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WTN: 14 Yrs. & Older


geo t.
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SoCal resident and wine lover Bennett Traub paid us a visit at Gang Central a few weeks ago, bringing along some marvelous 16-20 year old Châteauneuf du Papes. A certain, self - described "simple country wine retailer" himself, Bill Schwab aka The Psychopomp, also stopped on, adding something special from Angelo Gaja. No wines under 14 years old were allowed on the table on this fine and special evening. Kim prepared a delicious dinner consisting of grilled leg o' lamb, sautéed mushrooms in demi glace over beluga lentils, pine nut dressed greens beans and pan roasted asparagus. We had the last bottle of an old friend ready and waiting for our guests when they arrived, and it's never shown better.

1990 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile, 12.5% alc.: Pale gold in color, with a tinge of lime, this exudes a lovely bouquet of stoney petrol accented with a note of pine, and bright overtones of, yes, lime. The rich, almost unctuous flavors echo beautifully, with an added core of appley fruit underneath it all, crisp acidity and a long finish. Bill describes the wine as plush, and in truth, it really has evolved and become so much lovelier over the years. I can only rue the fact that there's no more of this down in the cellar from heck, because it's singing right now, and shows no sign of letting up any time soon.

Imported by Chateau & Estate Wines Co., New York, NY

1985 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc, 13.6% alc.: This is showing both a pale gold color and remarkable longevity, being quite vibrant and very much alive, with characteristics of mineral (Bennett mentioned slate and flint), a bit of residual wax (thin paraffin candle, according to Bill), dried passion fruit, quince, an herbal underbelly and some citrus and peach pit as it opens. The wine still has excellent cut, and gives not the slightest impression of being over the hill or past its prime. Oh, my!

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

1988 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pape, 11 - 14% alc.: "I love this wine," Kim exclaimed after a few sips, and indeed, what's not to love here? Dark garnet, with just a hint of rust to its color, this gives up a hint of the barnyard that blows off quickly, leaving plenty of black plum and black currant shaded with smoke, sarsaparilla root (Bill) and earthy, woodsy tobacco and saddle leather (Bennett). Big and rich, with a fair dose of tannins still to resolve, this really opens with just a little air, and Kim's grilled leg o' lamb brings out its full flavor even more, and vice versa. A simply marvelous wine, one we're lucky enough to have greatly enjoyed twice in the last three months here at Adams, Heritier and Associates.*

Imported by Kermit Lynch, Wine Merchant - Berkeley, CA

Unfortunately, a 1983 Vieux Télégraphe that Bennett brought along was corked, but such was not the case with another southern Rhône stalwart in his travel bag of none - too - dubious - delectables.

1985 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape, 13.6% alc.: The rouge sibling to the '85 blanc tasted earlier, this is a deep, dark garnet, fading to pink at the rim, and showing just a hint of brick. It offers oodles of cola, earth, saddle leather, smoke and what Bill describes as some nice blackberry and licorice in the background. The cola overtones are especially aromatic, really dressing up the lovely perfume, and in the mouth, the wine retains solid structure, with a long delicious finish and tannins that aren't at all obtrusive. This is a big, beautiful Beaucastel that has yet to reach its peak, so drink or hold; either way, you'll be pleased, if this bottle is any indication.

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

1990 Charles Joguet Chinon Clos de la Dioterie, 12.5% alc.: A much appreciated gift from Mark Criden, this ruby dark garnet more than held up to the competition on this evening, showing every bit as well as it did in Toledo a month previous; I told Mark that this wasn't going to last the year, and I meant it, dammit! It exudes effusive earthy, herbal blackberry, black currant aromatics adorned with hints of blueberry, which follow through on the palate with what Bill describes as little hints of citrus zest; Bennett added impressions of cedar, clove and smoke, "like what you'd poach a pear in." There're still some tannins here, and this is still on the way up, just starting to turn silky, with that Pinot Noir - like quality that many of these Chinons seem to have, and like so many fine French wines, it opens more and more with air. There's no reason that this shouldn't continue to improve over the next five years or more; drink or hold.

Imported by Kermit Lynch, Wine Merchant - Berkeley, CA

1990 Gaja Langhe Sperss, 13.5% alc.: Bill pulled this rusty dark garnet out of his pocket, saying that it needed evaluation, and who better to do the job than this crowd? It features what he and Bennett collectively describe as tar and bittersweet chocolate over mesquite roasted cherries, with cigar ash and cedar in support; Bennett elaborated cryptically, saying "it's like drinking a monastery." This still shows a good dose of oak for its age, and in fact, it's still a young wine in most respects, and has a good dose of tannins to shed as well. It reminds me of nothing so much as oak and twigs on the nose, with all of the previously mentions characteristics on the palate; like the other wines, it opens more and more with air, and finishes with very good length. Both Bill and Bennett mentioned some volatile acidity, but I got none of that; to me, this is simply a wine that I'd love to try again in about five years to see how it's coming along. It's certainly a horse of a different color from anything else tasted on this occasion, but I didn't hear anyone complaining except maybe Kim, who described it as sour.

