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WTN: Southern France

Brad Ballinger

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Whenever someone from one of the Internet wine boards blows into town, I suaully get an email warning, and we descended upon our top offline restaurant, Bakery on Grand. This one came from Alan Rath, who has yet to post here. Besides Alan and yours truly, this band of ruffians was made up of Brian Tockman, Craig Vanderah, Paul Campbell, Jean Brislance, Gordon Drake, Jon Gorman, and two of Jon’s co-workers whose names I don’t remember – although one was from Southern France.

Pre-theme wines

2002 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie. This was the starter wine from the restaurant’s list. I also saved a glass for the salad course. Crisp, lithe, melons, lemons. Nice herbal accents. A bit of a rocky mineral quality. As good as it always is.

2001 Kongsgaard Chardonnay, Napa Valley. Gordon brought this wine along with 11 other ones. Earlier I had emailed Paul asking what he thought the over/under should be on the number of wines Gordon brings. Paul put the number at 4 and he’d take the over. I guess Paul only bets on sure things. What we didn’t expect (or maybe we did) is that Gordon would bring a California-heavy stash. Anyway, I’m glad he brought this one. Kongsgaard makes Chardonnay that I enjoy drinking. There is spicy oak in the wine, but I find it to be more of an accent and complement to other components than the headliner. This one was beautifully balanced. The texture was creamy, but there was plenty of acid to give it brightness and lift. Toast, some earthiness, nice citrus fruit profile. Lemony finish. Well made.

2003 Chateau du Campuget Viognier, Cuvee Prestige, Vin de Pays d’Oc. This wine initially showed an elegantlyperfumed nose of white peach and honeysuckle. With some warmth and air, however, it add a bell pepper component that didn’t do much for me. On the attack, there is a pleasant does of acid showcasing a citrus flavor profile accented by apricot. Again, with some warmth, this also adds more vegetal quality.

1987 KWV Cabernet Sauvignon, Coast Region. This South African relic came to me by way of a co-worker from the U.K. I have no idea how it had been stored. I was going to mask its identity, but my wife had moved my stash of brown wine bags. Color showing moderate bricking all throughout. Mature-ish nose showing some damp leaves, and dirt. In the mouth, this wine reveals itself as one where the fruit had outlived the tannin, but the victory came with a price, being lack of structure. This wine was all about some sweet fruit at the front of the mouth, but nothing else to round it out and give it depth and complexity one might expect with an older well-developed wine. I love the nose, but it’s downhill from there. Finish is almost non-existent.

1999 Donnafugate Mille Note. Another Gordon wine. Don’t worry, the Southern France wines start with the next one. This is a 100% nero d’avola and is Donnafugata’s premiere wine. At first there was a burnt match sulfur quality that needed to blow off, and did. For one-third of the price, I prefer Donnafugata’s Sedara, which is also a 100% nero d’avola with more acid, less alcohol, and less oak. This wine is sweet, juicy, a little unripe and awkward.

Flight one

2001 Chateau Pesquie “Les Terasses,” Cotes du Ventoux. Smells a bit metallic. Shows some bright acidity, but doesn’t shed the metallic component. With some digging, I can find black pepper and black front-of-mouth fruit. But the wine seems imbalanced and flawed in some fashion.

NV Jean-Marie Rimbert Carignator 1er, Vin de Table. We couldn’t find a vintage date, but it might be 2000. This is 100% carignanan from 50-75 year old vines Great rustic funk on the nose. Based on the aroma alone, one would expect a dark, brooding, blackish wine. But it’s all bright, intense cherries and berries on the palate. Chewy texture. Very nice wine. May not be as structured as one might like, but full of character.

2000 Elian da Ros Vignoble de Cocumont, Cotes du Marmandais. Diluted. Dusty tannins. Not much else here. Moving on…

Flight Two

1996 Pesquera Tinto Crianza, Ribera del Duero. (Brian didn’t have a Southern France wine.) Large dose of bell pepper. Besides that, there is a raisiny quality to the nose, and the wine seems prematurely mature. Don’t know if it’s the bottle or not. Probably is.

2001 Chateau La Cassanove “La Garrigue,” Cotes du Roussillon. Molasses-like nose, and the wine comes across almost as sweet on the palate – minus acidity, and minus tannin, but plus alcohol.

