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Everything posted by jrufusj

  1. CATCHING UP: A FEW MORE - At Home in Tokyo (3/23/2006-4/17/2006) A couple of things consumed at home with food over several nights each. These just somehow never made it into another set of notes, so it is cleanup time. 2004 Cambon, Château Beaujolais Rosé - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais (3/23/2006) (From the hand of Marcel Lapierre, thus part of the all-natural regime.) When dusty copper meets pink, we’ve already got a gamay rosé that seems altogether more substantial than its Angevin cousins. Dropping the nose into the glass confirms the impressions of the eyes, but also confirms that this wine does not suffer from any of the odd flaws that sometimes afflict Lapierre wines. This one is thoroughly sound. The nose throws up earthy essences of strawberry and dark peach fruit, along with a scent of very warm, sweet earth. On the palate, there’s a nice little streak of acid and mineral, but this is very generous. My wife thinks it is a bit (pleasantly) sweet. I think it is at least close to dry. In any case, it behaves like a gentle and friendly Morgon that is immediately ready to drink, showing easy berry and peach fruit. If I can find this in the US this summer, several cases of it will be refrigerated at the mountain house in NC for standby luncheon and afternoon grill-side drinking. 2003 Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne (4/17/2006) Consistent with prior bottles. Dark and rich plummy color and a nose that is ripe and rich with blackberry and other briary fruit. Enough warm earth and herbs to keep it all interesting and together. A bit of tannin and chocolate in the finish give structure and context to the gluggable ripe berry fruit. Best alone or with simple grilled food. I’m drinking it up young to enjoy its vivid fruit. Posted from CellarTracker
  2. CATCHING UP: COUPLE OF DINNERS OUT - Around Tokyo (4/9/2006-4/15/2006) Quiet Dinner Alone A simple night, as we had been to two different parties in the afternoon with an excess of rich food. With sautéed foie gras, a peached lobster, and fricasee of shrimp/stuffed chicken wings/scallops. 2002 Jean Noel Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet (4/9/2006) Pretty yellow gold with great depth of color. Nose is closed on initial pouring, with a blend of lightly sweet oak and a floral honey element coming out after a few minutes. The fruit is a little slower to make an appearance, but eventually shows up as freshly appealing apple and stone fruit. The palate is more like a lithe and athletic lass hiding her graces. There is an element of chiseled definition and muscular detail from the very beginning, but for at least half an hour that perfect bone structure is all we get to see. With more time, the flesh is rendered visible in ripely sweet fruit and great mineral presence. The flesh and sap builds over time in the glass and it builds through the palate. The finish is significantly more intense and rich than the entry. She’s only playing JV field hockey now. Behave yourself until she joins the uni team and you’ve got a beauty in store. With New Friends With fried zucchini blossoms, mixed cold anipasti, insalata caprese and a kinmedai (a rich kind of sea bream) cooked in cartoccio with lemon, olives, and potatoes. 2003 Leonildo Pieropan Soave Classico Superiore Calvarino - Italy, Veneto, Soave Classico Superiore (4/15/2006) Clear and bright light straw color. Nose of that distinctive Soave pear, highlighted by citrus and a light herbal infusion element. Palate shows fresh minerality – the cold water racing over rocks sort – combined with light clear white tree fruit. Thoroughly enjoyable and even a perfect foil with fried zucchini blossoms, but it is somewhat caught in the middle between style and vintage. As always, this shows a bit more of everything than the basic Pieropan Soave – more concentration, more finely chiseled detail, more ripeness and depth. But make no mistake, the Calvarino is always a wine that must win hearts through detail and freshness. In 2003, its detail and freshness fall a little short of (admittedly high) expectations. Cf. the Rocca below. 2003 Leonildo Pieropan Soave Classico Superiore La Rocca - Italy, Veneto, Soave Classico Superiore (4/15/2006) A bit darker gold than the Calvarino. Rich and round on the nose with a deep floral element, a hint of tropical fruit, and just a kiss of oak sweetness. When it hits the palate, there is a much more forceful minerality and a roundness and fullness that goes beautifully with the kinmedai preparation. It still shows that typical pear and citrus fruit and has a certain freshness to it, but it wears its oak as an evidently suave cloak. In most years, I prefer the Calvarino, but in 2003 the La Rocca finds a vintage that plays up its strong points. It’s still garganega from Pieropan so even with the ripeness and the bit of oak, it is lengths ahead of most of its peers. But I wouldn’t drink it when I’m looking for traditional Soave freshness and cut. Posted from CellarTracker
  3. CATCHING UP: 4 BUBBLIES - Around Tokyo (4/6/2006-4/16/2006) Guests in Town You know those wines that accumulate because so many people bring them as hostess gifts when you entertain? Well, I've got a big stockpile of Veuve NV. Time to lower the count by one. N.V. Moët & Chandon Champagne Brut Imperial Rosé - France, Champagne, Épernay, Champagne (4/6/2006) Very pretty deepish copper color with a nicely refined mousse. Nose shows a sweet burst of strawberry fruit, enlivened by a hint of citrus and mineral. Palate shows just a hint of steel in attack and texture, but is really about strawberry and cherry flavors. Not overly sweet, but finishes with a bit of berry sweetness. Simple and direct but actually quite delicious. Lacks the structural elements I love in good rosé Champagne, but a fun bit to sip with my wife on our anniversary evening while we put flowers into vases and helped James with homework. Not everything has to be complex or even in my generally preferred lean style. Another bottle that was a gift from someone else. A nice surprise showing, but not something I’m ever going to buy given the alternatives at the price. Anniversary Sucks when the anniversary falls on a worknight and we can't get out until the weekend. At least we can drink a bit of Chanmpagne. N.V. Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut - France, Champagne, Reims, Champagne (4/12/2006) Medium-sized mousse in a strawish-colored wine. Nose of green apple and white plum with a hint of leesiness, but not much else. Palate is very much in balance and shows none of the odd sweetness that has shown in some bottles over recent years. However, it shows a bit of dilution in the middle and nothing of extraordinary interest. Competent, balanced, perhaps better than expected – just nothing to get excited about. Received as a gift, this does better than most such gifts. Pulled from the gift corner, this fills the bill perfectly when one is called upon to serve Champagne to houseguests who don’t give a flip about wine. Variety Is the Spice of Life I've tried St. Peray, but never any from Voge. This is the basic bottling. I'm looking forward to trying one of the higher end versions. N.V. Alain Voge St. Péray - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Péray (4/14/2006) There’s a depth to the yellow that is hinting at gold and at sunny ripeness. Mousse is perhaps a little large, but is nicely persistent. On the nose, honeysuckle flower combines with Champagne-like leesiness to form a rich backdrop for the ripe peach and apricot fruit. On the palate, there is a nice mineral element that props up the very rich Marsanne/Roussane fruit. Finish is rich and not quite cloying, but this would benefit from a touch more acid and a finer mousse. Drank this as an aperitif. I’ll be eager to try with dinner, where I think it will fare better. Easter Brunch This was the basic free pour at brunch at the club. N.V. Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brut L.P. - France, Champagne (4/16/2006) Bright light yellow. Crisp bit of bread with bright white fruit on nose. Palate is crisp and light with a little citrus and light ripe apple. Style is clean and proper blanc de blancs, though there are also pinots noir and muenier in here. Mousse is fine and persistent. In fact everything is here – except any sense of excitement or flavor impact. Good for the situation, as I could absent-mindedly drink three glasses without having to pay attention to it. Yet another wine that is better than most buffet fare, but not something I have any interest in buying. Posted from CellarTracker
  4. WHEN FREE ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH - Club Med Ski Resort - Sahoro, Hokkaido, Japan (3/25/2006-3/28/2006) In most cases, Club Med is about the farthest thing I can imagine from an ideal vacation. Being cooped up in a resort with pre-planned activities and lowest-common-denominator buffet food generally doesn't send me off into throes of la petite mort. But it works for a ski vacation with kids. There is a great kids ski school so that Cathryn and I actually get to ski. There are two slalom races a week so that I have a good chance to break a leg trying to ski like I am 20 years younger than I am. And the food is not really that bad, especially when I am dead tired and just want to eat and relax with friends before I fall into bed. There is also unlimited free wine. The unbranded Vin de Pays d'Oc Rosé is good in a simple, refreshing and restorative way with lunch, but dinner demands a bit more. So, for our recent trip, we lugged a few things along on the airplane. There is generally no point in trying to describe food matches given the unfocused buffet-style offerings. Night 1: Not a Good Start, Is It? 2001 Domaine des Malandes Chablis Fourchaume 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Chablis (3/25/2006) Uh-oh! A little dark in the glass and a little candied smelling at first sniff. The nose never shows much more than a tired sweetness and bit of leesiness. On the palate, there is still some minerality and a dose of acid hidden behind the clearly declining flat palate of browned apple and Jolly Rancher. Something is wrong here. This was a gift and the only one I had, so I don’t have another bottle to check to see if this is a bottle problem or something more. Others at the table liked it enough to finish it, but no one raved. 1996 Château Roc de Canon - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Canon-Fronsac (3/25/2006) "Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed." That maxim worked here. Color is a little light at the edges and a little tired throughout. Nose shows some evolved dusty fruit, a little earth and not much more. No evolution in the glass. Palate is flat with little structure left other than a small scrape of tannin on the finish. Fruit is evolved and a bit tired plum and medium berry. There’s also a hint of green in here. I’m making it sound worse than it is, but this is a wine that didn’t start out bound for greatness and should have been consumed by its fifth year or so. It’s nice to have friends who help me clean (drink) up my mistakes. Then again, if these were the worst mistakes I made, life would be a lot simpler. Night 2: Samantha and Jonathan Arrive -- Time for Bubbly 1982 Guy Michel Tradition Brut - France, Champagne, Pierry (3/26/2006) Shows a darkening and a certain langorous nature to the mousse that hints at age. On the nose, a nice bit of honeyed nuts softens one up before that Pierry minerally chalk comes through. Underneath, there’s still fruit in a soft white peachy kind of range. On the palate, a little more liveliness to the mousse than I expected combines with that great chalky minerality to keep the wine taut and to balance the mature grilled nuts, honey, and toast elements. Showing no signs of decline, this is a nicely mature wine that is still available in the market at great prices. 1996 Pommery Champagne Brut Grand Cru - France, Champagne (3/26/2006) Very light in color with small tight mousse. Nose is closed fairly tight at first, but slowly opens to reveal young apply fruit and an austerity that teases. A similar teasing nature exists on the palate, with a preliminarily simple mix of bland white fruit and a hint of mineral austerity. I like austerity, but I have a fear this is just blandish simplicity masquerading as austerity and mineral. There are bits of lemon and stone behind the simple fruit, but I can’t figure out whether they are just bits that will never be anything more or the hints of greater complexity to come. There are similar issues with the basic Pommery NV, so I’m not inclined to invest the money and cellar space in waiting to see where this goes. Night 3: Well-Worn Favorites -- But Comfortable Like an Old Shirt 2004 Pieropan Soave Classico - Italy, Veneto, Soave Classico (3/27/2006) Pretty straw yellow with the slightest, most barely visible hint of spritz. The nose shows good mineral, pure pear and citrus, and field grass with a bit of sweet hay. Palate is in a similar vein with light acid that is just enough let the wine float quenchingly through the mouth, giving off a narrow beam of crystalline pear and a lingering sense of grassy sweetness. Leaves one humming a bar or two of “Simple Gifts” while enjoying the mineral in the finish. 1996 Les Fiefs de Lagrange - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (3/27/2006) In 1996, it’s nice to move from the right to the left bank. This is entirely fresher in appearance, nose, texture, and taste. Sometimes wines are exactly what they should be. Such is this, a second wine that appears more as a miniature than a castoff. Bright fresh aromas of cassis, a small kiss of oak sweetness, and some soft elegant herbaceousness are a good start. On the palate, it shows cassis and a bit of berry with a little graphite. Throughout, there is just enough acid and tannin to keep it all upright. Simple and relatively small, but attractively typical and just ready to drink. Small and simple can be good. Night 4: Southeast Asian Night at the Buffet 1997 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal - France, Alsace, Turckheim, Alsace AOC (3/28/2006) A favorite that has shown amazing consistency over the last couple of years. Nice deepish yellow-gold and an enticing viscosity. The nose promises a little honey and a lot more orange zest and apricot. When it hits the palate, there is honeyed fruit richness, but there is also a spine of lighter citrus flavor and acid zip that brings this into great balance. With sweetness and richness that threatens to masquerade as a VT, but with liveliness that makes it a great match with some foods. It has done well before with robata-grilled Japanese food and with foie gras. This time, it does well with spicy southeast Asian fare. Evolved enough to be wide open and great to drink now, this still isn’t fading. One wonders what more may be in store. 2001 A. Rafanelli Zinfandel - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (3/28/2006) In the deep red range with good intensity. Similar to last bottle in terms of descriptors that apply – good slightly brambly and ripe but not overripe blackberry scents and flavors and a healthy dose of dust and sun-warmed earth. What is missing tonight is the enlivening cherry-flavored acidity that has given previous bottles a claret-like drinkability. Somehow, this just seems a little leaden this time around. Bad palate day? Slightly off bottle? Hard to say. Except for 24 hours of hellish travel delays due to weather and Club Med's organizational incompetence (and their seeming apathy), this was a great trip. Very good snow, enough physical activity to take one's mind off the office, and a chance to spend five days with two families that are great friends. Posted from CellarTracker
  5. jrufusj

