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  1. Some brief notes on some older wines tasted recently. These were all from the same cellar and while we fully expected many of them to be DOA, you never know until you open them and taste. Being always willing to sacrifice myself for the cause, I was front and center with glass ready. I offer notes on the bad ones as well, in the hope that it might guide others who happen across old cellars for sale. Remember though – one bottle of a wine this age can be totally gone while the next is ethereal. 1974 Pedroncelli Zinfandel Sonoma – this has become old sherry-like, drinkable, but not what it could be. I have found that really old Zins that are good (they become very clarety) are the exception, although I’ve had some 25 – 30 year old stunners. 1975 Dehlinger Sonoma Cabernet – a lovely surprise, good nose, drying out a bit but still lots of things happening here. 1978 Ridge Zinfandel Paso Robles – dead 1971 Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Cab – this predated the Rutherford and Beau Tour labelling, I believe. Nice sweet nose but nothing interesting left on palate. 1974 Sterling Merlot Napa – didn’t expect too much of a 31 year old Merlot, but this was one of the best wines we tasted. Warm nose, the fruit still foremost, and an adequate amount of fruit on palate. 1974 Inglenook Limited Cask Napa Cab – dead. 1977 Ridge York Creek Cab – skunky! 1974 Ch. Laurensac – a Bordeaux Superior that was predictably DOA 1976 Firestone St. Ynez Cab –a bit left here, but not that interesting. 1979 Raymond Napa Zinfandel – pale colour, faded (I have some of their cabs from this period and they are very good) 1979 Beringer Zinfandel (Napa) – remember when I said one in a great number of old zins ages nicely? This had a quite intense nose and still had sweet fruit – a pleasant surprise. 1975 Mondavi Pinot Noir – a 30 year old Califonia Pinot? Get out of here. But it was still showing a toasty oak nose, and had good length. It would have been better some years ago, but it was amazing that it had come through as well as this. 1974 Mondavi Petit Sirah – not a varietal you associate with this producer. Big and black, with a medium ripe nose, it had good stuffing and ended dry with soft tannins. This must have been a monster to rival the old Freemark PS when it was young. Not bad now! 1975 Callaway Temecula Cab – strange weedy beast. 1979 Ch. Quentin St. Emilion – sweet, mellow and quite decent. 1979 Ch. Fourcas Dupre – this Medoc showed a slight corkiness which was too bad as it still showed decent fruit levels and good balance. Even so, it was drinking not badly.
  2. bills

    South African Wines

    Cape blends – Pinotage or not to Pinotage? The wine industry in South Africa is absolutely free to make wine from whatever and wherever they want – that may be unique in the world, with all of the AOC, DOC and such regulation. There is an ongoing discussion about something they call ‘Cape blends’, but rather typically, the South Africans can’t agree on just what a Cape blend is. Half of them insist that it must include Pinotage as a principal component and the other half say they will put in anything they please. These notes are from a seminar aimed at surveying this issue, tasting both sorts of wines. 2001 Plaisir de Merle Cabernet Sauvignon – I have been buying this wine since the first vintage of 1993, so I am a long time fan. It is a wine made with the advice of the ubiquitous M. Pontalier, in this vintage consisting of 85% cab sauv, 5% merlot, 5% malbec and 5% petit verdot, getting 16 months in French oak. Excellent and very Bordeau-like penetrating nose of cassis, cabernet fruit and vanilla, very harmonious on palate, with slightly high acidity which will carry the wine as it ages. Decent amount of tannin, medium soft. The 1993 and 1994 continue to drink well, and I would place this in the same sort of maturation timeframe – 10 – 12 years being a nice plateau. 2001 Winery of Good Hope Radford Dale Merlot – presented by the personable (and amusing) owner, Alex Dale, who admitted that he made this wine because he didn’t know much about merlot and wanted to give it a try. I suspect that the fact that he is, if not totally alone, one of a very few who currently work with this varietal in South Africa may have had something to do with it. Hint of cocoa in the nose, smooth and full in the mouth with lots of power. For someone who doe4sn’t know what he is doing, he has produced a pretty darned good wine! 1999 Meerlust Rubicon – Hannes Myburgh, the owner, mentioned that he thought there might be another wine of this name made by some minor movie personality. This Bordeaux blend was the oldest wine presented to this seminar and it offered a sweet Bordeaux nose, some up front tannins, but the fruit seemed adequate and the wine needs more time. They do not make this reserve wine every year – there will be no 2002, for instance. 2001 Rust en Vrede Estate Wine – Another perennial favourite of mine, this blend is 35% shiraz, 55% cab, and 10% merlot. You had to work a bit to get much nose out of this at this point, but there was excellent depth of fruit in the mouth, and lots of tannin. A big framed wine that requires time. I am currently drinking the 1994, and Oliver Bauer, the marketing director, slipped me some 1991 to taste – very good. They do a particularly labour intensive form of vinification. They have 6 clones of cab, 6 clones of shiraz and 2 of merlot, and they vinify them all separately, blending only when achieving the final product. This sort of micro-vinification seems to pay off for them, judging by the results. 2001 Fairview Primo Pinotage – from Bordeaux blends to pure Pinotage. After giving us a pep talk on their goats and the cheese made from their milk, Chris Davis, export manager indicated that this wine included 14% shiraz. It had a simple fruit nose, and was a sweet forward wine with a bit of tightening at the end, the fruit ultimately not quite bright enough to please me. I am not in any case a big fan of Pinotage. 2002 Villiera Cellar Door Merlot/Pinotage – 800 cases of this made. Red fruit and wood predominate, sweet and smooth on palate, better than the Fairview, but then there is less Pinotage! Cathy Brewer the export manager stated that if they use any more than 30% Pinotage it overwhelms the merlot. 2002 Stellenzicht Rhapsody – a blend of 47% shiraz and 53% pinotage. Tobacco noise. soft tannins, pleasant enough but in no way outstanding. This was the first vintage of this wine. 2002 Beyerskloof Synergy – I liked this quite a bit. 38% pinotage, 34% cab, 28% merlot. Spicy nose, big wine with lots of extract, a touch warm, has time to go, and certainly the best blend of the day. 2001 Graham Beck ‘The William’- 35% pinotage, 65% cab, from Francshoek. Ripe Aussie style nose withplums. Quite firm, but the sweet fruit lurks underneath and will come out in a few more years. 2001 Warwick Estate Three Cape Ladies – 41% cab, 29% merlot, 30% pinotage. Generic Bordeaux nose, sweet up front fruit, good length, switches over to tannin quickly. Pretty tasty, and could use a bit of time.
