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TN:  TTG#10 -- Summer Wines

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TTG#10: SUMMER WINES? - Tokyo American Club (8/25/2006)

Eight of us gathered at TAC for an end of summer dinner. Theme was summer wines, but we got a bit carried away in the chardonnay section and may have reached into autumn. TAC did a very good job with the wine service and a decent enough job with the food, though the portions were a bit large. Still, good quality for club food.

Steve, sorry for shamelessly stealing a few of your flight names.

Bubbles to Start (as always)

  • 1996 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon - France, Champagne
    Lightest salmon copper with a tiny bead moving in wispy puffs like smoke signals saying “delicious”. At first, noses is closed up tight, tight, tight. Palate has a nice creaminess balanced with crispness as the wispy bubbles move smoothly over the tongue, then pop. There is a palpable sweetness adding to the creamy texture, but this is still all in balance. When it is still fresh in the glass, this is all about texture until an almost riesling-like cherry explodes on the finish. With time in the glass, it opens up more and more to show some light flaky-dough yeast on the nose, along with tart but ripe peach and berry. Citrus joins the cherry on the palate along with a hint of cinnamon. As much as it opens up, it is clear that this is very young. One of those wines I would have loved to be able to seal up and taste the next day. I managed to keep a bit in the glass for an hour and a half or so and it was still just beginning to blossom. Damn good wine!

In the Pink

With spicy crab cocktail

  • 2004 Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel Rosé La Dame Rousse - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Tavel
    Rich reddish side of orange, very clear and bright. Raspberry and cranberry on the nose, intriguingly herby and garrigue-accented on the finish with a hint of refreshing quinine. But – in between – just a little bit too much of a good thing, as the rich fruit trampled the lightness and freshness I look for in a summer rosé. But a good and serious wine, regardless. Does seem to get a bit hot as it warms in the glass. Putting aside my preferences, this is a winner. It is definitely of its place and that’s a good thing. I just happen to prefer other places for rosé, like Beaujo, the Loire, and Bandol.
  • 2005 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Rosé - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    A few days ago, I posted a pretty positive note on this wine. I was eager to try it again to confirm my impressions. Not as bright and limpid as the Tavel, though still clear enough. Strawberry and sweetness on the nose – not quite cotton candy but a very textural sense of sweetness. Whether from alcohol or sugar I don’t know, but this becomes cloying and doesn’t really work with food. Radically different than my impression the first time I tasted it and not for the better. To be fair, this probably works better without food and serving next to the Tavel worked to its detriment. Worth one more try, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope as I’m afraid the answer is that this only works without food.

No Cats Allowed

With goat cheese salad

  • 1998 Couhins-Lurton - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Oxidised. There was a bit of discernable light grass and citrus underneath, but hard to get to much more than that.
  • 2005 Domaine Maestracci Vin de Corse Calvi - France, Corsica, Vin de Corse Calvi
    The theme was summer wines and this was the low-end and (possibly) high-value example, or so I hoped. A blend of mostly vermentino with a bit of ugni blanc. Very pale lemony color is a good indicator of the pale lemon and herbal scents on the nose. Palate is fresh and a bit tart with more lemon, some light grapefruit, and bit of grass. Simple and fresh, but needed to be served a little cooler and needed some equally fresh and simple shellfish to accompany. I like this wine and will enjoy it exactly that way. However, in this environment and with a rich goat cheese salad, it was clearly uncomfortable and behaved accordingly. Horses for courses and such. When I first tasted this blind in a shop that only carries French wines, I was stumped. I kept wanting to say Italian, but logic said it couldn't be so. I wound up guessing sauv blanc. Oh well, that's what I get for forgetting Corsica exists!

Ein, Zwei, Off-Drei

With roasted pork

  • 2001 Hermann J. Wiemer Johannisberg Riesling Semi-Dry - USA, New York, Finger Lakes
    Deepening pale straw color and a nose that moves about two feet ahead of the glass. At first, seems a bit like petrol, but turns out to be an extremely flinty-minerally smell – intriguing and pleasant. Under that is ripe apple and some peach. On the palate, a little bit of sweetness and good texture, though perhaps a bit course. The mineral is significantly toned down here to leave some more ripe apple and peach, with just a bit of limey citrus. Maintains its strength through the middle, but dies away quickly on the finish after a slight honeyish tickle. My first Finger Lakes riesling and – while I would have no way to peg it as Finger Lakes – it clearly came from somewhere different, somewhere I’d not tasted before. That’s reason enough for me to try more.
  • 2003 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Nahe
    Clear and bright, limpid enough to be described as water with texture, except that it has good light yellow color. Very expressive nose dominated by that signature bright incisive cherry and stony dust, but supported by a strong degree of tropical fruit. On the palate, big texture that rolls around very smoothly but manages to have a bit of cut as well (though less than in other vintages). Still in a primary stage, the palate pretty much follows the nose except for some spice that begins on the mid-palate and builds on the finish to combine with a tiny touch of cool kirsch. Bigger and not quite so incisive as I would hope, but packed with flavor. Will be interested to see how this ages.