    TN:  TTG#6

    TTG#6: 4X OLDER CLARET PLUS 3 BURGS AND A CHAMPAGNE - Tokyo (3/24/2006) Seven of us gathered for our monthly tipples. Food was excellent, but since I'm two weeks late posting these notes I can't remember in detail what we ate. Just remember that it was generally wine-friendly and that it matched pretty well. I'm just glad I managed not to lose my written wine notes over the course of a week of ski trip and a hellish catchup week at work. Wines all came from a single private cellar with great storage conditions. Most (if not all) of the wines were acquired at release. N.V. Patrice Marc Champagne La Cuvée Noir et Blanc - France, Champagne Deepish gold with a beautifully centered stream of medium bubbles. Taut nose needs time to unwind but shows rich yeast sweetness and tart apple fruit. On the palate, cold steel and more apple. Fresh and prickling on the front of palate – a bright knife edge of primary fruit. Fills out in mid-palate with fruit that is deeper and slightly darker but still a bit hard. Finish shows some more generous yeasty sweetness. Like a blanc de blancs but with a hint of darker fruit. First encounter with this producer, I will definitely revisit. Good today, suspect it would be much better with a little time. 1988 Paul Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet La Romanee 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet Depth of yellow/gold suggests a bit of honeyed age, but not to the extreme. Initially closed on nose but a little bit of volatility showing. Volatile character passes quickly to reveal a little early-stage oxidation – the slightest brown apple – that also blows right off. Finally, we get to light honey and apple and peach fruit. Aromatically, it is a bit tired. On the palate, there is great acid in the front of the palate that keeps the tree fruit fresh and white rather than browning. The mid-palate is really nicely full and shows a great big dose of mineral. On a nice and soft but lingering finish, the age shows again with a bit of brulée. At peak on the palate and a bit past it on the nose, this works for me but won’t for folks who are more youth/fruit-driven. 1971 Domaine Robert Arnoux Vosne-Romanée - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée Brick-tinged and very light at the edge. Overall appearance is very much of its age. Nose shows sappy pine, deep healthy funk, smoke and plum. Nose says this is ripe, extracted and deep. There is more plum throughout the palate and a little aged wood tannin on the back of the palate. With a sweetish soy note on the finish, this seems to be just a little too deep and extracted. Then all of a sudden one becomes aware of a great streak of acid that brings balance. Finally, the palate picks up pine and spice, particularly on the finish. In a style that is a bit big and heavy/plummy for my taste, but in amazingly great shape for a village wine of its age. Surprisingly enough, this really needs time in the decanter and becomes more typically and recognizably Vosne as it opens up. 1979 Domaine Chevalier Père et Fils Corton-Rognet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Aloxe-Corton A little darker and thicker and deeper looking than the Arnoux. Nose is more cedary than any other Burg I’ve ever tasted. Blind I would have been hard pressed not to guess claret at first sniff. Along with the cedar, there is some dark berry fruit and tar-like mineral. On the palate, very rich and ripe and echoing the flavors of the nose. There’s a bit of a rough and diffuse character to the finish, but – if one doesn’t care that Burgs taste like Burgs – this is a strong showing from a 27-year-old medium-weight vintage. Impressive in its way, but not well-suited to my palate and preferences. 1981 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (From magnum) Lightening at the edges, but the core has a bright depth hinting at remaining youth. Plum and herb on the nose, with a higher-toned layer of currant and spice. Palate shows a growing amount of green, but in a completely good way. The green joins with iron-tin mineral, a streak of graphite, and good acid to make this extremely fresh and very well balanced. Light in texture without completely lacking concentration, this is an overwhelmingly food-oriented wine. Not a blockbuster or a wine that will ever get critical raves, this is the kind of claret I could drink on a daily basis. Amazingly fresh for age and vintage. 1964 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (Not chateau-bottled, but not merchant bottled either. Privately bottled by chateau owners.) Surprisingly bright appearance with some lightening and bricking at edges but a good degree of darker depth in the middle. (Simply the appearance – not to mention the nose and taste – of all of these wines is a testament to the quality of their storage. Kudos to our host!) The nose shows a tiny bit of raisin, but also a great smoothness and cinnamon-licorice spice and brown sugar. The palate is largely resolved and integrated without noticeable acidity and only the smoothest edge of tannin. The fruit here is some very dark berry and more black cherry, held up by a central spine of earthy mineral. Finish carries forward fruit and some of the spice from the nose but introduces a slightly muddy dustiness that worries me a bit. That bit of muddiness and a certain simplicity on the palate are its biggest faults, but I’m still thrilled to add this to the buy list of birthyear wines (as I’m a ’64). 1950 Château Le Gay - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol Mature reddish tending toward a bit of mahogany at edges and a slight bit of cloudiness throughout. Big volatile acidity on the nose. Will it blow off? It never does blow off, but one can still smell and taste through it. In fact, there are high-toned plum scents that are lifted up on the volatility and help to provide a lightening note to the deeper, sweeter, more toasted palate. Nose also shows an almost textural note of scraped velvet and moss. Palate shows Pomerol mature merlot notes of sweet roasted plum, brown sugar, and irony clay. Finish is fading fast, but echoes the evolution of the nose to a mixture of rich sweet soy and furniture polish. No structure left to hold this up for much longer, but it’s not hot or collapsing quite yet. A great vintage to take a punt on old Pomerol, this was worth the punt and fun for old-wine nuts like me but not for most other folks. 1966 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien Still young looking with deepish plum and red colors. A little bit of green vine-leaf and nice dose of berry and plum fruit are immediately apparent on the nose. The green is never intrusive, merely interesting, and a little time lets the cedar and tobacco and currant fruit come out. This one clearly wants a few hours open, as the palate was still tight when we finished it. There is clear evidence of good dark fruit, a bit of wood spice, and some non-earth mineral but it is wrapped tightly enough in good acid and some fine remaining tannin that it is really only just peeking out. In a nicely lean and defined package, this is a wine that very much fits my style of claret. Just as we’re finishing the bottle, a bit of that sweet low library character that I like so much is starting to move to the fore. Great company, wines in great condition for age, a chance to drink a few things I'm unlikely to see anywhere else. And our usual case of a surfeit of generosity that makes it difficult to bear one's own weight. Someone else is always taking the burden. Thanks everyone. And sorry for my tardiness in getting these notes up. Posted from CellarTracker
  6. Best pun I've seen so far this year. Thank you! Jim
  7. THREE FROM THE '80s ('83 RAPHET CdlR, '85 GUIGAL HERMITAGE, '88 MONTILLE MITANS) - Elevage Wine Bar (3/22/2006) A friend is leaving the firm, so we headed out for a few sips and a bite or two. Various things eaten at the counter: salami, pork terrine, fennel-flavored sausage, sautéed foie gras, green salad, tipe a la mode de Caen. Very nice selection of reasonably priced wines (for a Tokyo wine bar) by the bottle with about ten or twelve different things available by the glass. Only drawback was the cigarette smoke that would occasionally overwhelm the wines. 1983 Jean Raphet Clos de la Roche - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis Clear fading red still rich at center but nearing a light orange at the edge. Nose immediately shows gentle blue cheese, freshly picked button mushrooms, typical pinot flavors of beetroot and cherry. Overwhelming impression is of cleanliness and pinot character. On the palate, there is good acid, fully resolved tannin, and a chalky spine. It is thin in the mid-palate but the tautness helps to fill it out. The finish brings out pine needle and dry earth, but is relatively short with only a bit of lingering fruit sweetness. A wine that is elegant and stylish without being manipulated and that stands up on the basis of its space frame-like structure. While the flavors are pure and elegant, they also approach close enough to anemia that I think I would have had quite a hard time with a blind guess. Discernibly pinot; discernibly Bourgogne; maybe discernible as Côte de Nuits, but no more than that. Lacks flavor impact, but enjoyable for its shadowy elegance. 1985 E. Guigal Hermitage - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage Clear deepish red just fading at the edge. Nose is of light iron, plum, high-toned red berry fruit and a little leather. Palate shows light tarry earth and tin-tinged plum in a fully resolved and lowish acid package. An interesting contrast to the prior wine, as each of the notes was pleasing and probably had more actual flavor impact than in the Raphet, but the structure was pretty much gone. Even though it was only mid-weight, it seemed to be waiting to collapse upon itself at any moment. Lacks will and resolve. 1988 Hubert de Montille Volnay Les Mitans 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay Bright cherry red color, fairly sharp all the way to the rim – youthful looking. On the nose there is mineral rich earth, both acerola and darker fruit, forest leaf. Both the nose and palate are pure, clean and incisive. With time, a piercingly high tone comes out on the nose – almost a harmony note on the basic fruit – as does a washed-rind cheese note. The palate shows more earth and sappy red fruit within a still very strong and sturdy acid structure. On the enduring finish (and with time in glass), the tannins emerge and still have a slightly raspy quality. What I most love about Montille wines is the extremely precise, almost painfully etched detail. At its best, that is combined with a great sappiness, as it is here. The one mark against this wine is the raspiness to the tannins that I fear may never go away, but this is an ’88 after all. This one’s a winner in my book. Nice to taste the Montille. Several of the Montille '88s are in the market out here right now. At the right price, I'd definitely buy. Very happy to have had the Raphet and would be interested to try in a smoke-free environment to see if it had more flavor impact then. Hermitage was not much, but then I didn't expect a lot either. Posted from CellarTracker
  8. WHITE BURGS AND RICH ITALIAN REDS - Cà Angeli Restaurant, Tokyo (3/20/2006) Seven of us gathered to taste through a range of mid-90's and older white burgs. The venue was a good Italian restaurant with a menu put together for the event. Restaurant and host each did a job both generous and inspired. When it was time to turn to reds, a trip to the very fairly priced Italian list was a pleasure. Puligny With two courses: - a carpaccio of shrimp with garlic chips and bottarga and - a fried zucchini blossom and a battered fried tomato. 1997 Coche-Dury Puligny-Montrachet Enseignères - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet Straw heading into pale gold, clean and clear. Initially very open nose of sweet toast, deep apple, emerging chalky mineral. In time, a bit of honey and lanolin. Rich sweet flavor with fruit in similar vein to nose, but lacking the detail and refinement of the ’96. With more time, additional notes of cinnamon and limoncello on the medium finish. Much more evolved than the ’96 but showing hints in the end that it still has a bit in reserve. Not finely chiseled enough to do Coche or Puligny complete justice but still a strong effort for a vintage about which I am not too wild. 1996 Coche-Dury Puligny-Montrachet Enseignères - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet Slightly lighter than the ’97 and much more closed initially. Less effusive oak, nuts, hint of citrus and herb. There’s a bit of grainy wood, but overall very stony and delineated. Driven more by mineral and detail than by its (ripe white) fruit. Subtle finish seems short then opens back up into sweet citrus, gentle oak, and slightly earthy mineral. The glass has a lingering smell of classic Coche oak and bit-o-honey long after the wine is gone. An impressive juxtaposition of refined detail and indulgent richness. A real winner that still needs lots of time to come out from under its bushel. Meursault With another two courses: - a seafood pasta (of which I forget the details except that it was delicious and matched very well) - a risotto of spelt with quail. 1996 Coche-Dury Meursault Les Rougeots - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault Rich gold, deeper than the Puligny wines. Wide open with very apparent and deeply bruléed oak. Deep, sweet and lanolinish. Some nuts and a touch of mineral on nose. Palate has rich apple and ripe stone fruit, a little more mineral than the nose, but enough acid that it has a hidden tautness under the richness. Great impression of depth and a long sweet finish of creamy apple sauce. While some of the detail notes are different, this is remarkably consistent with another bottle tasted a little over a month ago. 1992 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault Not as deep as the Rougeots, but still in the gold range. A maderized nose of apple cider. Clearly oxidized. As I’ve heard nothing about random oxidation in ‘92s, I am assuming this is a heat damage/storage issue somewhere in the supply chain. Taking a break from the wine then coming back to it fresh, there is still oxidation but there is also a honey note that at the very beginning of the nose that I pick up as a bit of botrytis. This is damaged and a shadow of itself, but is not so bad as to be undrinkable. The richness that remains rounds out into apple pie with some cinnamon and raisin to go with it. But the oxidation never fades. Older GC Wines With a great dish of deeply flavored abalone and accompaniments. 1990 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet Surprisingly youngish straw gold. This is not blind, so I know I’m influenced by what I already know, but the appearance seems to signal the change from Coche and Lafon to the more restrained Leflaive. And restraint it is. The reticent pear and tart apple nose needs air (so much so that my elbow begins to hurt) and time to show sweet cheese, honey and lots of stone, with an additional hint of green clovery herb. The nose becomes much more open with time showing light and lifted honey and the slightest piercing, almost botrytis-like edge. The palate is rich and deep with white tree fruit and a little ripe stone fruit. It is much more immediately open and shows more quickly some of the elements that took so long to develop on the nose. The finish features and intriguingly almost sour (but perfectly clean and refreshing) earth note and a low stony persistence. Terrific wine. 1988 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pernand-Vergelesses Similar shade of light gold to its Bienvenues flight mate. Terrific open nose of the bloom from a double cream cheese combined with dusty stone and a bit of restrained tropical fruit. Lean palate with slightly exotic apple-meets-coconut and a hint of passion fruit. Very lean and clean, absolutely of the vintage. Nice and taut and mouthwatering. Lacking the scale and richness of the more typical BdM Charlie and lean enough to show its bones, but those bones still recognizably for the skeleton of a Corton-Charlie. Good finish shows a hint of truffle to combine with the brie cheese and mineral. Probably suffers by having to stand next to the Leflaive. One Red with Food With a meltingly tender cut of beef garnished (and absolutely perfumed) with truffle. 1995 Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Bricco Rocche - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo Good deep color and only the very slightest hint of orange at the edge. Nose immediately shows an enticing hint of blue cheese, followed by deep cherry and tar, with a developing deep rich note of sweet balsamic vinegar (but no volatility). Other than the cheese, this is entirely primary. Shows ten times as much on the nose as the palate, which is tight as hell but has tannins that are fine-grained enough never to be painful or too obtrusive. Behind it all there is a certain sweet rich smoothness that says barrique, but there is never any of the sassafrass/rootbeer that I get from Clerico and others. I think I’m learning that I’m a little more tolerant of new oak than I am of aggressive extraction and maceration techniques. In any case, I give this one a good shot to integrate and exhibit good tipicità, but it will take a while. Other ‘95s may drink early, but this one has a way to go. Forget about it for at least eight to ten more years. Two Big Wines That Don't Want Food With a good dessert that needed to be eaten in a separate room from these enchanting pools of flavor. 1997 Romano Dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella Deepest and darkest purple with a bit of the black of night. Sweet oak and vanillin are there in the beginning and will remain throughout, but there will also be a hundred other layers along the way. The nose and palate just kind of blend together into one great big textural pool of flavor, showing bits of coffee and chocolate and deep macerated berries and toasted nuts and molasses and even a bit of green underneath it all. Despite the 17.5% percent alcohol, I really only notice any heat when I look for it. I have no idea what I would ever drink this with and it would quickly become too much of a good thing but it is a wonderfully decadent dive into a viscous pool of flavor tonight. I’m not sure that even six degrees of separation would ever get me back to Corvina or Valpolicella, but it damn sure tastes good. Oh yeah, for those keeping score, the chocolate-driven finish is long. 1997 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito - Italy, Umbria, Montefalco, Sagrantino di Montefalco Deep red color that looks sweet. Nose shows deep sweet red fruit – candied cherry and raspberry essence. This shows as much younger and tighter than the Amarone. Tight is an odd word, as one would never think of austerity or tightness here, but the wine is offering only rich fruit on the nose and refuses to give up anything more, unlike the panoply of the Amarone. In the mouth, rich cheek coating sweetness. Imagine the cough syrup you hated as a child, but make it completely delicious. This has all the flavor and concentration you could ever want, with a variety of sweet rich berries as it rolls through the mouth. It just doesn’t show any complexity beyond that. Give it time. There’s plenty under there, but it’s dwarfed by the young sweet richness. I’ll be putting some of this away for sure. I don't like picking wines of the night, but the Leflaive stood out clearly among the whites (although I'm also completely enamored of the '96 Coche Puligny and the '88 BdM in its own lean way). The Ceretto was a pleasure as it assists in my continuing effort to triangulate in on what I don't like in modernista Barolo wines and what doesn't bother me so much. Any opportunity to taste Dal Forno requires no additional comment beyond "thank you". And the wines of Paolo Bea are one of the world's great values in pure pleasure. Someday I'll get to taste a mature one. As with every other event I do with this crew, the greatest aspects are the people and the simple desire of the organizer to deliver pleasure to friends. And the wines and food are damn good as well. Hearty thanks are due. Posted from CellarTracker
  9. jrufusj