  3. The finale to (my) Vancouver Wine Festival Experience was an excellent lunch at Le Gavroche. I sat with Pascal Apercé, the export director for Lurton. With albacore tuna tartare, smoked salmon on a mini-blini, and honey mussel in a saffron sauce: Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave 2000 Champagne - this blend of vintages is normally made up of 40% reserve wines of 2 – 8 years of age, and the wine spends 4 years on the lees for added complexity. Fine mousse, a floral nose, soft and medium full in the mouth with fairly good length. Lanson Brut Rosé – a light l’oiel perdrix colour, fairly pale. Made from Pinot and Charddonay with no malo-lactic, it had less fizz than the previous wine, but was pleasant and soft with lots of character building right to the ends. It definitely finished better than it started. Nicolas Feullatte Brut Rosé Premier Cru – a serious pink colour on this one, made from Pinot Noir. Muted nose, not expressive, medium body with apples, good acidity, pretty good length. With Alaskan scallops with carrot ginger flan and truffle vinaigrette: 2003 Ch. La Louvière (Pessac Leognan) – so young (bottled October 2004), but still showing an excellent toasty nose with pineapple, and medium long finish with more toast. Needs 2 – 3 years to smooth out and then it will drink well for 8-10 more. 85% sauvignon blanc, fermented in oak and spending 10 months in oak. Had an interesting discussion with Pascal about Stelvin closures, with which they have been experimenting since 1992, and intend to use on future white wines. He says that they are also the way to go for reds, but any switch from cork will depend on consumer acceptance. With consommé of venison ravioli and asparagus: 2003 Mommessin Cote de Brouilly ‘La Montagne Bleu’ – low yield (28 hcl/hectare), destemmed, with long maceration, 30% of it seeing 1 and 2 year old oak, the rest in stainless steel. Quite decent colour, no doubt the result of the long maceration. Purple edges, and a bright well balanced wine, pleasant and with integrated fruit, drinking well now. With duck magret, confit and foie gras cromoquis with Madeira sauce: 1999 Louis Latour Ch. Corton Grancey rand Cru – made from fruit from 4 different vineyards, it was typically light in colour, with excellent penetrating fruit and a long finish. Certainly the best of the two on palate. 2002 Moillard Nuits St. Georges ‘Les Thorey’ – lighter in colour than the Beaujolais! The nose showed very pleasant Pinot fruit with a hint of spice and was actually slightly superior in this respect to the previous wine. Slightly lean on palate and tapering off a bit at the end. With pear stuffed with Stilton: 2001 Ch. de Beaucastel - Only medium dark, the nose quite pure fruit. Excellent up front fruit in the mouth, the ripeness becoming apparent only near the end. A fair bit of tannin, but under, rather than on top of the fruit. I asked Thomas Perrin how he thought the wine was doing and he said it was starting to close down. Nonetheless, the recent vintages seem to me to be much more approachable when very young than good vintages like 1989 and 1990 were. With some dessert or other: 1997 Pfaffenheim Vendages Tardives Riesling Cuvee St. Catherine – great oily Riesling nose, with lime. Rich, but showing as fairly dry despite a fair bit of RS. Slightly Low acidity, and some mineral, with good length. 2001 Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Late Harvest – from the Siggolsheim vineyard, cropped at 25 hcl/hct. A big Gewurz nose, rather more oily than spicy, soft on palate, finishing quite mineral with lingering flavours. Both these wines were very pleasurable.
  4. Notes from the Vancouver Wine Festival Lunch with some of the winery principals – Ray Signorello, Christiano van Zeller of Quinta do Valle Dona Maria, Miguel Roquette of Quinta do Crasto, and Bill Spence, manager at Matua Valley in New Zealand. These lunches offer a wonderful opportunity to chat informally with knowledgeable wine people while tasting some of their wines with lunch. 2004 Shingle Peak Sauvignon Blanc – rich fruit nose on this wine, and lush presentation, not to crisp. Worked well with food. 2003 Signorello Seta -60% Semillon, 40% sauv blanc, this is Ray’s white Bordeaux look-alike. In fact it did a good job of appearing to be a somewhat oaked Bordeaux! 2003 Matua Bullrush Vineyard Hawkes Bay Merlot – bright berry nose, bit of spritz on tongue –fresh, drink now. 2002 Edge Cabernet (Napa) – does this mean ‘U2’ can have cab (perhaps not after their poor-sounding recent album)? Another Signorello partnership deal, intended to make a decent affordable Cab. Dark, cocoa nose good balance and acid, soft tannin – I’d say now and for the next 3-4 years, but not much longer. Good product, decent price, although the fancy packaging grates a bit when I know we (in Canada) are paying an extra $5 just for the bottle….. 2003 Quinta do Vallado – a blend of 4 Portuguese grapes, this comes across as having not much happening in the nose, but nicely balanced on palate and a good drink-now sort of wine. 2002 Quinta do Valle Dona Maria – an elegant wine with nice spicy cherry nose. Quite full in the mouth with some tar and vanilla. Lots of soft tannins, Very nice! 2002 Quinta do Crasto Reserva “Old Vines’ - I asked Miguel if the Old Vines term, which I didn’t recall seeing on previous vintages, indicated a change in source of fruit and he advised me that it did not – it was simply a clarification of what they had previously been using. Excellent nose with lots of spice, very harmonious middle and good length. This is one to watch out for – I am still drinking the excellent 1997 and haven’t touched my case of 2000 yet!
  5. bills