1999 Chateau St. Martin de la Garrigue “Bronzinelle,” Coteaux du Languedoc. Intense mourvedre nose of tree bark and wet earth, along with some licorice. It probably had an attractive forward fruit profile upon release that could be losing some vibrancy now and latting the alcohol come across as more, well, alcoholic. Best of the three in this flight, but it wasn’t much of a contest.

Flight Three

1998 Domaine de Aigueliere “Cote Doree” Montpeyroux, Coteaux du Languedoc. Spicy, peppery, tannic, young young young. This wine is all about spice right now, and it’s something you’ll either love or hate about it. I don’t know where I stand at the moment. It is a wine to revisit in a few years, however.

1994 Domaine Tempier “Cuvee La Tourtine” Bandol. Despite whatever this funky nose promises, the structure is lacking in this wine and the fruit is quickly fading into alcoholic acid water.

1999 Domaine Tempier “Cuvee Speciale” Bandol. Although Paul thought the nose was similar to the 94 La Tourtine, I see it (or smell it) differently. This one promises much more complexity. There’s fruit and spice here in addition to poop. Initially unassuming on the attack, this wine quickly makes up for it with smoky, spicy, funky black fruit. This is a wine that could easily have been made in a style that would make it a juicy fruit bomb, but it stops short of that, remaining balanced and promising complexity with age.

Post-theme wines (sort of)

1999 Merus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Well, since Gordon brought all those California Cabs… Nose of jammy black fruit. The same fruit floating in a sea of alcohol in the mouth. Can’t do it.

1991 Dr. Parce Rimage Mise Tardive Domaine du Mas Blanc Banyuls. Light smoke accents on the chocolate, tree bark nose. But if I sniff for more than two seconds my nasal membranes start to burn from all the alcohol. In the mouth, the alcohol brings a hotness to the wine, but there is plenty of fruit and spice there as well. It’s a bit too hot for me, but I’m bothered by too much alcohol more than most people I know.

2000 Grande Maison “Cuvee des Anges,” Monbazillac. 50% semillon, 35% muscadelle, 15% sauvignon blanc. Incredibly tropical with a huge pineapple profile. Remains in balance with pleasing acidity. And that’s all I wrote down. My impression was one of enjoying this wine quite a bit.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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Brad, once again, a very fun night! Thanks so much.

Here are a few comments from me after I got my notes together:

If I may offer another side of the ‘99 Donnafugata Mille una Notte, there were a few comments from others at the table that noted they thought it had a Syrah-like nose. My notes said the nose was of tar, smoke, and balsamic vinegar. I was sitting by Paul, and I believe he remarked that it had an Amarone-like flavor as well. That I would agree with, as I noted some raisiny dark dried fruit on the palate. I enjoyed this.

Also, the Kongsgaard Chardonnay was a huge surprise for me. I rarely ever drink Chardonnay of any kind, but this was, hands down, the best California Chardonnay I have ever tried. I really liked the spiciness in this wine, and while big, it had a good acidity to go along with it. A real eye opener.

Brad, your description of the 1987 KWV Cab was right on the money. It was interesting lesson for me to taste a wine where the fruit outlived the tannins, even though it was starting to fade. Thanks for sharing that one.

I brought the La Casenove "La Garrigue", a wine I really like...but I did not realize the level of sweetness in this wine until I drank it along side some other wines, and I found it distracting in the lineup. I will be drinking my remaining ones on their own!

The Jean-Marie Rimbert Carignator was an interesting wine as well. “Bright” is certainly a great descriptor, as I too found a lot of bright fruit on the palate. It was certainly a unique wine that stood out in this tasting.

I enjoyed being able to taste the Merus, however I am starting to understand the complaints about wines like this. The wine is big and luscious. It is fun to drink. I was surprised at how smooth the tannins were, making me wonder if this will age. But, while it is tasty and fun, I see why some oppose these wines. There really is not a sense of place to go along with it. It could have been made in someone’s garage in Australia for all I know. But, then again, I still liked it a lot, which makes me feel a bit tortured as a wine lover. :blink:

The Grand Maison “Cuvee des Anges” was truly delicious. I had the almond touile for dessert, and this was an absolutely perfect match made in heaven. Delightful!

My wine of the night was the 1991 Dr. Parce Rimage Banyuls. Every time I drink with you guys, I get exposed to these wonderful dessert wines that absolutely blow me away. I could not believe the intense aromas, and the finish went on for what seemed like forever. Amazing stuff!

Thanks for a great night!


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