Imported by Vinifera Imports, Ltd., Ronkonkoma, NY

1971 Ridge Essence Zinfandel Lodi, 375 ml: Bennett brought this somewhat murky rusty dark garnet along, knowing how the Gang loves Mr. Ridge, and of course, we were most pleased and impressed. Though showing its age, this is still in great shape, being rich, fairly sweet and distinctly Zinfandel. It's a little funky on the nose, and rather earthy throughout; Bill was reminded of rotten strawberries, which he seemed to mean in the kindest way. Bennett called it Créme Brule in a glass, but at that point in the evening, I just called it delicious, sipping mine most gladly, and not bothering to write much more. I was also negligent in clearing glasses at the end of the evening, so, perhaps not surprisingly, they had to be soaked the next day to remove the considerable sediment schmutz in each, as this was poured straight from the bottle.

This "offline" was a classic example of what the Gang of Pour has been about over the last 9 years or so, meeting up with our fellow online winos and enjoying good food, fine wine and most excellent camaraderie. First encounters with virtual friends are always interesting; we've never had a bad experience, and hanging out with Bennett is like hanging out with an old buddy. The best part is, he comes to town three or four times a year, so next time, we should be able to sit out on the back deck!

As for that "simple country wine retailer," he is what he is, and we wouldn't have him any other way.

-From A Classic Little Offline

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

George Heritier aka geo t.

The Gang of Pour

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1985 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape, 13.6% alc.: The rouge sibling to the '85 blanc tasted earlier, this is a deep, dark garnet, fading to pink at the rim, and showing just a hint of brick. It offers oodles of cola, earth, saddle leather, smoke and what Bill describes as some nice blackberry and licorice in the background. The cola overtones are especially aromatic, really dressing up the lovely perfume, and in the mouth, the wine retains solid structure, with a long delicious finish and tannins that aren't at all obtrusive. This is a big, beautiful Beaucastel that has yet to reach its peak, so drink or hold; either way, you'll be pleased, if this bottle is any indication.

Imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL

geo t.:

Thanks for the notes. Quite an evening!

The '85 Beaucastel was actually the first Châteauneuf I remember drinking. I went to a casual tasting party in the early '90s at a coworker's house and his brother (who was very much into wine) brought along mags of the '85 Beau and '82 Poujeaux.

My meager contributions were 750s of '87 Cain Five and '86 Mildara Coonawara Shiraz. I've written of the Cain Five on other threads. The Mildara was a helluva bargain that I really enjoyed until I had bought the shop out.

I can still recall the nose on the Beau almost perfectly. I've always found a certain gamey smell in both the Beau and the Coudelet (but not La Vielle Ferme) that I can only describe as fishiness. It's not an unpleasant smell at all, but I can't think of another term to describe it. It's something altogether different from the brett that shows up in so many southern Rhones and I've never found it to anything near the same degree from any other producer. I don't have the most acute nose or palate, but I seldom have a hard time picking out a Perrin wine blind.

I was interested that nothing in your notes was even close (except maybe saddle leather). I've never had the pleasure of a mature Beaucastel. I wonder if this is something that fades with age. Or is it something that only I find in even the young wines?

Only other wine I can remember from that night was an Argentine Cab that still serves as my benchmark of the term dried out. I felt like someone had stuck a vacuum cleaner in my mouth, then swabbed it out with a dessicant. Ugghhh! Such memories should not linger.

Again, thanks for the notes.

Jim

Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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Jim, I can only tell you that this wine showed no funky qualities whatsoever. Whether that's because it "aged" out of the wine, I can't say. For the record, I usually politely describe the brett aromas you refer to as "barnyard," although sometimes I also call them "poopy;" however, I know some folks who aren't so reserved with their descriptions!

Cheers,

geo

George Heritier aka geo t.

The Gang of Pour

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  • 2 weeks later...
Jim, I can only tell you that this wine showed no funky qualities whatsoever.  Whether that's because it "aged" out of the wine, I can't say.  For the record, I usually politely describe the brett aromas you refer to as "barnyard," although sometimes I also call them "poopy;" however, I know some folks who aren't so reserved with their descriptions!

Cheers,

geo

George:

Thanks for the thoughts. You've got a lot more tasting experience than I have, so I wasn't questioning your note. I was just curious since I've never had the opportunity to drink a mature CdB CdP. I also wonder if I'm the only one who finds such a strong, distinctive "fishy" note on the nose of younger Beaucastel wines. All of us have an odd sensitivity here and there. I wonder if this is one of my quirks.

I also tend to use barnyard or funky to describe a certain brett character. What I find in Beaucastel seems to be something entirely different, at least to me.

Curious,

Jim

Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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