    South African Wines

    The Vancouver International Wine Festival is a wonderful opportunity to meet the principals of many wineries and discuss the wine, how they are made, how they mature, and new directions for the wineries. I gritted my teeth, took 2 days off from the office, giving my secretary instructions to advise client’s trying to find me that I was on a study session, and headed out to study for all I was worth. There are more than 500 wineries in South Africa today, and I was keen to add some new and interesting finds to my list of old stand-bys. This year the featured region was South Africa, and for me, the first event was a 9 AM tasting of Cape wines with a seminar on the regional variations and differences. Prices where indicated are Canadian dollars. 2004 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin – soft sweet melon nose didn’t make one expect the very dry high acidity wine you experienced on palate. This wine showed a mineral aspect that was much more Loire than California. The only give-away in a blind tasting would be that it was richer in the middle than a typical French Chenin, yet with none of the awkwardness of many Californian examples. $20 2004 Springfield ‘Life from Stone’ Sauvignon Blanc – OK, get over the New Age sort of name, and you find another great white wine – no cat’s around this one, but a gooseberry and flint nose, silky smooth in the middle, finishing crisply. I HAD to pick up some of this for future blind tastings, to see if people would be fooled into thinking it a well made Sancerre. The vineyard for this wine is composed of 75% quartz, and they had to learn how to plant – ending up with jack-hammers to punch enough of a hole in the stony soil to lodge the young vines. They harvest 3 times, - to get a green component, then for body, and finally for ripe aromas and sugar, then blend the 3 batches together. They say that they get a better result than simply harvesting all of the fruit at the same time. 2002 Stellenzicht Semillon Reserve – this was also impressive, though at about $38 a bit lower on the QPR totem pole. Given full malolactic fermentation and lots of new oak, it ends up showing a soft oily nose, was soft on the palate, full flavoured with good length and significantly lower in acidity than the previous wines. 2004 Bellingham Maverick Viognier – a relatively new varietal in SA. Mango and lime nose, and a pretty tasty wine with lots of flavour that lingered. They soak on the skins to add character and although this wine has some RS (about 8 gm/l) it comes across as only very slightly soft rather than sweet. 2000 KWV Cathedral Cellars Triptych – into the reds, with a blend of 36% cab, 24% merlot, and 40% shiraz.. This wine was purple, with a chalky nose. Sweet entry, with lots of immediately apparent oak, well balanced. It drinks well now. $25 2003 Winery of Good Hope Vinum Cabernet – fairly intense warm ripe fruit nose, soft tannins, good structure and acidity – needs some time. I suggested that they advertise by selling T shirts saying “I’m a WOGH” but for some reason they didn’t think it would be a good idea. 2002 Graham Beck Old Road Pinotage – this is their top end wine, made in relatively small amounts (800 cases) from an ‘old vines’ vineyard (1963). Dark, with an earthy, smoky nose, a hint of mint on palate, the wine still tough and feisty, needing time, and very dry at the end. I am not a big fan of this grape, an ill-conceived cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, but this was a decent example. 2001 Vergelegen Flagship Red – 76% cab sauv, 20% merlot, 4% cab franc. A capsicum nose, good balance with a nice sweetness in midpalate, medium length and tasty now and for the next 5 years or so. 2001 Delheim Grand Reserve – Delheim makes a lot of average quality wines, but their reserve wine has always been excellent value. I worked my way through a case of the excellent 1990, only to find that it was just hitting stride as I finished it off at about 10 years of age. The first one was made in 1981. This one is 98% cab sauv, and 2% merlot. Plum and vanilla nose, the nose a bit reticent (better when I retasted later in the open tasting sessions) high initial acidity masks the moderate levels of tannin. Good wine, needs time. I went out and grabbed a few of these, with a resolution not to drink them too soon. 2002 Fairview Jakkalsfontein Shiraz – killer little wine from the people that make Goats Do Roam (they’ve added a Goats Do Roam in Villages to their line recently). Very dark wine with intense warm shiraz nose, tons of fruit and extract, very good but needs time. Great fun to bring this to an Australian Shiraz tasting some day. They crop at 3.5 tons per acre, use 18 months o f new French oak, and their winemaker has worked at Chapoutier, so Oz probably wasn’t what they were specifically aiming at. Like some of the Chilean examples, this lands somewhere between the Rhone and Australia in terms of style.
  6. Very pleasant briary nose, big sweet fruit on palate, backed more by acidity than tannin, long sweet finish. Great with rare rack of lamb.
  7. Lunch this month was as interesting as ever. 1998 Devil’s Lair Margaret River Chardonnay – this one fooled many of us into thinking it was something else. Bit of citrus in the nose and some vanilla, medium body and quite crisp at the end. Not exactly what you expect in an Oz Chard. 2002 Beaucastel Vielles Vignes Roussanne – I’ve been working my way through a stash of 1993, which has turned quite dark and toasty with a nose of caramel and roses, but this example was so fresh – clean and very dry, with quite good length, some oak evident, and fairly good weight, it defied our poor attempts at identification. 2001 Antonin Rodet Givry Dom. de la Ferté – Givry often offers excellent value ind easy early drinking Burgundies. This one showed fairly light colour, a nice if simple fuir nose featuring cherries, and the wine was quite tasty with decent length. 1998 Jermann Pignacolusse (Venezia) – I’ve tasted this oddball native grape (Pignolo) only once before. Dark, with an interesting mocha component to the nose, complex in the middle, ending with good acidity. 1965 Alto Selected Cabernet – this is Cape cabernet sauvignon. I figured that it was Californian and I was guessing late 70s vintages, but nothing made me even consider that it could be earlier, or from South Africa. Astoundingly youthful (the person that brought this stated that it was dense and unapproachable when young), the nose mellow with a hint of anise, smooth middle and great acidity. This wine should last another 15 years. Why don’t they make them like this any more? Made by Peter du Toit 1990 Leoville Barton – you know it is a good week when you get to try a wine like this on two different occasions and compare them. This version was showing better than the one I had earlier in the week, being much more outgoing on the nose, with absolutely none of the spearmint I’d noted – more fruit driven. A power house on palate, with tons of flavours, lots of medium soft tannins and very long. This wine is just starting into the drinking plateau with many years ahead of it. 2002 Thirty Bench Cabernet Franc (Ontario, 500 ml. bottle) – brought back as a curiosity by one attendee – the curious thing being that this wine was treated with Canadian oak! Perhaps that accounted for the strange things we were detecting in the nose – a combination if ginger and cranberry spice and rubber. A simple wine, but interesting to taste. I doubt that the onslaught of Canadian oak availability in the marketplace has the French oak producers losing any sleep…. 1992 Lindemans Pyrus – take a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc and put it in Nevers oak for 18 months and what do you get? Something that seems undeniably Australian! Dark wine with a tarry mint nose, lots of stuffing and soft tannins. The only questionable note was a whiff of volatile acidity. Nice wine, but I think they’ll have to chop down their Eucalyptus trees before they can fool us. 2000 Waterbrook Red Mountain Meritage (Washington State) – a blend of cab franc, cab suav, merlot, and petit verdot. Sweet nose with a bit of spice, in the mouth, long smooth friendly and soft. Good weight and it should continue to develop. Good buy at $39 C. 2001 Stonestreet Alexander Valley Cabernet – another one not too badly priced ($45 C.). Dark, with good length, silky feel, and what I particularly liked – quite dry at the end. Elegant and balanced. 2000 Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz – a McLaren Vale wine that was wisely kept to last. Big sweet nose featuring cocoa, and more of the same on palate – a chocolatey, over-ripe ready to drink fruit bomb. Enjoyable once in awhile, but I wouldn’t want to drink it every day, and I sure wouldn’t want the Aussie producers to think that this is the only style that North Americans want to buy, lest we be overwhelmed in a flood of sweet, over concentrated fruit bombs. Wait – I think it’s happened already…….!
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    1990 Bordeaux