    Wine & Food Pairing

    Wine pricing is spotty in Japan. There are a few simple ways to avoid overpaying: 1. Know what something should cost. The same wine can appear in similar shops at radically different prices. And it's not consistent which shops are high and which are low. The same shop will have items and both ends of the spectrum. Being informed is the best defense. 2. Shop (at least for comparison) online. I've found the general quality of the merchants who are accessible through Rakuten to be very good. Touch wood, but I've not yet had a problem of badly stored or mishandled wines. The comparisons help to minimize the risk of a highly inefficient market. 3. Don't ever be in the position of needing to buy something. If you find yourself in that position, you're likely to get burned. 4. Act quickly when you find something that is well-priced. Things don't last. If it's a good buy and you want it, you'd better act now! 5. Develop a relationship with a few merchants and trust them. They'll do a few things for you. One, they'll tip you off when there are good buys coming/available. Two, they'll steer you away from things that are too good to be true. A few instances of avoiding mistakes that only look like bargains will easily cover whatever premium a good merchant charges. You know, this is good advice that I would give any wine consumer in the US or elsewhere. Re: the wine matches for the fusion menu. Agree that the bold flavors of some of the new world areas you point to often go very well with Pacific Rim cuisine, especially the spicier Korean/Thai/Indian-influenced things. The Asian side of this menu, however, was almost entirely Japanese in both ethos and ingredients. I have not found Japanese food (or food that is heavily Japanese influenced) to do as well with new world wines. Not that they can't match, but I find that they call out for more restrained flavors. Then again, it all comes down to taste. And everyone's taste is a little different. Jim
  10. RECENT WINES - Around Tokyo (3/10/2006-3/19/2006) Tough week of work, so there was little time to sit down as a family for dinner. But there were a few wines tasted and a good family dinner to end the week... Wine? Vodka? Shochu? Ice bars? A couple of glasses with friends at their place before heading out to visit the "Ice Bar" for vodka concoctions and then out for sushi (accompanied by great sudachi sours). The Ice Bar -- what a concept!!! $35 cover charge to go into a place that is so damn cold no one stays for more than one drink. Brought to you by a local impressario in combination with the producers of the Swedish Ice Hotel and Absolut. Brilliant marketing. Not a brilliant experience but you gotta do it once. 2002 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Artemis - USA, California, Napa Valley (3/10/2006) Velvety darkish red appearance. Nose yields a little bit of oakish vanilla sweet and spice, but is more driven by a single-note cassis fruit. Nose is not quite lush with fruit, but definitely rich. Palate is smaller and tighter than expected from nose, with a bit of oak and a more restrained dark berry fruit. It is never hollow or empty but seems to lack a bit of expected concentration. Good acid is a nice surprise and gives a bit of tautness and structure that replaces the smaller than expected fruit. Finish is of average length and non-remarkable. The structure and size on this are actually very much to my taste. This just lacks a bit of complexity to me worth its price tag. A wine I am happy to encounter at other peoples’ houses, it certainly beats the average in that respect. But it’s not a wine I’ll be buying. An old favorite finds its way to Tokyo Over several nights with cobbled together bits of food. 2004 Marcel Lapierre Morgon - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon (3/12/2006) I’ve been looking forward to cracking this one, which recently showed up at a small shop near my house. Light and translucent red color. Shows as bright and clean, but not dense – hinting at quenching freshness. Initially closed on the nose, but a minute or two of vigorous aeration brings out hints of crunchy red fruit – as well as an extreme sweaty-bretty kind of funkiness with a hint of rubber as well. The off notes are strong enough that it is hard to taste anything through them. Nonetheless, I soldier on to find a wine lacking a bit in concentration, but having that (pleasantly) thin and easy flowing fruity acidity that can make these wines as refreshing as good tart fruit juice. On the finish, the off notes dominate again. Coming back to this the next day, the off notes are gone and have left behind a nicely typical Morgon that simply lacks scale and a bit of ripeness. There are slight stemmy/green notes that have also faded by the third day, to leave small-scaled but smooth and refreshing mineral, earth and nicely tart red fruit. Lessons here: First, this needs time and I might worry a little about whether every bottle will shed its off notes. Second, what this really lacks is concentration and flavor impact. It is a “mini-me” of the normal Lapierre Morgon. Fair enough, but now I’m looking forward to the 2005 hitting the shelves. Pep me up After a very long week, a pep-up drink before heading out for the night. N.V. Veuve Fourny & Fils Champagne Brut 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs - France, Champagne, Vertus, Champagne (3/17/2006) Bright light yellow-gold with restrained and very pretty mousse that moves vigorously up the very center of the glass. Nose starts out with spritzy lemon and the very first rudiments of developing toast. It moves on into a bit of mineral and some deeper white fruit notes. On the palate, nicely cutting acidity and bright apple/citrus fruit combined with a surprisingly deep white plum note. This finishes with more lemon, a tad of yeasty toast, and just a hint of honey. The white plum note is a bit incongruous, but otherwise this is stylistically reminiscent of Salon. Doesn’t have the depth or complexity to compete directly, but a good value under $40. I love good Blanc de Blancs. This also stayed very fresh and kept its mousse over the course of three days. I've had it for about six months, but don't know how long it had been with the merchant. This would certainly hold up to and benefit from a little bottle age. All for a good cause The three wines on offer at the annual St. Marys school silent auction and fundraising banquet. At least the company was great! N.V. Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley (3/17/2006) Extremely aggressive mousse within light gold wine. Sweetish nose of apple and fermentation. On taking a sip, an absolute wall of foam that surges then subsides to leave a slightly cloying but not entirely unbalanced palate. I’d never seek this out, but it did have the virtue of being better than the next two wines. A subsequent lookup also indicates that it is dirt cheap. Not so bad a pour for a budget-conscious fundraiser. 2004 Snoqualmie Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley (3/17/2006) Light, almost whitish color. Nose of tropical fruit and grass, plus an unidentifiable note that was (unpleasantly) haunting. A little thin on the palate, but fairly well balanced. Simple ripe fruit, herbal, and pepper notes with just enough acidity. That damn unidentifiable note comes back to mar the finish. About 3am, I wake up and need to have a pee. Standing groggily at the john, I realize two things: first, I had asparagus as part of the dinner; second, I just figured out what the haunting note in the wine was. 2002 Snoqualmie Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Rosebud - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley (3/17/2006) Clean purplish color. Nose shows some cassis/berry fruit that is quickly overwhelmed by a green note on the nose and a huge charge of oak. On the palate, the green stemminess is palpable, as are the rough grained wood tannins. Trying vainly to peer past the oak, the wine seemed to have a reasonable dose of red fruit and good balancing acidity. One glass of this and back to the cheap bubbles. All's well that ends well A nice wine with which to finish. My son wanted to make dinner for the family and proceeded to describe for me the slow-simmered red wine and "meat" stew he wanted to make. For a seven-year old, he concocted a pretty good recipe. With slight alterations (included the addition of some belly pork as the first ingredient to be browned off), this made a great accompaniment to a young Côte-Rôtie. 2001 Mouton Pere & Fils Côte-Rôtie - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie (3/19/2006) Deep rich reddish purple. Nose immediately shows a smoky bacon that matches very well with the stew, but also shows light green olive notes and a pretty floral element. Fruit is pretty closed in, but a bit of aeration and time bring out dark and ripe red berry fruits. Palate is a little brighter, showing cherry fruit notes, along a bit of coffee, some stony earth and good acidity. Fairly quickly, the cherry changes into a nicely concentrated raspberry purée. Tannins are there, but very gentle and subtle. I love the aromatics of older Côte-Rôtie, but I’m inclined to drink this one young for its current richness. A bit of oak shows as roasted coffee and a suave polished edge, but this seems pretty pure. My first bottle; glad I’ve got two more. Good value under $40. My first time with the Mouton Côte-Rôtie and this particular Veueve Fourny bottling. Both impressed. Lapierre was fine but a little disappointing because I approach it with high expectations. Artemis was better than what I normally encounter in such situations. The banquet wines were forgettable, but that's okay. The purpose was to raise money. Still, there are much better cheap wines out there. Posted from CellarTracker
  11. jrufusj

    Wine & Food Pairing

    Stephen -- Great minds think alike! You and I have basically made the same suggestions, just with mine being very old world and yours very new world. Either could be perfect depending on what wines are available, the stylistic preferences of the diners, and the details of the flavor balance in the food. In any case, I thought it was uncanny how close we were in theory -- even down to the weight/profile of pinot and the character of Champagne. Take care, Jim
  12. jrufusj

    Wine & Food Pairing

    Can you move this course to the end? Could it be done in a substantial enough way to be the finisher? If so, I would probably go with a Côte-Rôtie on the more elegant side, like Jasmin (my favorite Côte-Rôtie producer). For a new world twist, you could go for one of the Aussie shiraz-viognier wines like Laughing Magpie(?). The Rhone is more to my taste, but they aim at the same thing (and are made from the same grapes), just in different styles. You can also find some syrah-viognier blends more in the value range from southwest France. If you can't move the course, I might look toward a more pinot noir-driven Champagne. At the higher end, Bolly's Grand Année would do well. For a grower wine (and lower pricing), you might look to one of the Egly-Ouriet cuvées. Finally, if you need to focus more on price, you could look to a Franciacorte (made from pinots bianco, grigio, and niero). In any case, make sure the client reins in the wasabi or any match will fall flat. Hard to know what this dish will be like. Assuming the citrus-vinegar element will not be OTT and that there will be some unctuousness/sweetness from the softshells (however cooked), I'm thinking Loire. Whether I looked to a bone-dry Savennieres or a more demi-sec range Vouvray would depend on the balance of the dish. In any case, a good chenin that balances richness with acid and has some mineral to play off of the salty sea taste of the crabs is sounding good to me. Lots of good value choices here. If the acid isn't overpowering and the crab richness needs a sharper foil, I could also see a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé working. If the acid isn't overpowering and the crab prep brings out a nuttiness (could see from sauté in browned butter or from frying), then I could definitely see a Soave here. Very good values available from Soave. For this one, you could go completely opposite directions. There's loads of umami in the mushrooms and miso, plus nice earthiness if the carrots are really good. I could see a red Burg doing very well, particularly something from around Beaune or Savigny or Pernand-Vergellesses. Good values here as well. Given the next dish, though, it would require more menu shuffling to insert a red here. If you do move it and want a bigger and very distinctive finish, a Bandol would be great. You can probably find '95s or '96s in the market. That's enough age still to be lively but also to have taken on some great secondary character. If you need to go white, I think I'd enjoy a northern Rhone here. If money is no object, an Hermitage Blanc would be excellent. If you need to step down a notch, there are also good options from Crozes. For a new world slant, there are some good Rhone-ish whites coming out of Cali. There are probably still values, but these have gotten popular. A risky but fun choice would also be to go with Valentini's Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. Just be aware that this wine is "challenging" to some. It definitely is subject to reduction and needs a ton of air to show well. If this is a professional gig and you don't know the wine, I would definitely take a pass on this one -- or -- buy a bottle now and spend a couple of days with it to see what it can do and how much time it needs. With the yuzu and lime, I'm definitely thinking I want to find a way to do a riesling. As much as I love them, I'm not seeing Germans on any scale of size or sweetness working with the kimchi späetzle, though a big Rheingau trocken might work. I'm leaning more toward an Alsatian riesling or maybe an Austrian, probably a Smaragd from Wachau, though a bigger one from Kamptal or Kremstal could work. The more the kimchi spice is going to intrude, the more I would lean toward Alsace. A completely different direction to go would be to pair Champagnes all the way through. If you're interested in that and have a specific budget with which to work, let us all know. That would be a fun exercise. In any case, enjoy. Jim [edited for truly awful spelling]
  13. Damn punsters here are going to milk this for all it's worth.
  14. SOME OLDER BURGS - La Fève (3/3/2006) A friend of a friend has opened a new wine bar, so a few of us headed over there with Burgs in hand to do a little drinking. I didn't get a chance to take a peek at the wine list, but if it is as well thought out, well executed, and well priced as the food offerings then they will do very well. Per Tokyo style, the courses came as small plates and were not directly matched with wines, but provided a nice continuing back drop that matched very well. Fragile First It makes me a contrarian, but I'd rather drink the older wines first if there's any risk of them being overwhelmed by bigger/younger wines. 1970 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée St. Vivant - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée In the glass this has really gone over to an orange color, but it is an encouragingly deep orange. The nose shows as attractively ripe with strong and fully mature mushroom and raisin notes plus a little brie. Time brings out flowers and the decadent sweet smells of summer. The palate is soft in a pleasantly mature way with fully evolved berry fruit. Actually a bit of brightness shows up on the finish after the wine spends a little time in the glass. With even more time, some of that brightness shows up in the front of the mouth as a more youthful shot of raspberry. What really set this apart, though, are the great flowers and summer part of the nose and a dose of spice that builds and builds in the finish. After an hour, this is actually starting to dry out in the mid-palate but the floral/spice elements are still growing. Obviously not a blockbuster, but a damn pleasurable wine from an “off” vintage that is discernibly and delightfully RSV. Two '78 Re-releases These paired in many ways: both '78s; both from more foursquare terroirs; both ex-domaine. 1978 Camille Giroud Corton - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Aloxe-Corton Dense and solid looking many years younger than it is in the glass. When I double decanted this about 2 ½ hours before dinner, I worried that it might be very mildly tainted. However, when poured at dinner, it is perfectly clean and there is nothing to worry about. Nose shows dusty earth and a bit of raisin initially, plus broad and solid dark cherry fruit. An hour or so later, it shows beguiling blue cheese and mushroom notes. Great deep and rich palate with roast plum, deep sweet cherry, and a hint of raisin. In the back of the palate and on the finish, there is a surprising (and necessary) bright flash of acidity. Getting better and better as the night goes on, this still needs a lot more time. Very Corton-like: not necessarily exciting, but with very broad shoulders and great depth. Corton is not my favorite cru, but I can't complain when something shows so typically and with such solidity. 1978 Michel Gaunoux Pommard Les Grands Épenots 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard Isn’t it a great night when wine after wine shows as typical of its appellation? This one began with a good and complex nose of mushrooms and wet earth and cherry that just loved the salad and duck confit with which it was paired. The palate had a great resiny depth of taste featuring plum and brie and meat and smoke. Meaty and savoury is the description that kept running through my mind. There’s also just a bit of beet and the occasional flash of acid/brightness that keeps it fresh enough. Though more mature than the Giroud, this still has plenty of time to go. One Last Wine We'd had it by then and probably should have quit, but I had already double decanted this earlier and I'm a glutton for punishment anyway. 1990 Hubert Lignier Morey St. Denis 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis Nose had a red fruit and earth core that was spot-on and very pleasing, but there was also a meatiness and hint of roasted fruit that was a tad distracting. Though never sticking out, there was also a lingering hint of oak imparted suavity. On the palate, the roasted element was initially more obtrusive, but with time it settled down and the fruit became a little cleaner and fresher. The medium-weight mid-palate also shows a little soy, while the earth comes back out on the finish. I’m not sure this bottle was in perfect condition, as there was an odd, ongoing, and ultimately unresolved conflict between the freshness earthiness and elegance that peeked out from time to time and the roasted notes that always threatened to dominate. I picked this up a while back at retail, so who knows where it had been. Then again, this showed much more roasted and soy notes when I double decanted earlier, so it may just need even more time to clean up. Certainly fresher and less roasted at the end of the night than the beginning. The RSV was the most exciting wine of the night, with its strong spice and floral notes. I take great pleasure in older "off" vintages when they show well, even if they are beginning to fade. The two re-releases (Gaunoux and Giroud) both showed very well and much younger than their 28 years of age. Both of them deserve more attention. I'll be interested to try something from a more elegant village than Aloxe from Giroud and see how the older-style winemaking works. It's definitely a style that shows well in an older wine from a place like Corton. I was disappinted with the Lignier, but who's to complain when three older wines show as well as or better than you have a right to hope and one wine is only somewhat disappointing? Posted from CellarTracker
  15. jrufusj