Chardonnays (and a ringer)

With roasted scallops and white bean cassoulet

  • 1985 Robert Ampeau & Fils Puligny-Montrachet Combettes 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet
    Surprisingly light and unevolved color, even for an Ampeau. Nose initially shows a note of butterscotch oak that quickly fades to leave a healthy nuttiness over sweetish but bright lemon and crisp apple. Behind that is a nice smoky mineral character. Palate is full and round but not fat, with plenty of appley citrus and some cream. More nuts and smoke on the finish. Big enough, nicely typical with smoky Puligny mineral and a nod across the commune line with Meursault nuttiness, but somehow lacking the precision and exciting edge that I want from such a wine. Plenty good, but somehow a bit disappointing. Still my favorite of the chardonnays tonight, if only for reasons of style.
  • 1999 Coche-Dury Bourgogne-Aligoté - France, Burgundy, Bourgogne-Aligoté
    Simple story here… Wake – sleep – wake – sleep. This wasn’t entirely gone by any means and, when it was awake it had a bit of the extremely crisp apple and sharp-salty savor I like from aligoté, but it was a shadow of itself. Nice to see that Coche reins in the oak for this bottling and that, when fresh, it would probably be a pretty nice (though pricy) drop. If anything, confirmation that I like my aligoté younger, so as to savor its brittle youthful cut. I still need to try an aged Lafarge or de Villaine, but I think I’ll generally stick with youthful versions of the grape. Thought it would be a cool ringer, but was not to be. Oh, well.
  • 1996 Fontaine-Gagnard Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet
    Absolutely DOA. Oxidised.
  • 1999 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay Art Series - Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Margaret River
    Nice rich yellow color and a rich nose to match. Obvious oak that is creamy rather than toasty and that does not get in the way of the tropical fruit – linchee and a bit of pineapple – or the ripe appley pear. On the palate, a rich and similarly creamy feel, with some vanilla, but more fruit. Through it all, though, was just enough mineral and just enough cut that I was reminded why this is one of my favorite new world chardonnays. Not something to drink everyday, but an absolute crowd pleaser that I can thoroughly enjoy.
  • 2003 Ramey Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Rich looking yellow gold that was indicative of the richness to come. Let me say up front that this wine had enough acid and mineral that, in a dispassionate sense, it was able to balance the oak and richly tropical fruit. However, it struck me as just too much of a good thing. A dose of butterscotch on the nose that never really receded, along with sweet vanillin and – somewhere behind it – some sweet buttery pineapple and roasting apple. Not a good start. The palate is where it started to come back together with the aforementioned mineral and enough acid to keep it from going fat. Under this was very good tropicalish fruit, ripe but not overly so. Big on the finish. If this note sounds ambivalent, then I’m getting the message across. Good materials, may integrate in time, but just a bit too much of everything without that amazing lift and precision that the best big wines have. I just hesitate to be too negative as it is so very young.

Bubbles to Cleanse

Getting ready for the Constance

  • N.V. Couche Champagne Cuvée Perle de Nacre - France, Champagne, Côte des Bars (Aube), Champagne
    A blanc des blancs bottling with the bulk of the fruit from Montgueux and a little from Buxeuil. Base wines are from ’97 and ’98. Light gold in the glass with mousse that is a little fast and foamy, but still persistent after the initial rush. Nose shows very ripe chardonnay aromas of apple and pear, backed up by a hint of the tropical. Palate is big and round, perhaps a bit course, with straightforward fruit flavors that follow the nose. On the finish, there is a hint of an intriguing cheesy-leesy character. Nice direct ripe flavors, but not what I look for in a BdB. Have to respect the fact that this is clearly a wine of its location, with broad and ripe Côte des Bars flavors. I just can’t help but think that it would have been improved by a little pinot-provided structure.


With assorted cheeses

  • 1989 Huët Vouvray Cuvée Constance - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Deep and rich gold with a dense texture that moves languorously around the glass. First blush on the nose is major botrytis with a panoply of rich sweet fruits – apricot, ripe fig, orange and more exotic citrus. With a little time open, this develops spice notes and even shows a bit of deeply underlying stoniness. On the palate, extraordinarily concentrated, but absolutely in balance. If you can imagine the most agile dancer somehow moving unfettered through a big pot of honey, then you’ve got the measure of how beautifully the acid balances the sweetness and texture. Palate is equally complex to the nose and the finish just won’t end. A truly stupendous wine. I’m often wary lux cuvées, as they tend to be a bit too much of everything, but occasionally it is possible to put 10 lbs. of potatoes in a 5-lb. sack and have it all hold together. This one does hold together – and magically. I can only imagine how amazing this will be in time.

Perfect bookends to the evening -- Elisabeth and Constance. Next to the K-B, the Mordorée showed fairly restrained, but when I put the K-B aside for a while, the expected size and the touch of heat came out. Glad to have tasted the Wiemer; I'm eager to sample a little more from the region. Leeuwin was probably most on form of the chards, but I enjoyed the Ampeau the most. Others may differ here. Couche was a bit clumsy, but I'd be interested to try a bottling with pinot for structure.

Great to see everyone again, can't wait for the next one.

Posted from CellarTracker

Jim Jones

London, England

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

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