    Notes from a very enjoyable dinner-tasting of Bordeaux of the 1990 vintage. These wines have always seemed to me to be more fruit forward and ‘Californian’ in approach, if you will, than the more classic and arguably more austere 1988 and 1989 vintages that together make up this wonderful triptych of Bordeaux. 1990 Pol Roger Brut (magnum) – well after all, one wouldn’t want to plunge straight into Bordeaux! Much better, I have found, to edge sideways into the more serious wine, after getting your palate reacquainted with the whole idea by taking a bit of transitional wine – and what better to transition between nothing and Bordeaux (or anything else, for that matter) than a bit of bubbly? This Champagne has been showing well for several years and continues to shine, especially in large format. Nice yeasty lemony nose, very fine mousse, clean with good length. Flight 1 Then for the first flight of Bordeaux, served with an assortment of dried meats – prosciutto, Parma ham, and about 5 different kinds in all, with a tad of grated horseradish on top. Great course, but it would have gone much better with a white, or with the Champers. L’Arrossee (St. Emilion) – a little known wine that has considerable local following as a chance result of a local agent hooking up with them many years ago. Great way to start – ripe oak, berry and mushroom nose complex wine with good length. This lasted better in the glass than the vaunted l’Evangile! Canon (St. Emilion) – less happening in the nose on this wine, but a bit darker and firmer. Over all pretty good, but on this night it wasn’t singing to us. L’Evangile (Pomerol) – wow – funky, almost Rhonish nose, fairly sweet, and a big wine with good structure, lots of interest in the middle and a nice sweet, long finish. I was surprised to find that after an hour in the glass it was starting to fade a little while the l’Arrossee was still taking no prisoners. Flight 2 Served with roast guinea fowl and apple cider braised red cabbage. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc) – always a wine that takes many years to hit the plateau, this still has time to go. Dark, with purple edges and a big cassis nose, there is still lots of tannin, good acidity and ample fruit. I won’t be touching my regrettably small stash of this for a few years yet! Phelan Segur (St. Estephe) – the first wine that could be considered at all disappointing, but only when evaluated in this sort of high-flying company. Nice mellow wine with vanilla in the nose, well balanced, drinking perfectly and won’t get any better. If you are looking for a decent luncheon claret, this could be your bottle. Cos d’Estournel (St. Estephe) – Concentrated herbal jammy nose, the wine still firm but no longer unyielding. Lots of power here, just starting to show well and not quite at the point where I’d move it into my drinking pile, as it clearly has much more improvement ahead of it. I also tasted: Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac) – the nose was quite intense, the mouth-feel silky, the length quite decent and the fruit adequate. It didn’t have the weight of a major vintage of Mouton, but it was very pleasant. It was quite similar to the bottle we had in the Mouton vertical last Fall. For those relying on Parker, be warned that his note reflects a 10 year old tasting – the wine is no longer as hard as it once was – quite the contrary in fact. Flight 3 With Saltspring lamb in 4 styles – (this was seriously good grub!!) Lascombes (Margaux) –simple fruit in the nose, the wine a bit murky. Simple on palate and with some tannin but fairly well resolved. No rush, but also not much complexity – this made the Phelan from the last flight look good. Pichon Lalande (Pauillac) – this wine has always underwhelmed, a true disappointment in such a wonderful vintage. Simple candied fruit chewing gum with vanilla in the nose, and a simple presentation, dilute and tapering off into leanness. C’est domage! Pichon Baron (Pauillac) – fascinating to be able to make this comparison, for I cannot recall another vintage where Baron out-performed Comtesse like this. A very good uplifted cherry nose, exquisite balance, long and tasty. It teeters on being over-ripe, but doesn’t quite cross the line. This wine was better than the Mouton. Flight 4 With local cheeses. Pape Clement (Pessac Leognan) – a forward wine with a mellow fruit nose, very tasty and with bright acidity. This one is ready to roll and I can’t see it getting much better than it is right now. Leoville Barton (St. Julien) – rather closed in the nose, showing only a bit of spearmint. Lots of punch on palate, and one senses that it isn’t showing all it has to offer yet. Lagrange (St. Julien) – sweet nose with lots of vanilla/oak. A big bruiser with tons of softening tannins and excellent length. Remarkably good showing for this modestly priced wine. No rush to drink this one. Why, oh why didn’t I buy this? By the case? With some dessert or other (not a fan, especially with wines): 1970 Warres – this wine keeps getting paler by the year, but retains it’s defining characteristic (for me, anyway) the unusual heat in the nose, rather spirity, and without sufficient fruit at this point to sweeten and soften the alcoholic impression. Bit over-ripe, too. Not the best bottle I’ve had. Improved with a bit of cheese to absorb the ‘edges’. 1990 La Tour Blanche – outstanding performance by this house in this vintage! Lemony Botricised nose, not too rich, and then thick and unctuous in the mouth, finishing long and with a certain nuttiness. Should have bought this one too!! Damn! Great event, though very instructive about this excellent vintage. Moral of this tasting? Start looking at them, especially the weaker wines, but for many they are just coming into drinkability range, and for quite a few, more continued patience will be rewarded.
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    Bordeaux Dinner

    Notes from a recent dinner with friends: With amuse-bouches: 1996 Pol Roger Blanc de Chardonnay – nice and yeasty, with a fresh lemony presentation. I tend to prefer Champagnes made with the usual red varietals as they tend to have more character, but this blanc de blanc was very good and drinking well now. With potage de moules: 1999 Pavillon Blanc de Margaux – this wine always seems to have a fair dollop of oak and this was no exception. Showing some age now, it has reasonable balance but finished a touch tired and flabby, the lack if acidity no doubt a symptom of the vintage. With black farfalle with prosciutto, prosciuttina and green asparagus tips: 1989 Branaire Ducru – unfortunately this bottle was slightly corked, but what was showing was good – medium body, smoother than the next wine and with paler edges, and also a bit leaner. Sadly, when you detect TCA, you just cannot use the tasting results as they may not be (and usually are not) a true representation of what the wine can be. 1989 Leoville Barton – darker wine with a classic cedar nose and sweeter fruit, very harmonious. With duck confit: 1982 Gloria – a lovely mature nose and mellow, smooth and mature on palate, still with a little tannin, but the wine has peaked and drinks as well as it ever will. I drank my 1983 up early on but this vintage has aged much more gracefully and continues to offer significant pleasure. 1982 St. Pierre – this wine, also a product of Henri Martin’s is a bigger weightier wine with a bit more wood evident in the nose and a bit more tannin. Classic structure. This producer doesn’t get much attention but I have always enjoyed it. I can’t recall when they dropped the Servaistre from the name, and I’m not going to go cellar-diving to find out, but I think it was in the late 70s. With poached pears and sauce Anglais: 1988 Guiraud – good Botrytis nose with coconut, medium sweet on palate, good length. Slightly the sweeter of the two. 1988 Suduiraut – darker colour, clean and balanced with less obvious Botrytis, and more weight. Really a toss-up as to which was more enjoyable on that night, but I think I’d take this one for current drinking and the Guiraud for long haul cellaring.
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    The Rest of Italy

