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Viader, St Hallets, Brane Cantenac, Huegenot


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Notes from my monthly blind tasting lunch.

We started off with a stuffed Dungeness crab, so the restaurant had to stick in a white as none of the participants had brought one.

2004 Monte Armontes (Catalyud) - we are more familiar with the reds from this area, and I have no idea what the varietals might be, but the nose was stony and it was full and soft in the mouth and went well with the crab and that was enough for us!

2003 Domaine Huegenot Gevrey Chambertain Vielles Vignes – some people were asea with this one, but it seemed to me to be easily identifiable pinot noir. Where I felt some uncertainty was origin as it was an elegant fruit forward wine with no Burgundian pong in the nose whatever, just pure fruit. It seemed a little flat in mid-palate initially but with air it came around and was a delightful village wine.

1994 Faustino V Gran Reserva – a Rioja with a bitter cherry and chocolate nose, slightly drying at end , an indication that it might be a bit long in the tooth, but pleasant. Most wines from this excellent vintage are in fine shape, but I have never considered Faustino to produce particularly long lived wines, so maybe that was the difference.

Served with a prosciutto wrapped salad.

1983 Ch. Brane Cantenac – after a discussion about the 1986 earlier in the week and my reminiscence about how pleasant the 83 had been early in life, I found that I still had a bottle, so brought it out. The nose was quite good, but the wine lacked the fruit it had heretofore possessed. Maybe I was being harder on it because it was my wine, as most found it to be a presentable luncheon claret.

2000 Quinta do Carmo Reserva (Alentejo) – dark wine with a quite ripe nose that had a slight sour cherry note, and ripe and sweet in the mouth. Interesting – this wine has a lot in common with another favourite of mine, Los Vascos, from Chile, as Lafite also owns and operates this winery (busy boys at Lafite – see http://www.lafite.com/en/domaine.php From their site, this wine is made of Aragonez 40 to 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah 20 to 40%, Alicante, Periquita, Trincadeira 20 to 30%, sees 12 months in all new oak. Interesting wine!

We were into fig stuffed chicken by now.

2002 Lumiere – no, this is not the famous Vancouver restaurant, it is actor Gerard Depardieu making wine in Morocco, and we sure went around the world trying to figure this one out! A blend of syrah and Grenache, it was characterised by a very mint and chemical nose (not in a bad way), and was weighty, interesting and showed commendable length in the mouth. The 15.5% alcohol was betrayed by a bit of heat in the nose.

1991 Viader - this wine, a blend of cab sauv and cab franc from Howell Mountain, was showing a really Bordeaux-like nose! It was warmer and a big wine, but was very well balanced with very good length. I have always admired what she can do with winemaking and this one is now on the plateau of drinkability but will hold for some years. A pleasure to taste a mature well made California wine after the cloying awkward plethora of young American and Australian creations I’ve tasted lately.

1988 Conn Creek Zinfandel – from the (obviously neglected) depths of a friend’s cellar, this wine, from a maker not known to me as particularly adept with this grape, rather predictably failed to exhibit one iota of varietal character at this advanced age. It had a nose characterised by one taster as being ‘sweaty feet’, still had some tannins and a bit of pepper to it, and while the flavour profile was ripe, it had lost too much fruit to be pleasurable. Textbook example of why many people say you shouldn’t age Zinfandel. I’d had a bottle of really good zin in my hand to bring to this, which would have made a great comparison, but the restaurant leapt into the breach with:

1999 Cape Mentelle Zinfandel – I always get this wrong as it is pretty clearly varietal zinfandel (though often with more mintiness than usual) and one doesn’t think of Australia when the word ‘Zin’ pops up. Huge menthol nose, not very tannic but still young and has a way tyo go yet, quite good, and at 15.9% alcohol also hot.

1998 St Hallets Old Block Shiraz – we headed south for the end of this lunch – and this wine was drinking well now. A nose of black cherries and flowers, and smooth on palate, with fruit levels under control and not over the top as in some wines from this ripe vintage. I recall the 1994 as needing some time to come into balance but this one seems very nice right now.

1996 Ch. Reynella Basket Pressed Shiraz – whack of oak and mint a giveaway (and a hint of Bret?), and nice blackberry fruit under that. This wine is now in balance but shows a tad rough at the end. I find that I have some in my cellar and based on this tasting will leave it be for a couple more years to see what happens.

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