Friday, March 28, 2008

Yes Virginia, there are bad vintages

Dinner with some fellow travelers on the wine-geek road to redemption. The same folks who opened the Amiot a few weeks ago. A simple dinner on a Tuesday night. Followed with excellent cigars, Calvados, and conversation.

2005 F. Cotat Chavingol Culs de Beaujeu

Really an excellent showing of this wine which had seemed a bit fat to me when young. Surprisingly linear for young Cotat from such a ripe vintage. Typical Chavignol yellow stone fruit and a sweet, milk-and-honey character to the calcareous structure.

1970 Cvne Rioja Viña Real

This didn’t respond to just being opened, so after about an hour, we went ahead and decanted it. It went from a sort of glommy dried fruit to stretching out and having some underlying minerals and structure. Really interesting. It reminded me a bit of the Borgogno Riserva of a few weeks before in that the structure (when it emerged) really made the wine for me more than any particular flavor profile.

1994 Compte Armand Pommard 1er Clos des Epenots

Not good. 1994 remains the only vintage that I universally discount in Burgundy. This is a nice counter-point to those who suggest that vintage generalizations can never be useful. 1994 was a disaster.

1994 de Montille Pommard 1er Pezerolles

Opened to make a point that not all 1994s were bad. It didn’t. Also not good, but at least better than the above.

2005 Haut-Ségottes St.-Emillion

A retailer friend had been raving about this wine. Supposedly right next door to Cheval Blanc, unspoofed, and very good. Well, it never did show that well for me (we left half the bottle which, hopefully, showed better). A decent smack of wood, which I don’t mind, but the fruit was all muddied and sloppy. I was hoping that it would show some nice stone fruit pit and dark earth mineral structure, but I couldn’t get there. I tend to be drawn more to structure than anything else these days.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What monkies drink when no one is around

Since I live alone, I often dine alone, and drink alone. My local retailer (Hi-Times, see link) has had these around for the past few months. I was first introduced to the Guisti wine by Damon Haynes when he was sommelier at Il Palio. There wasn't much to be had, so I just had a bottle or two. It's a nice treat to be able to drink it on a daily basis. The Chidaine wines I'v ebeen following for a while and have put a lot of energy into figuring out. Again, it's nice to have a nice supply at a great price.

2005 Luigi Giusti Lacrima di Morro d'Alba
Again, really a sparkling wine. Very deeply pitched blue and black fruit with the layer of an almost lavender floral quality over top. Great balance and just all around delightful to drink. Went well with an improvised meal from the deli case at the Persian market. This is my last bottle and my local supply seems to have run dry. I don't really think there is any advantage to aging this wine as it is so much fun to drink right now. It could be that the (noticeable) tannins would fade and it would be more harmonious, but I wouldn't want to run the risk of it getting all glommy.

2005 François Chidaine Montlouis Les Bournais
When I first tasted Chidaine's 2005s out of bottle, I was quite confused. They seemed to be lacking in an edge, and an aggressiveness that I expected. As folks who have had to be around me, I've been really trying to figure out these wines. I find Francois and Manuela to be very compelling figures, but the wines have left me a little confused. This is the best Montlouis, from their best site. I think that Francois would prefer to make it sec, but that just wasn't possible in 2005. While I was slightly underwhelmed by his Vouvray, this wine was absorbing and outstanding. Luckily, my local retailer has had this readily available for months, and I've been taking advantage of drinking it with abandon. Well, I bought the last few bottles not long ago and it seems like it's time has passed as my house white. There is a penetrating, honeysuckle, chalk, and floral nose. Densely packed (it is a shame that I can't stop drinking these, hopefully Dougherty has a cellar full) and with terrific length, it responds very well to air and to warming in the glass. I really feel that Chidaine has taken a bit of the rusticity out of chenin and produced a more polished and elegant version of it. This wine is very flexible at the table and I even like to just have a glass of it alone. Worth buying and cellaring if there is still some in your area.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Anecdotes of things past

Had these at dinner where I met a couple of guys with whom I have many mutual friends and acquaintances. When these guys pulled the Amiot wines out of their bags, I knew that they were kindred spirits. I really miss the Amiot wines. They were a beautiful lacy style of Burgundy that no one really makes anymore. They were as clear as Mugnier or Barthod, but much gentler than either. They could be drunk young, or aged, as both of these were tremendous. The vines have been sold (reportedly to Bize-Leroy) so they no longer exist and are really hard to find because they are not collectibles and don’t’ show up on the secondary market.