    Notes from am Italian dinner accompanied by ‘anything but Piemonte and Tuscany”. The wines turned out to be a great surprise to us all, for the most part – a humbling guessing game in terms of trying to blind taste, but a great learning opportunity. Sachetto Prosecco (Colli Trevagiani) – pleasant an bubbly – what more can one expect? 1998 Rubino della Palazzola (Umbria) - 80% Cabernet Sauvignon/20% Merlot blend aged in 100% new oak. Fairly dark wine with some floral element and some funky oak, a bit warm, and very approachable now, though it will hold for years. 2001 Cusimano Sagana (Sicily) – this 100% Nero d’Avola was very good – lots of oak in the nose, smooth in the middle and a spritz of lemon/acidity at the end. A grape to keep an eye on. 1999 Canua Sforzato (Valtellina) – this unusual wine was quite light in colour. Produced from Nebbiolo grapes dried on mats, it had the definite late harvest indicators, yet was lighter in body than expected. It was better served this early in the meal than it would have been later with cheese. 1999 Planeta Merlot – very well structured wine with a decidedly Bordeaux style of nose with only slight hints of the coffee/chocolate that you’d expect. The oak is ample yet not obtrusive and the wine drinks well now but clearly has time to go and should continue to improve. 1999 Azienda Agricola San Bonifacio Bradisismo (Veneto) – an IGT wine made from a blend of 65% Cab Sauv, 30% Carmenere (although that isn’t allowed on the label and Cab Franc is used instead) and 5% Merlot. An Italian Bordeaux, if you will. Dark, with a ripe nose showing a hint of band-aid. Big tannins and slight green note with good length and pepper at the end. I liked this a lot – about $35 US and well worth it! 1997 Feudi San Gregorio Serpico (Campania) - Aglianaco is the major grape here, but others play a part. Dark, deep nose you had to work at a bit, cherries and vanilla, seemed leaner than the previous wines and a bit tighter, but we realised it was only in comparison, and that this was a well balanced wine with staying power. I’d give it a couple more years. 1990 Lungarotti San Giorgio (Umbria) – Lungarotti is better known for their bargain priced Rubesco and the reserve version, Monticchio, both of which I find to be a bit rustic. This IGT blend of cab, sangiovese and cannaiolo has always struck me as much more refined. This one had a paler colour, an initial cheesiness in the nose, followed by cedar as it opened up, and was smooth with good acidity and some remaining soft tannin. As good as it will ever be, and will continue to hold. 1998 Illuminati Nico (Abruzzo) – you’d be excused for not knowing this one. made from Montepulciano grapes done in recioto dried style. Better known for their Lumen IGT wine, they make this in smaller amounts and it doesn’t seem to be very widely sold. It had a tartness but also a sweetness that went well with cheese and was 14.5% alcohol. Interesting wine.
  11. These are the notes on a twice yearly gathering of the clans – wine fanciers that are also single malt aficionados. We pull a couple of bottle of whisky from our stash and taste against others, using various themes. This one was 15 year and older malts. We taste straight and then again with a small amount (a few drops, given that we are tasting in about ½ oz. aliquots) of water added. Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15 – a slightly sharp peaty nose, hot and alty in the mouth. Water lifted this malt and brought out the flavours while abating the heat a bit. Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18 – smoother sweet Cognac nose, velvety smooth in the mouth – fills mouth and nose. Water neither helps nor harms this one. Dalwhinnie 15 – light floral sort of nose with some poached pear and iodine. It seemed lighter weight at first, but then as it settled in it was clear that it wasn’t. Clean and spicy in the mouth, it expanded nicely on palate with the addition of water. Glentromie 17 – a malt unknown to us, picked up by a member on holidays in the Caribbean. Very reticent nose, maybe a little toffee. Light and creamy in the mouth, a good aperitif weight malt to fill the flask with when going out on a long walk., Glen Garioch 15 – ripe Highland oily nose, warm and peaty. Water improved and smoothed it. Very nice dram. Glen Garioch 18 (1978) – all sweetness and spice in the nose with kirsch and cocoa, and a slight medicinal element. This cask strength (59.4%) malt was predictably hot , but with water settled down to do a creamy toffee thing on palate. Another winner. 2002 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha – the obligatory wine interlude with some food. Enjoyable berry nose, refreshing and smooth on palate, with good length. This has to be one of the best bargains out there right now! Glenmorangie 18 – seemed like a sherry cask malt in the nose, despite the fact that only a small proportion sees sherry and the rest is bourbon wood. Lighter, elegant, not oily at all, with spice and oak at the end. A tad hot Water neutral. Glenfarclas 15 – paler colour, toffee/crème brulee nose, hot in the mouth. Water worked well here, and this malt just coated the inside of the mouth and became smooth and tasty. Ardbeg 17 – the expected smoke and seaweed nose, big, medicinal and lovely. Water opens it a bit, but it really doesn’t need it. You either love or hate this style (I love it). Talisker 18 – darker, not as smoky, and not hot. Very smooth, long dram, doesn’t need water. Wish I could find some of this!
  12. Some miscellaneous wines tasted over the last few days: 2000 Nichol Syrah – tasted blind, this BC wine from a small producer fooled me into thinking it a Pinot. Medium colour, with a nose of black olive and agreeable ripeness, ready to drink right now and quite tasty. I have had their wines at advanced age and they seem to mature late and sometimes with very interesting consequences. 2002 Calliope Cabernet – Merlot – produced by an itinerant winemaker, Ross Mirko, as a private project. Ross has now settled at Lang Vineyards. Darker than the Nichol, with white pepper in the nose, which almost had us wondering if this were also a syrah. Smooth and tasty now, no need to wait. I shall move my half case up for summer consumption. 1995 Coudoulet de Beaucastel – this has been one of the best Coudoulets produced in recent years. Bright colour, with fruit nose with pepper and spice, smooth and now showing complexity in the mouth, long slightly spicy finish with some tannins still evident. Very good – I think that people who drank this up when it was very young, thinking it wouldn’t last, deprived themselves of significant long term pleasure. It is now at peak.
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    Foie Fools 3

    As it happens, I am also in Vancouver - but I'm fresh out of foie gras.....
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    Foie Fools 3