    TN: Recent Food Wines

    Jim: I hope the answer to my rhetorical question is that I will drink more Soave now that I've found sources for a few different wines I like here in Tokyo. I've got the first bottle of the '04 Pieropan basic-level classico lined for consumption in the next week or so. Assume it will be good as Pieropan is a proven winner. I'm also a fan of Prà, at least the basic cuvée, and it is available here. Haven't seen the Anselmi here in Tokyo, but I've liked it before and will pick it up when I eventually find it. Don't know the Tamellini at all. Thanks very much for the tip. Don't know the Gini either. Take care, Jim
  16. 2004 Inama Soave Classico - Italy, Veneto, Soave Classico (3/5/2006) During the summer, a new wine shop opened near my house. Not much to see when I paid an early visit. Went back this weekend and saw the Inama wines for the first time in Tokyo. Bright, light, and enticing clear straw in the glass. Rich but bright and crystalline nose of pure fresh-cut pears backed up by a little grass and a good shot of cool stone. The palate is dancingly bright with the most minute hint of spritz and nice acidity. A bit of citrus and apple join the pear to form a bright white fruit core. Never big or round but manages to wash and refresh every corner of the mouth before it exits gracefully with one more hint of grass and stone. Even ignoring the much lower price, I probably prefer this to the higher end cuvées, especially as a foil to lime-driven vegetable tacos. Why don't I drink even more Soave? 2002 Domaine Moillard Bourgogne-Aligoté - France, Burgundy, Bourgogne-Aligoté (3/1/2006) Still the slightest flashes of green, but this has started to deepen from its straw yellow start. Has a slightly sharp apple and rock and fieldgrass nose that is immediately accessible and doesn’t really evolve over the course of a few days. On the palate, good front-end bite and a little more substance than expected in the mid-palate. Simple apple and taut citrus flavors along with a bit more (good) grassiness on the (shortish) finish. I really like aligoté for its tense and refreshing character. At best (from Lafarge or de Villaine and the like), it can take on a certain roundness and depth without losing its tautness. This wine lacks that roundness and depth, but retains the tautness and is a foursquare effort for a producer from whom I did not expect much. Good enough but not particularly exciting, it did a fine job of standing up to bean noodles in a mildish kimchi and vegetable broth. Won’t buy again, but don’t regret that I’ve got a bottle or two left. 1997 Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico - Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico (2/27/2006) I love it when someone tells me my son has dashing good looks or is smart or creative. But what sometimes makes me happiest is to hear the phrase “plays well with others”. He could survive any number of shortcomings if he knows how to get on with others. For me, the vinous equivalent is “goes well with food”. If that is the case, the wine can survive any number of flaws. This Chianti, in fact, is not flawed. It’s got a nice mouth-watering cherry juiciness, good acid for the vintage, and enough aromatic complexity (herbs, tobacco, earth) to be interesting. The palate depth and finish are adequate. And it marries up with good Bolognese just beautifully. It’s also got a slight veneer of wood and a little cab blended in, neither of which I would prefer. But I don’t care so much when it plays so well with others. Posted from CellarTracker
  17. jrufusj