1995 Raveneau Clos

There was some discussion about whether this would suffer from the premature oxidation problem. It didn’t. While it wasn’t a glorious example of Clos, it was certainly very fine. Hadn’t really gone to secondary or tertiary. Rocks and yellowish fruit. Getting gentler, but not diffuse.

1971 Enaudi Barolo

Unfortunately, DOA. Looked like it might come together, but it was just a false dawn. Oh well.

1996 Borgogno Barolo Riserva

This was really good. It had a real mineral tang that I loved. Maybe could use a bit more stuffing, but I loved the structure of the wine. Good bones to build on.

1996 Amiot Chambolle 1er Charmes

Unlike so many 1996s I have had lately, this wine really showed well. Lovely, rich Charmes perfume with all the deep spicy cherry you could want. A hint of what I would normally think was wood spiciness, but this probably didn’t see any new enough wood, so I’ll put that down with the Charmes thing. Bigger and broader than the Chatelots, but not really less fine.

1993 Amiot Chambolle 1er Chatelots

Chatelots is an earthier rendition of Chambolle than Charmes. The fruit is lighter, but there is a woodsy, forest floor thing that I always get from this wine. Achingly beautiful and delicate, but with unexpected depth and length. If I could do it over again, I’d fill my cellar with this stuff.

I think it is really hard to put into words how beautiful the Amiot wines were. Take the literalness of Mugnier and mix it with the svelte-ness of Mugneret-Gibourg, and think about that vista on the Oregon coast overlooking the ocean where you went “Oh shit, that’s beautiful,” and really felt the depth of that moment. That’s sort of what these wines do for me. If your mileage varies, you’re a fool.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lyle Fass off-brand Burgundies

Had a tasting/dinner with a group of friends recently. Lyle had put together a few off-brand Burgundies to sample, and I provided the de Villaine ($35) and Jadot ($30). 2005 is a vintage that has received tons of hype, such that, almost every producer who can shake off the hang-over and climb out of their cellar can sell their wine. We'll see how long this lasts. On the whole, I'd have to say that the wines showed very well, but let's not get carried away. These are good wines, but they don't dislodge the Chinon, Beaujolais, Bourgueil, and Loire reds that make up the broad base of my French table selections. I'd rather have a 2005 Fleurie from Coudert than any of the Burgundies save the Jadot (see Descombes below).

2005 Vincent Dureuil-Janthial Rully En Guenses

Light and pretty. Missing the mid-palate to be truly interesting. I'd like it to either be a bit gentler or weightier, it seems stuck in the middle. Not bad in a lightweight mold. Only the slightest hint that it is from the red Burgundy hinterlands.

2005 Chateau Genot-Boulanger Mercurey 1er Les Saumonts

A step up in intensity and depth, although not a deep or big wine by any means. Doesn’t have any of the tomato quality that can mar some wines from Mercury. I haven’t had a Genot-Boulanger in a while and this was quite good. Should age well in the short to medium term, but isn’t too young to drink now.

2005 de Villaine Mercury Les Montots

More intense, almost painfully so, if no darker than the above. Linear and razor sharp with really bright and snappy cran-cherry fruit. Plenty of chalky limestone, and fruit pits on the finish. Should be cellared for a few years before drinking. Should age better than Mercury has a right to.

2005 Jadot Savigny les Beaune 1er Dominode

A real step up in quality from the preceding wines and clearly the class wine of the evening. I really like this wine in most vintages and 2005 is another excellent example. Has very deep fruit and a kind of dark minerality that I tend to perceive in Dominode from at least Jadot, Clair, and Pavelot. Adds a nice woodsy-forest element to the mix with a firm and juicy finish. Should be excellent in 5 years and hold for 10-20 more. Seriously. The balance is impeccable.

2005 Domaine Collotte Marsannay Vielles Vignes

Sort of got lost in the shuffle and didn’t make much of an impression.

2005 Domaine Bart Fixin

This was a big surprise for me. I’ve not been a fan of Bart in the past. This wine was delicious, and very 2005. Tons of fruit and tannin, with an intensity to the fruit that overcame the Fixin rusticity. It is sort of like I’d like CA pinot to taste, it’s on that sort of fruity side. This might be one of those wines that if you lose it in the cellar, you could end up with something really surprising in 15 years. Or the fruit could fall out of the middle and it could dry out. Don’t know.

2005 Descombes Brouilly Vielles Vignes

This put everything but the Jadot Dominode into perspective. Great wine.