    The Foie Fools met, with the addition of a couple of willing acolytes, for the 3rd annual Foie Fest, in late January 2005. The purpose? To taste various wines we had been saving up, to see if they complement this sort of cuisine, as well as to test certain likely recipes for the preparation of foie gras. In our two previous bouts in Foie Stadium, we hade discovered that while there were two stalwarts (myself included) that could stay the course, the other two combatants had been left in semi-conscious state. We could detect that they were still alive only by the faint moans they emitted when a chunk of raw foie gras was passed close to their recumbent bodies. It was with these two participants in mind that we decided to add a couple of interested would-be foie fools. Our previous exploits may be seen at Foie 1 (‘The Foie Fools Get Liverish’) and at Foie 2 (“The Foie Fools Ride Again”), the latter with pictures. The venue was the same – for some reason his wife didn’t mind the removal of the smike alarm batteries, and the foie fog that coats everything the next day (participants included). We had sourced foie gras (henceforth referred to a FG to save my typing finger) from all over the world – in jars from France, as pâté, and fresh from both France and Quebec. The jars of liver included both duck and goose, and the fresh also included a 600 gram lobe of duck and probably the largest goose liver I’ve seen at 900 grams. We started off gently with pâté on croutons with: Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Reserve – this was a non-vintage wine bottled in 1995. It was clean and balanced with good mousse, and a great way to start off the evening. We then prepared a simple comparison of Duck and Goose FG on toasted brioche with a sliver of black Oregon truffle on top, with: 1996 Huet Vouvray Sec ‘Le Mont’ – I had brought two 1996 Huets to try, and this turned out to be my favourite. It had an intriguing honeysuckle and mineral nose, and had clean acidity that made the wine seem youthful as well as working well against the richness of the FG. Next up was a soup that one member had tasted while in France late last year, and tried to reproduce. It involved whipping cream, reduced until the FG would melt into it without separating, and a dose of white Port. The only modification of this we would make would be to press the resulting soup through a sieve as there was slight bits of FG – it would be even better if it were silky smooth. As we had omitted to insist on a letter from the new participant’s cardiologists, we felt it wise to limit intake of this ambrosia to a demi-tasse each, topped with chopped Chinese black truffle. Delaforce White Port – a dry white Port, served chilled, the same on used in preparation of the soup. It was fairly dry and had sufficient acidity to match the extremely rich soup. We wanted to compare goose FG with duck FG in both preserved and raw forms, so we next prepared a nice slice of preserved goose FG served with wild mushroom risotto cakes. It was served with the first off-dry wine. 2001 Ch. Bicoty (Monbazillac) – brought back by the friend who had been in France. We have long ago decided that a slightly sweet wine works better against rich FG than a sweet wine does. Perhaps it is the more evident acidity, unmasked by high residual sugar, I don’t know, but in any case, I prefer a modest Monbazzilac to a rich Sauternes, although be warned that should you get out the Yquem and serve it to me with a slab of FG, you will get no objection from me. This wine showed a light Botryits in the nose, and had excellent acidity and balance. No one would accuse it of being a first class Sauternes, but I think it was perfect for the food. Having pretty much covered the preserved section, we went on to the fresh FG matches. We divided up the blocks of liver: 1996 Huet Vouvray Sec ‘Haut Lieu’ – the years had not dealt with this wine in the same gentle fashion as they had with the Le Mont, and some age was apparent. The colour was darker, and on palate it was richer with some complexity, still clean and crisp, but not with the same freshness of the other wine, which I ultimately preferred. We then started to prepare a dish that had us wondering whether we were doing the right thing. We started with a bottle of XO Armagnac and a block of goose FG. We figured that the FG would melt down and we’d have muddy soup, but the recipe worked and we simmered it for awhile: and finally ignited the Armagnac and let it burn off: We honestly couldn’t think of any wine that would work here, so we served this dish with a small glass of the Armagnac. Chabot XO Armagnac – this had significant colour and while not unexpectedly lacking in finesse, it carried off well against the FG, which had a fascinating sweetness to it, from the Armagnac reduction. Next up was the old classic, seared FG with a bit of coarse salt. The FG reduces quite a bit as the outer layer goes up in smoke (the doors were open at this point, and we were grateful that no passing fire engine mistook our culinary exercise for a full-fledged conflagration. 1996 Ch. Doisy-Daene (Barsac) – very good lemon, mineral and spice nose, without much Bortytis, medium sweet and good length. This will last a few years. Finally (for we had established in previous bouts that both dessert and cheese would be unwanted additions to the event) we had the main course – sautéed beef tenderloin with a thin slice of seared FG on top and roasted garlic and potatoes on the side. We could not serve this course with a white wine, so we headed for home – Bordeaux. 1986 Ch. Rausan Segla (Margaux) – some will remember that this vintage was the one when Rausan Segla ‘came in from the cold’ – and ended a decades-long period of lacklustre (and worse) wines with this jewel. Deep, rich nose of berries, cedar and smoke, sweet up front, and then in the way of many 1986s, the tannins still firm but not dismayingly so. It ended with pleasant sweetness and good length. It drinks very well now and should continue to improve. By this time we had two members that were hors de combat, but our host looked better than on either of the previous occasions, and the other stalwart and I were fighting fit, ready to go on if necessary, but equally content to retire victorious to contemplate future battles. I will admit to spending a particularly sedentary day after, and to missing breakfast the next day……..a lá prochaine!!
  15. Notes from a bistro dinner with a Southern French theme. 2002 Guigal Condrieu – pretty good melon/apricot nose here, a medium bodied wine that was a tad light right in the middle, and tailed off a bit with a hint of astringency and an impression of a bit of residual sugar. Started stronger than it finished. 2000 Dom. de Clovallon Les Aurieges (VdP d’Oc) - a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Clairette, Sauvignon and “other whites”. Not as immediately expressive in the nose as the Condrieu, but better balanced with decent acidity – a pleasant drinker to sip while contemplating the menu. 1995 Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Dom. Thalabert – I have a long and fond association with Thalabert, but I’ve been ‘off’ it a bit in the 90s. Perhaps recent performance just doesn’t compare well with vintages like the outstanding 1978 we had at lunch last month. Bright colour, excellent Rhone nose of blood and pepper, the latter continuing on palate. Smooth, the tannins there but largely resolved. It is now drinking near the plateau, where it should stay for some years. 1995 Graillot Crozes Hermitage La Guiraude – an interesting contrast to the Thalabert. Leather and pepper in the nose, with a bit more tannin showing and slightly sweeter fruit, with good length. The Graillot was both attractive and slightly more rustic than the Jaboulet, which was ultimately judged to be the better wine with more class. We all kept coming back to the Graillot and going ‘That’s pretty good, though”. 1999 Brusset Gigondas Les Hauts de Montmirail – We had the chance to compare Brusset’s top wine in two vintages with a similar Santa Duc – a Southern French tasting and amazingly, no Chateauneufs to be seen! This one was not as forthcoming in the nose as the 98, but showed vanilla and dark fruit. Sweeter but a bit simpler in the mouth with good feel. 1998 Brusset Gigondas Les Hauts de Montmirail – more vanilla and smoky plumy fruit, soft tannin and a nice sweetness at the end. Drinks very well now. Note to self – I have both regular and Les Hauts in this vintage – it would be interesting to taste them side by side, perhaps against the 2000 Les Hauts, which is perhaps even better. Things to do in the garden this summer…… 1998 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas Haut Garrigues – I think that the purveyor (purveyoress?) of this one had qualms about whether it was too early to drink it, but it was great fun to try it against the Brusset wines. I had opened my first bottle of the excellent 1995 HG last weekend as a sort of setting up exercise to get in tune with our theme, so it was doubly interesting for me to compare. A deeper nose with spice and maturing fruit (that is, no longer simple – it showed blackberry and anise). It also had somewhat superior length to the 98 Brusset. No rush to drink this, but it would be hard to stay away from. 2000 Mas de Daumas Gassac – this wine came from nowhere to be touted by the critics with resultant skyrocketing prices. I enjoyed it right from the start when it was all cabernet – it now includes other varietals. I loved the 1985, which I forced into such unlikely pairings as between a 1984 and a 1987 Mouton. And oddly enough also enjoyed the 1992 quiet a bit, although that certainly wasn’t the best vintage for the wine. This example surprised me a bit – this wine has always had fairly tough young tannins as a hallmark, yet the 2000 showed a sweet vanilla nose, fairly soft tannin (although the company it was tasted with must be taken into consideration) and good acidity. It does need a bit of time, but it drank pretty well now. 1994 Bousecasse Madiran Vielles Vignes – I thought that I would bring a wine few people would have tasted, and I thought that with more than a decade, this would be at least almost ready to drink. Wrong on the second count. Tasted blind, I daresay most people would have picked this as the younger wine, based on colour and tannin structure. It reminded me a bit of a 1975 Bordeaux in terms of structure – big oak, sweet spicy vanilla nose, and then you taste it and the tannins clamp down. These guys must like to flaunt it – the Tannat grape makes firmly tannic wines, and I believe that this one (the Vielles Vignes) is 100% Tannat, while the regular wine is ‘only’ about 60-65%, with cab and/or cab franc for the balance. This wine needs more time than the 2000 Mas de Daumas does. I am not sure how much fruit will remain when the tannins finally moderate. 1975 Bordeaux all over again. I probably won’t open another one of these brutes for 5 years. Gonzalez Byass ‘Noe’ Pedro Jimenez Muy Viejo (30 years) – Very sweet raisiny nose, and overwhelmingly sweet on palate – so much so that there wasn’t much readily discernable flavour differentiation. To me, this wine is overkill, and although it will never fail to make an impression, as someone else at the table suggested, this producer’s Matusalem has most of the impact and more interest.
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    Gruaud Larose 1978 - 2000

    This was in Vancouver BC
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    TN: Gigondas