    Burgundian websites

    In the old-fashioned paper ages, the best bet used to be to get a copy of a current version of Hachette's Guide to the Wines of France (at least I think there's an English version and that's its title). The book had a pretty deep listing of growers and negociants included their contact information. Haven't bought a Guide Hachette in years, so I'm not sure if it is still the same. There is also some website called "Wine of the Web" that seems to come up whenever I do a search for a grower. This purports to have contact info and such, but have never looked so don't know how reliable it is. Good luck, Jim
  18. SPRING 06 TAC VENDOR SALE - Tokyo American Club (3/3/2006) The semi-annual vendor tasting and sale at TAC. Almost 150 wines open for two hours. No way to taste everything or to anything real justice, but some interesting snapshots. I can't help gravitating toward the Burg or German tables, but I try to use these as an opportunity to try at least a few things I might not otherwise try. Prices are per bottle in US Dollars for case lots unless indicated otherwise. N.V. Bellavista Franciacorta Brut - Italy, Lombardia, Franciacorta Big and broad but bursting with bubbly goodness. That’s how it looks with an aggressive and large-beaded mousse. That’s how it smells with white plum and a little cherry and some ripe apple and some rocky mineral on the nose. That’s how it tastes with a broad and pleasing mousse allied to more big white stone fruit. Good fruit sweetness, a hint of yeast, and some more mineral make a slightly short finish good while it lasts. A good wine at a good price, this particular disgorgement would probably be a little better hidden away for a couple of years before consumption. ($23.45) 1996 Henriot Champagne Brut Millésimé - France, Champagne Good pleasant mousse and a hint of golden richness that telegraphs what is to come. I’ve got no experience with this house, but I’ll be seeking more. Rich bread and baked apple nose with some (clean) leesiness reminds me of Grande Dame. Palate picks up enough citrus and a tiny streak of elegance that it doesn’t topple over. Again, a nice masculine style that could be a ringer in a Grande Dame vertical. Big and rich enough to drink now, but will probably benefit from a little more settling in and development. Nice to discover. ($40.09 at half-case lot) 1998 Pol Roger Champagne Brut Rosé - France, Champagne, Épernay, Champagne Copper and steel. That is, a nice deep copper color and that steely/irony structure that I love in rosé Champagne. This is somewhere between the steely-iron freshness of cold water and the rich blood-tinged iron that sometimes appears. That steeliness combines with light and bright cherry and white plum fruit to produce real pleasure. Bead is nicely small and unusually restrained, but it plays well in this package. I like most wines old, but this one screams to be tried right now. Of course, it will also get better! A winner. ($43.30 at bottle lot) 1995 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, Brut - France, Champagne, Épernay, Champagne Nose is still young and tight, but already shows the Churchill punch and size. Typical apple aromas combine with a little more mineral than I am used to in this cuvee. And that’s about it for the nose. Great freshness and tiny bead texture on the palate with some nut and buttery flour that then combine with a little citrus on the finish to stay fresh. Tiny hints of yeastiness and the deep sweet light red fruit is there in wispy imaginary bits but this is still very, very young. Promises to be very good as well, but to evolve much more slowly than some of the more forward ‘95s. Very nice wine at the price. ($92 at bottle lot) 2002 Egon Müller Riesling QbA - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Saar This has that pretty light green-tinged yellow that always makes my mouth water. Well, so does the riverstone and whiteflower and limey peach nose. And so does the very slightly sweet apple-lime and mineral palate. Simpler than the Pradikat wines from this producer, but no less pleasing. Fresh and perfectly balanced between a little pleasing sweetness and a bright acidity. And the finish ain’t shabby either! A bottling done just for the Japanese market, this is labeled simply as MSR Riesling QbA but is all from estate fruit. Not sure what is different from the normal Scharzhoff QbA, but I don’t really care. Back up the truck. ($15.46) 2003 Schloss Vollrads Riesling QbA Trocken - Germany, Rheingau Nicely oily Rheingau riesling appearance leads to some peach and tropical fruit on the nose, along with a slight hint of smoky mineral and the kind of heavy white summer flowers that grow in New Orleans and other old southern coastal towns. On the palate, a little more mineral and a bit of zippy lime acidity join in to give some much needed freshness. This is ’03 and this is Rheingau heavy, but this is also quite good. Kabinett at least and maybe Spätlese for a QbA price. I’d buy this, but only after I’d bought a truckload of the Muller QbA. But that’s reflective of my prejudices more than any clear quality difference. ($15.89) 2004 Sepp Moser Grüner Veltliner Gebling - Austria, Niederösterreich, Kremstal Typical peach and pepper and peas on the nose. Palate picks up some grapefruit and mineral, but there’s a sense of a bit of mushy sweetness that is distracting. Very slight spritzig note helps to counteract. Relatively simple but more persistent than I expected. This cries out for food, but not loudly enough for me to buy more than a bottle to try at a more leisurely pace. ($15.34) 2002 François Petitjean Chablis Fourchaume 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Chablis Fairly ripe apple/lemon nose with enough mineral and cool brightness to be interesting. On the palate, seems a little less ripe (to the good) and very typical but not remarkable. Goes down easy and, without seeing the pricetag, I’d like to drink more. But this lacks the concentration and finish to make me want to pay the price and take home a case. Actually, nicely typical of Fourchaume with the riper and rounder nose, plus enough crispness and minerality to say Chablis. It just lacks the concentration of a 1er cru – or even a top notch Chablis AC – and that shouldn’t be an issue in this vintage. ($23.70) 2003 Michel Coutoux Puligny-Montrachet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet Nose shows a bit of oak spice straightaway, but this settles quickly to reveal good and detailed slightly smoky apple and citrus fruit plus a nice cool stoniness. There’s a hint of sweetness on the nose that, like the oak, stays just enough out of the way to let the clean smokey fruit and mineral come through. The palate begins the same way with real concentration and weight that still has fairly fresh fruit and a little definition. To this point, a bit oakier/bigger/riper than I would choose, but still very well made. On the finish, the curse of ’03 comes out with a cloying sweetness that just tips this over the top. In another vintage, it might just hug the line without going over. Good in its way, but not my way. ($34.36 at quarter case lot) 2002 Lucien Le Moine Meursault Genevrières - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault Had never tried one of these before, but had heard the name. Based on this one, I’m still not sure what to think. As I got my pour, I heard two people exclaiming loudly (actually lecturing bystanders loudly) about how great a Meursault this is. Then I put my nose in and did a quick recoil. Tasting it confirmed my impressions. Dominated by a very rich but sweaty and dirty-smelling cheesey/leesy/sour-milk note. Thought it might be reduction but this didn’t blow off and the importer said it tasted just right. Not corked either, so I can only imagine vigorous stirring of dirty lees. DNPIM! Get home and do a search to find that these folks are active lees stirrers. Makes sense to me. Would be interested to taste a clean white from them, but suspect it may be OTT. Mama always said it wasn’t nice to play with one's baton too much. ($57.27 at quarter case lot) 2001 Bruno Clair Marsannay - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Marsannay For whatever reason, I have very limited memories from this wine. Couldn’t have made too much of an impression. What I do remember is that – after the frustration of the Le Moine and the Coutoux – this at least had a little rough mineral on the nose roundish nose and a certain leanness and cut on the palate that made me think I was drinking something that would work with food. Also recall that it lacked some polish and concentration, but that it was “real”. For the money, I’d try another bottle to see, but I’d wait for good results before I gambled on the third. I’m afraid I was looking for a white Burg to like at this point – the winetasting equivalent of beer goggles. ($20.75 at bottle lot) 2003 Jermann Vinnaioli IGT della Venezia Guilia Were Dreams, now it is just wine! - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, IGT della Venezia Guilia Deeply colored and deeply scented, with a range of apricot and floral honey and peach that never points to chardonnay. On the palate, some minerals join in and there is (just barely) enough acid to keep it in balance. Deep, darker than expected, and decadently delightful. I don’t want to like this (or any other chard from Italy), but it is comfortable enough doing its own thing that I can’t help but like it. Dammit, my principles are slipping. At this price, it’s also probably just on the buy side of the line but it’s no bargain. I suspect this would show a little better in a more taut vintage. ($40.20) 2001 J. Confuron-Cotetidot Bourgogne - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Bourgogne Slightly mushy-muddy texture to nose obscures basic sweet cherry fruit and some cola-ish notes. Simple and sweetish red fruit flavors on the palate. A little disjointed and not particularly typical of the vintage or the region. Just doesn’t do anything for me. Bad bottle??? ($19.84 at bottle lot) 2001 Faiveley Mercurey Clos des Myglands - France, Burgundy, Côte Chalonnaise, Mercurey Now this is fun to drink, mainly due to a surprising combination of density and rough edges with pretty purity. The red fruit flavors wrapped in slightly backward tannins and clean earth are nothing unusual, but there’s just a level of detail and grace hiding inside. Like a pretty young lady in a scratchy lumberjack shirt, it’s worth the initial irritation. Three things – a bottle of ’85 Clos des Cortons; Claude Kolm; and Maureen Nelson – encouraged me to revisit the higher end of the Faiveley range. This will encourage me to revisit the more basic wines. Less uptown and less polished on the exterior than a recent Joblot, but with much more pure gritty-pretty typicity inside. Both are strong examples of the Chalonnais, but the Faiveley is more to my taste. Good price too. ($21.64 at bottle lot) 2001 Simon Bize Savigny-lès-Beaune Aux Vergelesses 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune Time heals most things, but maybe not green tannins. I like most things about this wine. It has a great sappy depth that makes me think it has the fruit and concentration to age out well. It also has a Savigny stony earthiness that I like a lot. Good pure cherry fruit and a slight hint of beetroot round out the pleasantly deep and foursquare package. This is still very young and needs time to work out the tannins in which the whole package is wrapped. If only those tannins didn’t seem a little rough and angular and green, I’d be a lot more confident. This is one of those wines that I’d be afraid to take a big plunge on based on this style of tasting, but that might really start to sing with a good decant and an evening of air. ($34.27 at bottle lot) 2000 Domaine Amiot Guy et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet Clos Saint-Jean 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet Another wine of which I have pretty faint memory. The rough sketch is a wine that was bright and clean for the vintage – not soupy or soylike. Clean and pleasantly sourish cherry fruit combines with some earth and underbrush for a reasonably concentrated mix and a decent finish. To be fair, this was late in the tasting and I was hurrying to get through this table. Worth another try at the price. ($35.18 at bottle lot) 2001 Domaine Thierry Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin I always admired the dedication and attention to detail of the late Denis Mortet, but his wines were not in my preferred style. Thus, I was a little skeptical when I saw his (previously unknown to me) brother’s name on this bottle. Nice surprise and totally different in style! Not devoid of oak or a little easy red berry fruit, but also very nicely balanced and with a hint of the reserve that makes 2001 so appealing. Earth and a wee bit of spice on the finish add interest. Good density and depth, but remaining impression is of a wine that is both earthy and lissome at the same time. On the gentle side for the appellation and year, this is well enough priced that I think it stands out as one of the good value/good quality producers of Gevrey. ($30.67 at bottle lot) 2001 Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanée Les Orveaux 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée Certain producers perform reliably for me according to type. My limited experience with Mongeard Mugneret is that the wines are always in balance and nicely typical, but simply lack that little bit of excitement that makes me want to buy the more spendy grands or better premiers crus. There is reasonable concentration and structure to this wine, though it is a little easy for the vintage. Fruit is a mix of red and dark berry fruit and there are the requisite small hints of nascent spice and flowers. The finish is maybe a little weak, but even that’s okay. This just seems to lack that last bit of punch and depth to make it really exciting. ($51.41 at bottle lot) 2003 Domaine des Vins de Vienne St. Joseph - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph Cuilleron/Gaillard/Villard join up in 1996 to form a part-grower/part-negociant business. Seven years later, they make a 2003 that I really like. What have I been missing? Should have tried these long ago. This has a sweet but still bright nose that features delightfully simple but pure crushed raspberries. Take your time and sniff hard and you might also find some earth or some herbs, but why work so hard? This smells great so take a sip. Ah!! Same great fruit but with just enough tannin and even a trace of acid to keep it fresh enough to find the slight meatiness and smoky mineral on the finish without too much work. Didn’t look to see what the ABV is, but it certainly never sticks out. Based on this and a few other wines, St. Joseph may have been the big winner in the Rhone 2003 sweepstakes. Great value too. ($17.18 at half-case lot) 2003 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape The best 2003 CdP I’ve