto, who produce some of my favorite Nebbiolo. In our tasting there, I was mesmerized by one of their white wines, which was simply labeled as Langhe Bianco. It truly was one of the most interesting we encountered on that trip to Italy. I soon found out that the family, we were told, had recently purchased some of the lower, flatter parcels down below, which included some then 22 year old Pinot Noir & Chardonnay vines. I surmized, being a family engrained in producing more traditional styled wines, a red Pinot Noir would look odd in their portfolio. However, by vinifying it white, it would then be a wine of the vineyard rather than of any grape varietal…..hence Langhe. (in addition to legal labeling requirements). In any event, it made total sense to end this tasting with this wine. Being a 2008 & therefore some bottle age & development, it was mesmerzing, captivating & VERY uplifting. AND, there was again a reminder in color, taste & texture of the Pinot Noirs vinified white used in Champagne before the extended yeast/less aging.
The next flight of this comprehensive Rhone grape varietal tasting featured 3 white wines from southern France. The first wine, 2013 Clos Ste Magdeleine Cassis comes from a breathtaking vineyard jutting out into the surreal colored Mediterranean Sea in the Cassis appellation of Provence, France. This wine, however, is far from being a romantic notion because of its spectacular vineyard setting. If you look more closely at the soil below the vineyard, one can see it is limetone dominated, which gives this white its vitality, freshness, ethereal lightness on the palate & mesmerizing minerality. For many years, therefore, this iconic white wine was the definitive wine pairing with Bouillabaisse, the world renown fish soup of Provence. The blend is typically 40% Marsanne, 30% Ugni Blanc, 25% Clairette & 5% Bourboulenc, fermented in stainless steel, after which the lees in added back in & then further aged for 14 to 18 months. (I remember a time, when this wine was more Clairette & Ugni Blanc dominated…..& fermented in concrete, so times have changed). Having said that, this is still a wine of the site–soil, the salty air, the generous sunshine & the cooling sea winds. For me, a classic. The 2011 Domaine Vinci “Coyade” is a very unique & interesting southern French white wine which I frequently refer to as “liquid rock”, as it really does smell & taste like sun baked rock, with some wild shrub & herb nuances. Produced from 75% Maccabeu, 15% Carignane Blanc & 10% Grenache Blanc grown in clay limestone soils, foot stomped & wild yeast fermented. 1/2 of the Maccabeu is fermented in stainless steel (with lees) & the other half in old demi muids, where it will age for 16 months. This is a very masculine, mega intense, wild, powerful, stony wine, which makes you rethink your previous perceptions/thoughts with each sip & taste. The 2014 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is another mega intense, masculine, stony white wine. The reason why we served this after the Vinci “Coyade” is because of its innate pedigree & more layered/nuanced character. It, however, really took me a long time to understand this wine. The 2014 is 40% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Bourboulenc & 15% Roussanne, 1/2 fermented in cement, 70% malolactic & then aged in foudre/demi muids, 10 to 15% new. Definitely a white wine of the stones.
The final flight of this epic tasting, “In Search of Good Wine” featured 3 pink wines produced from Rhone grape varietals. The first wine, 2014 Domaine Fontsainte Corbieres “Gris de Gris” has grown meteorically in popularity since I first brought this wine to the Islands sometime in the late 80’s/ early 90’s. I would say key factors in its growth include a charming, outgoing personality, deliciousness year in & year out, its incredible food friendliness AND mainly because it really does over deliver for the dollar! The 2014 is 50% Grenache Gris, 20% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignane, 5% Mourvedre & 5% Cinsault, tank fermented with no malolactic. I would also say, that the quality has really improved over the years, without any significant price increases amazingly. In comparison, the next wine, 2014 Chateau D’Esclans “Whispering Angel”, has changed since I first had it. I am sure that has a lot to do with its growth in popularity, as I readily see it on top wine lists across the country. The 2014 is a blend of mainly Grenache, with Cinsault & a smidgeon of Rolle (all from La Motte en Provence), fermented in stainless with twice a week less stirring. The wine is still delicious, light on its feet, ethereal & therefore quite remarkably food friendly. The final wine of this flight & the tasting, 2014 Maxime Magnon Corbieres Rose “Metisse”, is quite a unique & interesting wine, one that took me some time to get a handle on. While there has been a movement to lighter, more ethereal, minerally styled roses, this masculine, heady, minerally one comes along. The 2014 is 40% Carignane, 30% Grenache, 20% Cinsault & 10% Grenache Blanc, direct pressed, whole cluster (the Grenache & Carignane co-fermented) in cement, malolactic, with 6 to 8 month aging in old barrels. My aha moment was when trying this wine with foods, & then realizing it really is more like a red wine in style. Having said that, rest assured there is lots of vineyard character still in the wine (not some fruit bomb) AND it still has wonderful deliciousness & gulpability despite its heady, robust style.