    Yup - that's why I indicated it was Haut Garrigues. No rush at all!!
  18. These are notes from a Commanderie de Bordeaux vertical tasting dinner of Ch. Gruaud Larose. It has been said that Pauillac wines can be sorted into three classes – the classic, cedary ‘British’ style (many examples), the elegant style (Lafite and Pichon Lalande), and the exotic style (Mouton, Lynch Bages). This could be said for St. Julien as well, and one would place Las Cases in group #1, cedary British, Ducru and Beychevelle in group #2, and Talbot and Gruaud Larose in group 3 – the ones that tend to exhibit tar, spice, and animal elements and are often brawny wines that need extended ageing. It was interesting to have the chance to taste traditional vintages against young vintages to assess possible changes in style. We started with 1995 Veuve Clicquot Vintage Reserve with some amuses bouches, and I found it to be very pleasant with a lemony nose and hint of terminal sweetness. 1998 Pavillon Blanc du Ch. Margaux – a surprising amount of oak in this wine, exhibited both in the toasty nose and on palate. The wine carried it off well, though, being sweet, juicy and well balanced. A very good bottle. Served with grilled Atlantic scallops beside coconut flavoured seafood ‘cappuccino’ in demitasse. We then started into the Gruaud with the younger vintages, served with a terrine of venison: 2000 – yes, infanticide, but with the high ideal of scholarly investigation in mind, I silently pardoned myself and dug in. Though quite dark, it wasn’t huge in body, and while there was good depth in the nose, it was still rather simple and undifferentiated as one would expect in a wine of this age – primary fruit, and absolutely no gaminess or leather as one expects from experience with older vintages. Lots of new oak and lots of tannin, though soft, and abundant fruit – this should develop into a very good wine, though I came to doubt that it would ever be very much like the Gruaud Larose of old. 1998 – another dark wine, the fruit a tad sweeter on palate, but with a higher acidity that gave a leaner impression, and a hint of dill. I think that this one will drink best early. With spiced pheasant breast with red kurri squash ravioli: 1989 – good colour to the rim. A lot of spice in the nose, good acid and the tannins soft – no rush here, but it drinks well now. 1988 – the surprise of this flight – wonderful nose, excellent balance, ready and harmonious with nice sweetness and fruit – not what one expects from this rather neglected vintage! Best of flight. 1983 – more gaminess in this nose, and the tannin fairly prominent for the vintage. Good acidity and good length. A more compact wine than many 83s. Pity they couldn’t round up some of the excellent 1990 to taste with the 88 and 89! With Achiote spiced Fraser Valley duck breast: 1981 – probably the biggest surprise so far. Wonderful nose of cedar and plum, balanced, harmonious and perfectly ready to drink. I believe you can still pick this up at lower prices than the 82 and 83 – a bargain, and the best wine so far, with the 88 a runner-up. 1979 – I always enjoy a mature Bordeaux nose and so was delighted with this one, all cedar and dark fruit. No tannins left, smooth on palate and drinking well, but don’t hold. 1978 – while this wine had a nose that was slightly better than the excellent 1979, there was a slight vegetal element that some would like and others would not. Mellow wine, but it finished a bit short. We all agreed that the 79 was superior. With truffled lamb ribeye: 1986 – still a big, dark brute of a wine with huge tannin and acid, the flavours largely undifferentiated, but you can see that the quality is there, much in the stamp of the 86 Mouton, but that wine is showing more than this backward beast is at this point. If you have it, lose it in the cellar for another decade! Am I ever glad that I cellared some of this – and unhappy I didn’t buy more. 1985 – as one expects from this year, the wine was forward and attractive, soft in the mouth and drinking at peak now. Very nice. 1982 – this one would give pause if tasted blind, for the structure is larger than most 82s and the tannins still harder – I think I’d be floundering around guessing several years younger. The wine is absolutely wonderful – it has amazing weight, impeccable balance, and abundant tannins. The nose showed the expected leather and ripe fruit elements and perhaps a shot of cocoa as well. I wish I had a case of this to taste beside the 1986 over the next 20 years! We finished with: 1997 Ch. Suduiraut – sweet melon and pineapple nose, not too sweet on palate, very tasty with good acidity. My first taste of a wine that should last well. Conclusions? Our Maitre asked the question – did we consider that Gruaud Larose merited it’s second growth status? My answer was undoubtedly yes. There was the consistency in all years, the ability to show well in slightly weaker vintages like 1981, and the ability to perform at what was really first growth levels in excellent vintages like 1982 and 1986. I have a small stash of 1975, which I intend to drink beside the 1975 Las Cases over the next few years while I muse about what a shame it is that younger wine fans will never have the chance to enjoy these finally drinkable monsters of old. The style of the wine has changed, I fear, and the young examples from the 90s, while very good wines are no longer made, it seems, in the old style. Unlike many Bordeaux, traditional Gruaud seems to mature at about the age of 15 years in good vintages, and 15 – 25 in great vintages. It is possible that future great vintages may emulate that record, but at this point it seems doubtful. I must say that I am a big fan of the likes of Gruaud and Talbot, even though they are not often accused of being elegant…..impressive wines.
  19. I'm in a Rhone mood lately and as SWMBO has temporarily taken leave for warmer climes I thought I'd treat myself and check and see how this was doing. The colour was relatively light, almost like a Burgundy. The nose had the telltale violets, however - I am told that this comes from the addition of Viognier to the Syrah (in this case 4%). I have not yet convinced one of the local BC winemakers to do two batches of Syrah, one with the addition of a bit of Viognier. I think I will keep working on La Frenz, as he makes Viognier already, and as an Aussie has an innate right to dabble with 'Shiraz'. This wine was medium weight, with a very pleasant sweetness on palate, and although the tannins are present, they are almost fully resolved. It has good balance and very good length, and I doubt it will get any better, though it should last quite a few more years. Very nice bottle. A shame it is now in the $80 C. range for the current vintage. I enjoyed it over a whole evening and it kept getting better.
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    January Lunch Notes

    2000 Benchland Chardonnay – this BC Chard 3was getting a bit long in the tooth. It had a faint metallic note in the nose, but beyond that it was excessively oaked, had fair acidity and finished short. No thanks. 1994 Mas Champart (St. Chinian) – this Languedoc-Roussillon wine lacked the quality I’ve seen in other examples. There was little of note in the nose, bar a slight rubberiness, and while it showed some sweetness in the midpalate, it tailed off too quickly and was simple. With smoked buffalo carpaccio: 1992 Murietta’s Well Vendimia – tons of mint in this nose, so much so that we were considering whether it might be Australian. Elegant and ready, it struck none of us as an American wine. 1996 Sean Thackrey Pleiades VI – “this wine contains Syrah, Zinfandel, Carignan, Petit Sirah, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Merlot, to name just a few”, and the back label indicates that it “goes well with anything red wine goes well with”, which doesn’t really add much! The nose was eucalyptus with a hint of barnyard, and the medium weight wine had good bright fruit in the middle. With pork tenderloin a la Portuguese (w. clams) 2000 Clos l’Oratoire des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape – a nose of rich herbs and sweet fruit, with a bit of heat. Lots of tannin, sweet fruit medium long. It showed more complexity on palate than it did in the nose. 1999 Ch. d’Aiguilhe (Cotes de Castillon) – I was the only one that suggested this might be a Bordeaux! Big, black and impenetrable, with nutmeg in the nose and soft tannins. It is an atypical wine, but drinks well now. With cheese: 1994 Dom. Tempier Cabassau (Bandol) – good sweet nose with leather and spice, obviously hot climate, still lots of soft tannin and very good length. 1997 Jose Ferrer Veritas Grand Reserve (Mallorca) – this wine, brought back by a frined from vacation in Spain, had a bottle so heavy that it felt like a full bottle when it was empty. Ripe nose, tannins forward, tad astringent at the end. Interesting curiosity (and not cheap) but not serious cellaring material. ‘Mantonegro’, Callet and Cab Sauv. 2002 Golden Mile Merlot – an inexpensive BC wine that was showing a lot of coconut and mint in the nose, quite sweet, and the sweetness carried over in the mouth. OK with cheese but really a bit too sweet.
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    TN: Gigondas