encountered. While this isn’t exactly restrained or lean, it seems to be a good bit throttled back from its neighbors in this vintage. Has the same seductive red berry fruit that I’m finding in more and more wines from the vintage, but without some of the overly dense dark fruit and raisin/prune notes. Big and slightly chunky, this shows a bit of heat on the finish but less than expected. There’s enough leather and hot, stony earth to keep it interesting. A good effort and the first CdP from the vintage I’d consider buying (and the price is right). I also think I might drink this one young while waiting for 98/99/01 to come around. ($30.71) 2003 Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape A step up in ripeness and down in pleasure, but still not completely out of the game despite its very big and evident alcohol structure. A little less of the pretty red berry (though not absent) and a little more of the dark and jammy berry do a fair job of masking the alcohol, but they also seem to mask any earth/herb/leather that might want to come out. Not bad – in fact a good effort for a vintage I really don’t like much – but not up to the usual standard and not one I’m buying. ($35.80 at half-case lot) 2001 Bois Pertuis Excellence de Bois Pertuis - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Contrôlée Sexy! First blush of beautiful pure essence of cassis and raspberry fruit on nose and palate brings to mind a mature Lafleur. I wish that impression could continue to the end. Very ripe fruit with a big dose of new oak threatens to tire (but never completely does, as the fruit does a pretty good job of hiding the oak). I worry whether there is enough structure to hold it up for very long. At the tariff, however, this is really sexy merlot that I would be glad to serve to right bank/Cali fruit lovers. Bernard Magrez has his place. A lot of fun to drink and unashamed to be what it is. Drink now for its sexy youthful beauty. ($40.59) 2002 Château Fombrauge - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion A lot tighter and without the plush crushed fruit from the Bois Pertuis. Built with some acid and a little more tannin to have a bit more extended life. Fruit is mor plum and less berry. Currently dominated by its oak and tannins, I’m not sure this has the mid-palate depth to absorb the oak and round out into something I want to drink – especially with food. Stuck in the middle…too newfangled to please my classic palate and not plush enough for me to serve (and enjoy) like the Bois Pertuis. ($53.34) 1999 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino - Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino Pretty plummy red in the glass, this also has an inviting ripe plum and leather nose. There is the Argiano barrique in the background, but it never really gets in the way. However, this is in a pretty closed place and not much else shows now. On the palate, this shows its youth with a shot of upfront tannin that then spreads across the cheeks. Nice concentration and a full mid-palate, but the fruit seems a little soft. In the finish, the fruit goes muddy and the oak finally intrudes. I’m not the best at judging young Brunello and this sort of tasting doesn’t do young wines justice, but I don’t think this is going anywhere too exciting. Unfair snap verdict is: Ho-hum and lacking verve. ($36.30) 2000 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley Expressive nose featuring dark brambly, briary fruit and plum. There is also a little zinny pepper, but it never seems to be hot despite the 15% alcohol. In the mouth, sweet but not cloying with a little bit of tannic structure running right down the middle of the palate to keep it interesting. Finishes with a little smoky chocolate spice. Don’t want it often but it can be so very good. At the price, however, there are other things I’d rather drink most days. No need to wait on this. ($38.65) 2000 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (From half bottle) Per the label, this clocks in at 0.2% lower in alcohol than the Pagani. Per the palate, it’s a degree or two higher. That’s a shame because there is a pretty mixture of crushed berries and crunchy red fruit along with a bit of spice and more acid and tannic structure than the Pagani has. I’m tempted to put some away hoping it resolves, but experience and instinct tell me that while oak and even big fruit can integrate with time excessive alcohol does not. This is also peppery, but in a totally different way to the Pagani. ($25.13 per the half bottle) Lots of fun, but take these notes as the limited snapshots they are. If wine is a moving picture, this is only one frame. I can't imagine what it would be like if I tried to taste more. Posted from CellarTracker
  19. Brad: I love the Robert stuff, but all of the vintage wines come pretty dear. The NV wines, though, are pretty reasonable and definitely something I would recommend. The vintage wines are well distributed and easily available here in Japan. The NVs are less so. Don't know about the US. Wine-searcher doesn't show a lot. For the '90s Sauternes, I partially agree. (1) The Rieussec needs lots of time. That was the point of my disjointed note -- that it had all the jigsaw pieces, but that they didn't fit together yet. I had three bottles foir a dinner party a little over a year ago that showed much more advanced. I suspect they were atypical due to questionable storage (came from a grey market importer). The bottle Friday night was pristine and, I believe, more indicative of where the wine should be at 16 years old. (2) I don't think the Suduiraut is going anywhere. I could be wrong, but I didn't sense the hidden bits and hints that would tell me anything more was coming out here. Could be wrong, but I'd drink it now for its pure honeyed goodness. (3) The Lafaurie was drinking the best I've ever seen it. It was much more advanced than a half-bottle I had about six months ago. This one was showing nice complexity (actually the best of the three on Friday night), but I do think there is more to come and that time will bring even more improvement. Less evolved bottles won't be showing as much, but I think this wine is past its completely monolithic stage. The Suduiraut is the only one I haven't had multiple times recently, so I'm less confident there. But my gut says it won't ever show as much as the others. I don't like gargantuan tastings, but I love small horizontals like this (and also small verticals) because it puts the wine in such nice relief. Jim
  20. TTG ROUND #5 -- CHAMPAGNES AND STICKIES - Au Petit Paris -- Shirokane (2/17/2006) Our Tokyo group got together for the fifth time, this time with a theme of Champagne and stickies. Au Petit Paris, a terrific little neighborhood French place, was kind enough to close up for the evening and host us. The group was kind enough to indulge my kinky tasting theme. Blanc de Blancs to Open With a small anchovy croissant, a delightful little bit of smoked eel, and some duck terrine. 1986 Alain Robert Blanc de Blancs Reserve Le Mesnil - France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger Deepish gold in the glass with vigorous small bead that dissipates from view fairly quickly (but comes back on the palate). Nose is of rich and honeyed peaches allied to a strong toasted brioche note. Playing in the background are floral and mineral elements and a little hazelnut. This is a very rich and very Corton Charlie-like chardonnay Champagne nose. On the palate, this has good acid and a similar richness to Salon, but in a different flavor spectrum. The effervescence reappears here, but not entirely as mature Champagne creaminess, as there is still a surprisingly primary prickle that pops up from time to time. There is some ripe apple and a little more mineral than showed on the nose and a hint of vanilla sweetness, but it is largely about honeyed peaches (and fairly primary ones at that) . Concentration and finish are both respectable for the vintage. Overall, impressive depth and definitely an inducement to go WineHunting for affordably priced ‘85s, which I suspect will show more complexity. This '86 has plenty of life and (I believe) a lot of development left. Occasionally, I'm actually happy with a wine I bring. This was one of those times. Fraternal Twins With a beautiful big Kumamoto oyster, a salmon/cream mousse, and something I can't remember...then a dish of scallops with sweet red pepper sauce. 1985 Deutz Champagne Brut - France, Champagne Looking a little old in color, but not in bead and vigor. Ah! Classic old Champagne nose… This shows the tiniest (emphasize tiniest) sherry highlights which rapidly settle into mineral, light toasted water crackers, a slight bit of brie/mushroom, and some apple flowers. On the palate, though not youngish it is surprisingly bright with acidity and spritz. This is completely mature and no one could mistake it for young and vigorous, but it is delightful to drink now. The pretty mineral finish is starting to fade a little and it would be dwarfed head-to-head by some of the bigger wines to come, but none of that is a bad thing. This has much that I love in mature Champagne – filigree laciness, liveliness driven by acid and gentle spritz, pure mineral precision. Very enjoyable, but don’t sit on it. (Though the fact that it picked up weight in the glass leads me to think this has more life to go than it might at first seem.) Thanks Steve. Hope you were as happy with the restrained beauty of this one as I was. 1985 Deutz Champagne Brut Rosé - France, Champagne Fraternal twin to the wine above, this has not fared as well. It starts out nicely with the most beautiful light copper color. The struggling trickle of mousse is indicative of the texture to come. The nose shows browning baking apples and some plum pudding, along with a little toast if one searches. The effervescence is down to a slight tickle and the palate is sustained by a bit of oxidizing fruit and some smoked vine-wood character. As I’ve said before, it is as fun for me to drink things on the backside of the curve as the front, so I enjoyed this. But it does reconfirm my belief that most rosés do better a little earlier in their lives. For those who don’t share my taste in fading beauty, this one has passed you by. Not one to buy, but one of which I’m very happy to have a glass. Thanks Steve. The RD Flight With the remainder of the scallops, then with a great dish of kawahagi (trigger fish) over a risotto-type base enriched with lobster. N.V. Egly-Ouriet Champagne Extra Brut Vieillissment Prolongé Grand Cru - France, Champagne Ding, ding, ding! Now we’ve moved to young wine land. This is ’98 fruit from Ambonnay, Bouzy, and Verzenay and was disgorged in May ’05. Pretty color is slightly past youthful and into gold. Small-beaded mousse is restrained but oh so persistent. Nose shows strong pinot character with light plum and other light reddish fruit. These fruit notes are wrapped in nuts, yeastiness, and a bit of honeysuckle flower. On the palate, this shows great balance and good early integration of the mousse. The mousse is young, vigorous and prickly, but doesn’t get in the way of a full body of cherry and some peach. Flavors are pretty primary, but there is some nuttiness here. Texturally, absolutely beautiful with a full body that never gets heavy. Finish is strong, but the flavors on the palate are still pretty primary and probably need two or three or even four more years in bottle to develop the complexity that must be lurking. Vigorous and balanced but needing some time, this is a buy for me. Thanks Oliver. 1988 Bollinger Champagne R.D. Extra Brut - France, Champagne Still lighter than the Deutz rosé, but starting to take on the coppery tones that come with time on the cork as well as the lees. Fine and integrated mousse still shows good life, but looks gentle. The nose immediately delivers the array that one expects from this wine. Wide open notes of yeast, grilled nuts, ripe apple and white plum, toast, and a wee bit of mineral. The palate shows rich creaminess and ripe apple and peach fruit, along with some smoke – and enough acid to stay in balance. Body is good throughout and the only real oxidative notes show up on the finish along with more grilled nuts and toast. Absolutely true to type, this is a classic late disgorged Champagne. Disgorged in 2001, this is not coming apart but is showing the first signs that it may have had as much time on the cork as it can handle. Classic and a great pleasure to drink, but I worry that the toast/cream/yeast will soon overwhelm the remaining fruit and acid. Drink it now and let it thrill you, as the ’88 Bolly has held up better on cork than do many lees-aged Champagnes. Drink with pleasure but only buy to drink now and only with known storage. Thanks Michael and Lu Ping. I think you caught this one at peak. Options Time With a dish of perfectly cooked duck breast, garnished with classic French vegetables (turnip, haricots verts, etc.) A tough wine for the “Options” game. Easy to get (a) single varietal, (b) pinot noir, and © Burgundy (from nose), but then I fell apart. Guessed ’95 for the vintage because of the more mature nose allied to roughish palate. Wrong! Guessed Côte de Beaune for source. Wrong! Once I knew it was Chalonnais, it was an odds-on guess to limit producers to Joblot or Faiveley. Mistakenly, I chose Faiveley based on palate character rather Joblot based on plumpness and oak. I know Faiveley and Joblot are completely different, but that’s why this was such a good “Options” wine. It is a schizophrenic split between (a) silkiness of Joblot oak, CdB fruit style, ’99 vintage and (b) rough, somewhat tannic palate that suggested ’95 and someone more traditional like Faiveley. Oh well. Didn’t make a complete fool of myself. If I’d had to guess blind from the start without options, I would have guessed a lesser Lafon Santenots like the ’95. 1999 Joblot Givry Clos de la Servoisine 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte Chalonnaise, Givry This was the “Options” wine. Reddish burg color starting to fade some at the edge. Nose is open from the beginning, with some oak spice but also a classic pinot beetroot and cherry fruit. Nose shows some mature elements with a little forest floor and light earth. On the palate, an odd combination of creamy/silky oak and some strawberry and darker cherry fruit. Fairly big mouth presence and reasonable acidity combined with a surprising degree of tannin given the somewhat mature palate. Good concentration and moderate finish that shows very little of the mature notes from the nose. An atypical but impressive showing for the appellation and a good value, I suspect. If the oak and sexy silk on the nose settled down a bit and the sous-bois continued to grow, it would be a good value stand-in for a Côte d’Or Burg. If anything, at this point it was just a bit short on distinctiveness/typicity, so I’m not sure it’s as pleasing in its originally intended and native role as a Côte Chalonnaise wine. Does that make sense? As noted above, though, it was good enough to fool me. Thanks Oliver. Crying Time Intended to finish out the duck and lead into the cheeses. Sophocles would have been pleased. 