    Last night I was in a Rhone mood: 1999 Dom. Santa Duc Cote du Rhone Vielles Vignes – a competent if not outstanding wine with typical Rhone nose, decent heft and some tannin. 1995 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas Haut Garrigues – Wow! From the mundane to the surpassingly impressive. The nose on this wine had great underlying dark fruit with an overlay of vanilla and oak. Excellent structure, with abundant but soft tannins and exceptional length. This wine, at the age of 10, is a baby and is just starting into the area where you can drink it without feeling TOO guilty, but it has a long life ahead. Best Giggie I’ve tasted!
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    Some notes on some Chateauneuf du Papes. While there are many permitted varietals allowed in Chateauneuf, the majority of producers use only about 4 – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault, as well as a bit of Cunoise sometimes. The notes indicate major components only; the balance is made up of a combination of these other varietals. If you wonder at the concentration of some of these wines, it isn’t just the warm climate – they are allowed to crop at only 35 hl/hectare as opposed to 60 in Bordeaux, and the vines grow without irrigation in fist sized rocks. 1999 Ch. Beauchene – 80% Grenache, old estate with old vines, partial destemming. This was a lighter wine with a simple warm berry nose, juicy midpalate with soft tannin, ready to roll right now and no point cellaring it. 1999 Dom. des Relagnes Cuvee Vigneronne – traditional vinification with no yeast added, 85% Grenache. Lots of jammy ripeness here, forward and ready with medium body and soft tannin. 1998 Dom. Duclaux – another early drinking wine from the owner of Vieux Lazaret. I liked the nose a bit more although it wasn’t quite as ripe, and the wine seemed to have better balance. Again, ready to drink. This producer has an old style vineyard with the varietals interplanted. 1999 Dom. du Pere Pape La Crau de Ma Mere – this one was only 70% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre, and the wine was showing more garrigue, lavender and pepper. Better flavour definition, drier than the previous wines, with good length. This could use some more time. Glad to see I have some of this one. 1999 Dom. St. Benoit Cuve de Grand Garde – More than 90% Grenache and predictably the nose was fruit driven, with a slightly pruny oxidised note. Fair bit of tannin, and a nice hint of orange peel and more than a hint of black pepper in the nose, I am not sure this one will hold as long as some critics predict, but it should repay 3-5 years of cellaring for sure. 1999 Bosquet des Papes – 70% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault. This was the Cuvee Classique – they also make a 100% Cuvee Grenache version, and since 1990, a premium Cuvee Chantemerle. This wine was well put together, showing more gaminess and garrigue in the nose, a nice weight in mid-palate, and good length. No rush, but drinks well now. 2000 Bosquet des Papes – interesting to compare the two vintages. 199 was good, 2000 even better, yet to my taste, the 99 was slightly preferable. The 2000 had a slightly perfumed nose that the 99 lacked, and was smooth and forward, though with plenty of tannin to hold, yet with a bit less complexity right now. 2001 Font de Michelle – 65% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 10% Mourvedre and Syrah. This was the regular cuvee. It was quite young and smooth with pepper in the finish. The colour was lighter than the others and it seemed less serious a wine and is definitely for early drinking. They do make a more serious version – I still have some 1994 Cuvee Etienne Gonnet that impressed me quite a bit. Probably time to open a bottle. My favourites were the La Crau and the 99 Bosquet des Papes.
  23. Some notes from over the holidays: 1996 Pol Roger Rosé Reserve – a light pink, with full mouth feel and crisp end. No rush on this one. 2000 Tunina (Jermann) – unusual blend of chard, sauv blanc, ribolla, malvasia and picolit from NE Italy. The nose was predominantly chard, which indicates to me that the SB component must be pretty low, as it usually doesn’t take much of that to over power other varietals in a blend. Clean and well balanced. 1988 Sassicaia – the last time I tasted this was in my vertical dinner, rather unfairly placed against the truly exceptional 1985 (the 1978 and 1985 are qualitatively different from other vintages). This wine showed a deep sweet nose of fruit and vanilla, and a supple smoothness on palate that was very attractive. It has good length, was very pleasurable, and may be drinking at about peak right now, or at least getting close to it, but it should last many years. 1988 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio al Oro – this reserve Brunello showed quite well. It was browning at the edges, but many of these wines can show this without it being any sign of break-up. The wine was an old style Italian Brunello with lots of acidity, good length, and ready to drink right now. It should hold awhile but certainly won’t get any better. The reserve was much better than the regular cuvee in this vintage. 1996 Le Macchiole Paleo – this wine, like the Sassicaia, also a Bolgheri wine, was interesting. A blend of 85% cab with 15% sangiovese, it showed much more like a new world wine than a traditional Italian. Warm toasty nose with more oak than the Sassicaia, and the sangiovese didn’t seem to exert much influence on palate. If tasted blind among a group of Californian wines, I could see accepting this in that milieu. Drinks well now, and could use a few more years to continue to develop. Interesting contrast to the preceding wines. 1982 Viccarie Amarone – I am a fan of these wines, dried for months on straw mats to lose water and concentrate sugars and flavour before fermentation. The resulting dry wines, normally high in alcohol (usually 14 – 15.5%) with a bitter finish that you either love or hate go very well with cheese after dinner. This example had the typical hottish raisin and licorice nose and had good length, although it showed signs of drying out a bit. I don’t think I’ve even seen this producer in recent years – have they disappeared? 2001 San Alejandro Baltasar Gracian Garnacha Vinas Viejas – this wine, made by the San Alejandro coop that also does the bargain Las Rocas, is also a winner. The dark wine showed a cherry nose with a hint of anise. In the mouth, it was soft and smooth, with a nice long finish with a bit of pepper at the end. This is a great bargain as well, and should last awhile even though the tannins are already quite soft. (had this on new year’s eve with a rare rib eye with Dijon-shallot cream sauce, prefaced by a small raft of BBQ’s prawns in garlic butter with the Segura Lavit pink bubbly – we were just in a Spanish sort of mood).
  24. bills

    Xmas Gigondas

    1994 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas - had to have something with 'Santa' in the name for Christmas eve dinner! The colour was lighter than expected, but the nose was big, a bit warm, and bright cherry. In the mouth this wine blossoms - it is bursting with flavour, has excellent fruit, soft tannin that actually became a bit more prominent with a half hour of airing, and good length. Great drinking now, but certainly no rush.
  25. Did a test dinner for another event with friends last night. After a glass of Segura Lavit, we headed out to a restaurant that does French cafe style cuisine. With terrine de campagne: 2000 Dom. Remizieres Crozes Hermitage Blanc - big buttery nose with a floral element, rich and smooth on palate and very dry, almost crisp at the end. Absolutely great food wine, but I'm not sure it will improve. With a veritable vat of Boeuf Bourguignon: 1997 Dom. Remizieres Crozes Hermitage - the nose on this is now showing some maturity with pruny black fruit and vanilla, and in contrast to the white, it was actually quite soft and low in acidity, with a sweet smooth end. I think this is in the middle of it's best drinking stage now.
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