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina di Neive - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco Do you know how much I hate corks? When decanted, this seemed a wee bit musty but I didn’t have any reason to believe it was anything that wouldn’t blow off. An hour and a half or so later, this was clearly corked, but not so much that one couldn’t mournfully try to taste through the TCA. From what I could tell, it had lovely texture, good acid, a very little bit of tannic bite, and great classic earthy/tarry/plummy flavors. What a damn shame! A Pair of Sauternes With Monbriac, Rocquefort, Tomme de Savoie, and Epoisses and dried fruit (fig, strawberry, melon). 1990 Château Suduiraut - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes Deep golden orange color with heavy viscosity. Clearly rich, just from the appearance. On the nose, a deep deep deep honey dominates all, with highlights of brulée and a little ripe stone fruit peeking out. On the palate, the viscosity and body carry a wine that is very sweet and still dominated by its honey character. Botrytis and enough acid keep this from cloying and the finish sees a little bit of orange blossom come into the honey. In the rich and seductive, but not terribly complex, school of Sauternes. This was so honey-driven that I was looking around for some feta to pour it over. Paint this on your lover. In other words, enjoy it for the very pleasurable thing it is, but look elsewhere for complexity and zing. At the right price, I’d still buy it. As the Byrds sang, “To everything - turn, turn, turn/There is a season - turn, turn, turn/And a time for every purpose under heaven.” Thanks Michael and Lu Ping. 1990 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes A great contrast to serve with the Suduiraut. Lighter in color and texture, this was no less rich – just rich in a different way. The nose showed more evident stone fruit and flowers, with the honey a step more to the background. There was an Earl Grey tea note that was hinted at on the nose and came out more strongly on the finish. There was plenty of botrytis, but the herbal/floral complexity of the nose made it less evident. Palate was less rich/sweet but had nice texture (and was plenty sweet enough). While the Suduiraut and Rieussec were richer and more hedonistic, this may have been the best-drinking bottle that night. The Rieussec will probably eclipse it at maturity, but I certainly would have found it easier to have multiple glasses of the L-P than of the others tonight. Best bottle of this I’ve had. Thanks Bryan and Amy. The Last Two With remainders of cheese and dried fruit, plus a dessert plate. Desserts included pear ice cream (way good!), honey ice cream, something chocolate, and something else I can't remember. At this point, I really didn't need the dessert and was content with cheese. 1990 Château Rieussec - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes Orange color that was deeper than the Suduiraut or Lafaurie. As always, rich and viscous and tempting to roll around the glass. Even on the nose, this is such a big wine, but has that element of botrytis lift that keeps it all fresh. Orange and lemon floral elements highlight honey and caramel. With a little time, the nose and the finish show some sort of slight herbal character to the honey that I was reminded of when tasting Greek sage and thyme honey yesterday. In the mouth, this is really big and very much in balance with good acid and lively botrytis. There’s a tropical flavor reminiscent of the passion fruit syrup I used to make Hurricanes last weekend and a lovely candied citrus peel flavor as well. This note is disjointed for a reason. This wine is bright and fresh but exceptionally big and concentrated. All the flavors are there, but they are a little disjointed like the note. Definitely worth buying, but it really does need time to finish coming together. Fun to drink now, but a sacrifice of what could be yet to come. Last bottle I had was more mature and integrated. Thanks David and Nicole and kudos on your storage. 1998 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain Sélection de Grains Nobles - France, Alsace, Thann, Alsace Grand Cru AOC Young wine and old color perplexes folks at the table. In what seems to be typical for this wine (based on reports of multiple vintages showing the same appearance), it has an older bright copper look. More than any other wine tonight, this one really needs time. When first poured, the nose shows candied orange, botrytis, and honey sweetness. With vigorous aeration, it begins to show some more typical notes of sweet earth, smoky mineral, and dried apricot and raisin. The palate follows the same path. It is never cloying, but at first it only shows sweet apricot/mango and botrytis honey. Time helps bring out sweet citrus (lemon and orange) and baking spice on the palate and more earth and mineral plus floral on the finish. Paired very well with anise-scented pear ice cream. This is a big, rich, botrytised hint of what it will one day be. I’m not always thrilled with other wines from Z-H, but I love Z-H pinot gris and this one didn’t disappoint. Thanks David and Nicole. Great night though I think a few people were approaching the sugar coma stage. As always, good company and generous wine contributions from all. Thanks to all. Bryan and Amy -- Tag, you're it! Jim Posted from CellarTracker
  21. The same price? Good heavens, were that such things happened here. Best, Jim ← But Jim, you fail to ask the critical question: Why are they roughly the same price? Are the Lafarge and Geantet-Pansiot regionals such a great deal? Or is this one expensive Brouilly? Sad to say it is more the latter than the former. I drink a lot less cru Beaujolais than I would like here in Tokyo. Part of the reason is that it is not the value it is elsewhere. When I do drink Beaujolais here it is precisely because I want Beaujolais and not something beefier, deeper, oakier, riper, gobbier or otherwise pointier. That makes it that much more disappointing when I have the experience I did with the Lapalu. I had heard good things about the wine, so I gave it a second chance before I wrote the note. On Monday night, I opened another bottle just to make sure. It was the same as what I had noted Friday night. However, last night the wine was much better. Twenty-four hours of air had eased the vanilla on the nose and brought out more of the tarter red fruit. But it still wasn't a Brouilly. I would highly recommend this wine to people who want to try something with a thread of the grace and beauty of real cru Beaujolais, but want a little extra ripeness, density and sexiness. That's just not what I want. There are plenty of other wines to do that. Sorry...rant over. Jim
  22. A COUPLE FROM LAST WEEK - Home and Au Petit Paris (2/4/2006-2/11/2006) A couple of wines from the last week. With a couple of dinners -- mild tacos one night and slow braised pork the next 2001 A. Rafanelli Zinfandel - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (2/4/2006) Original zinny purple is fading to a deep red, though it is still pretty intense at the edge. Nose leads with dust and a sense of blackberry bushes – briars, the hot sun reflecting off of the leaves and, most of all, the ripe fruit. Palate is similar, with good density and a relatively full mid-palate, but with enough structure to keep the ripe fruit in line. This won't be the staple of an acid-head’s diet, but there is enough of a core of slightly acidic cherry to keep the blackberry fresh. On the finish, a bit of brambly and spicy zin character comes out with the mild tannin. This is now showing why Dry Creek-grown zin rules above all other zins (at least for this old-world, terroirist, curmudgeonly, acid-driven non-zin drinker). Ripe berry fruit combined with enough dust and a hint of claret-like elegance makes it work. As Jay Miller says, “Ripe fruit isn’t necessarily a flaw.” In this package, it is no flaw at all. Not terrifically dense or complex, but a lot of fun. Much, much better than a year ago, this could last but I see no great reason to wait. Drank similarly over two nights with little development or degradation. Having lunch while making arrangements for this Friday's TTG#5 event 2004 Domaine de la Louvetrie (Pierre Landron & Fils) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie - France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine (2/11/2006) Clear and light. Very clean and bright with pea gravel, apple, seashell, and bitter herb on nose. No visible spritz, but the tiniest hint on the tip of the tongue. Crisp, light, overwhelmingly and delightfully fresh. Palate of lemon and limestone and light sweet hay is not particularly complex but is reasonably concentrated and persistent. Exactly the right light lift to match a small dish of pan-broiled oysters over fennel and cabbage with a wispy sauce highlighted by saffron and anise. I wish every restaurant had this by the glass. Hell, I wish I had some at home! A wine that is perfectly happy to be what it is. And that’s a real pleasure to find. Posted from CellarTracker
  23. SMALL CARNIVAL GATHERING - At Home (2/10/2006) Friday was Cathryn's birthday. She's from New Orleans and won't be making it home for Mardi Gras this year so we had a small carnival party. Food included jambalaya, gumbo, muffalettas, and similar items. I chose four wines with the idea of trying to box in the tough matches. Riesling for a gentle but bright white, aligoté for a bit sharper white, Brouilly for a bright and fresh red, and Cairanne for a round and ready red. For the three French wines, I also picked up the generally crowd-pleasing 2003 vintage. I think that it, perhaps, pleased the crowd. Whether it pleased me was another question. 2004 Greenhough Riesling - New Zealand, South Island, Nelson Light and bright appearance. Nose of limey apple and mineral. A bit of spritz on the tip of the tongue highlights the bright freshness of this. Good acid, nice lime and peach highlights surround the core of apple fruit and mineral. Maybe a touch of petrol (but just the slightest hint) in the finish. This makes a passing reference to Alsace, but lacks a bit of the density and concentration it showed last time I had it. Bright and fresh and everything a simple young riesling should be, but a tad disappointing only because it was such an over-performer the last time I had it. 2003 Fleurot-Larose Bourgogne-Aligoté - France, Burgundy, Côte d'Or, Bourgogne-Aligoté Relatively deep and dark color, hinting at something but I wasn't sure what. On the nose, it became immediately apparent; a dastardly duo of vintage and super-toasted oak had done its evil work. You know those aboukir almonds that sometimes appear at the end of a meal? That's exactly what this wine smelled and tasted like. The butterscotchy sweetness of the new oak and the super-ripe fruit of the vintage produced a big cloying glass without any fresh and acid aligoté profile. I had hoped the vintage richness and typical aligoté character would combine to produce a great outcome. No such luck. The wines from Fleurot-Larose are getting new exposure in Japan now because the owner has married a Japanese woman (or so I am told). Based on this taste, I won't be trying any more of them. I also hear they've sold or long-term leased out their little plot of Montrachet. I had hoped the proceeds would go into better wine. From all that I can tell, they've simply gone into a grotesque level of toasted barrel purchasing. I realize that I haven't described anything else I found in the wine, but what's the point? To be fair, without the extremely cloying aboukir-almond-sweetness this would just have been an overoaked wine. But I just couldn't get past that kernel of sweetness, even though I drank parts of several glasses throughout the night to give it a chance. 2003 Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly Croix des Rameaux - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Brouilly Schizophrenia... That's the only way I know to describe my reaction to this wine. It has a nice deep purplish red color that is bright at the same time. The nose shows just a bit of new oak vanilla sweetness that also comes out on the palate as a certain (baby Dujac-like) silkiness and an occasionally cloying candy note. There are really two strains of fruit: a typical Brouilly bright red berry with almost peachy acidity and also a very Moulin-a-Vent like deep plummy fruit that even threatens to hint at chocolate. It is surprisingly dense and reasonably persistent on the finish. The alcohol is occasionally a tad hot, but gives the wine a certain sweetness and body that makes it seem bigger than it is. If I rated wine on some absolute scale, I would probably have to rate this higher than most Beaujolais that I am happier drinking. It really does have all the pieces in that way. Yet, somehow, it just shows a bit too much of the effort to move north to the Côte d'Or and bit too much of the vintage. Ease up on the new oak (or whatever gave the sweet nose) and tone down the ripeness and the dark fruit a bit and this would be a headline stunner of a cru Beaujolais. As it is, it is almost there. But I feel a bit like I'm buying some kind of pirated good in a back alley in Beijing. If I'd wanted a pinot from the Côte d'Or, I would have bought a basic bourgogne from Geantet-Pansiot or Lafarge. Those were available for about the same money. I wanted to buy a Beaujolais (and a lighter, brighter wine like the Brouilly it claims to be). 2003 Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne "Love the one you're with..." Deep and dark ripe plummy color. Nose shows a bit of dust and garrigue to highlight the ripe blackberry juice nose. On the palate, again shows just enough hot earth and herb to avoid ripe-black-fruit malaise. Juicy and fun, with good density and enough pleasant richness to wear its alcohol well. A meaty element on the finish and the slightest tannic bite round out the package. While I love Rabasse-Charavin and other CdR that have great acid and red fruit that I can age forever, there is always a place for ripe and young and pleasantly rich CdR. This fits the bill perfectly. That was what I was looking for when I bought the wine and it delivered. While I've yet to have a bigger appellation 2003 from the Rhone that pleased, the lesser apps in the south are providing some nice and juicy young drinking. As stated above, the Cairanne was exactly what I was looking for and so was the riesling. The Brouilly was good in some sense, but was a prime example of why wines should be true to their appellations. Otherwise, how do we know what to buy? The aligoté was a freaking cartoon. None of this really mattered though, as the Hurricanes were the more popular item -- at least until the collective groans went up the next morning. Posted from CellarTracker
  24. jrufusj

    AOC St. Emilion Grand Cru

    Brad: I'd have to look, but I think you're right. I don't think I've ever seen the "A" or "B" on a label. Call me geeky! Try as I might, the geekiness sometimes just slips out. Better geeky than senile, I guess. (Though I fear I may be both!) Jim
  25. jrufusj

    AOC St. Emilion Grand Cru

    Brad: I'm so terribly out of date. I'm going to show my ignorance with this question, but here goes. Didn't there used to be a distinction within Premier Grand Cru Classé? Namely, weren't Cheval Blanc and Ausone called "Premier Grand Cru Classé A" and Figeac, et. al., called "Premier Grand Cru Classé B" or something similar? Or am I confusing this or just making it up in my mind? If it did exist, is it still true? (I'm not at home at the moment so don't have any books with me.) Oh well, just a petty point anyway. At any rate, I'm not troubled by the current classification system for several reasons. First, I know generally how it works so I'm not "tricked" by the plain Grand Cru level. Second, I don't buy much St. Emilion anyway, so I'm not much affected. However, I do understand that this could confuse other people. Is it "wrong"? I don't think so, as long as the rules are clear and are followed. Is it smart? Not if it leads people to be disappointed with what they may be led to believe is the best of St. Emilion. Now, I'm not a garage wine fan at all, but I do think that whole movement stands the classification on its ear. There are people making very serious wines (though not typical of the appellation or to my taste) that have no standing at all. Good question, ctgm. Jim
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