Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Burgundy = good

Over an excellent dinner at Rue Cler as the fifth wheel to two of my good friends and their wives. I have to give special mention to an English pea fritter that was essentially a falafel made with English peas. It may not sound great or exciting, but it was beautiful; in its simplicity.

1997 J. A. Ferret Pouilly-Fuissé Les Ménétrières
Over the hill. Too bad. I had a magnum of the Clos with the boys at Terroir SF not too long ago that was fantastic.

2008 Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Vergers
This was my second time with this wine in the last two weeks. The previous bottle was a bit underwhelming, especially in comparison. I think it has to do with being opened about 5 hours before dinner. It was much more expressive than the previous bottle, but was still very pretty and light on its feet. I like the Neillon style and this should be better in a couple of years.

2005 Pernot Bâtard-Montrachet
This was an excellent bottle, if a very young one. I’m someone who likes the qualities that white Burgundy shows when young and this had all those in abundance. Intense minerals and stones awash in white floral scents and yellow stone pit fruits. As the night wore on, it got even younger and the structure became mouthwatering to the point of excruciating. If I had other bottles, I’d hold off for another 3-5 before checking in again. Very, very good wine.

2001 Barthod Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Cras
I opened this several hours before dinner and it really needed the air to open up. This is a more soil-driven, ferrous version of Chambolle. At an interesting place where the fruit is receding into something more permanent and the sous bois tones are starting to creep into the space left behind. This was complex on the nose and, at times, silky on the palate. I think this will really come into its own with a few more years in bottle. I’ll try another one in 3-4 years. I’ve been drinking my Barthod’s lately to try to figure out how they are aging and to determine future buying strategy. I was worried that they may never come around. I’m not really worried about that anymore. The wines are up there with Mugneret-Gibourg (an admittedly different idiom) for Burgundy.

2008 d'Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds
This started off aromatically pure and full of crunchy red fruits and purple flowers. Lots of fun to drink and right in my wheelhouse for pinot noir. After a few hours is started to get a bit blowsy and fuzzy which I think is more a testament to stage of development than overall quality.

N.V. Pinon Vouvray Brut Non Dosé
Great with a simple plate of strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. Pinon Brut in all its forms obviates 95% of my Champagne needs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another experiment with surpising results

Every now and then, you learn something new about a wine you thought you knew and, maybe, an experiment pays off. I had more or less given up on the 1996 and 1997 Clos du Papillon years back after they seemed to go into an oxidized spiral. I decided to let a couple of bottles sit just to see what would happen.

1997 Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos du Papillon
The first thing to grab me was the color, a light yellow tinged white rather than a golden color. The nose was full of pretty flowers and wet stones. What was piercing intensity as a young wine, was lithe grace as an older wine. On the palate, it was organized, but the big structure had faded to a latticework of slender, interconnected elements. The wine was lively on the palate, but in a mature wine way, not an intense puckering way. This is exactly how I had hoped these wines would turn out, but they never looked like they would get here. Maybe it was just a good bottle. Maybe as soon as they started showing weird, I should have hid all of my bottles. Anyway, as these things tend to work out, this was my last bottle. If you have any, I strongly encourage you to dip in.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interesting experiment

Grilled out with friends on a beautiful Spring evening.

2007 George Descombes Brouilly
I’ve been really enjoying the Morgon lately from the same vintage and was curious about how the Brouilly was doing. Doesn’t have the same minerality or focus, but it does have really pretty fruit with herbal and floral notes. Not much on the tannin side, but the acids are present enough to keep freshness in the wine. I tasted from a bottle that showed much better a few days later. Maybe we should have let this get some more air. Regardless, I’d finish these off over the next few years.

Next up, I had saved my last bottle of Franc de Pied from 2007 to have with my friends Noel, a natural wine aficionado. In case you don’t know, a portion of the Clos Guillot vineyards, which is rich in limestone and mostly clay, was planted Franc de Pied by the Baudry’s. Almost all the vines have succumbed to phylloxera by now, with only a couple of rows still alive, but they are probably not long for it either.

2007 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Franc de Pied
It was interesting how different these wines started out. This was bigger and darker in terms of fruit and with deeper notes of leather. The contrast between the wines only grew with about an hour of air. The Franc de Pied became more diffuse and started to unravel, while the Clos Guillot became more complex as it stretched along its structural frame. The Franc de Pied are really not wines for aging, they are to be enjoyed in their exuberant joyful youth, as the Baudry’s intend.

2007 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Le Clos Guillot
Much tighter on opening and dominated by an intense limestone quality. This reminded me of putting down lines for a football pitch in the early morning. This cuvee has been a bit of a mystery to me, seeming over the top in 2005 and odd in the context of the 2006 Baudry stable, I think that this vintage bears the idea that Matthieu is circling around what he wants from this site and starting to define it. There are also notes of fruit and herbs and meadows but they are all wrapped in that tangy package. The tannins are firm without being brutish or drying, the acidity strong, but not mouth-puckering. I haven’t bought Clos Guillot for the cellar in the past. Well, the past is the past as they say. This is worth trying now, although it should be better in a couple of years.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Old friends, all good

An excellent night for wines as everything showed really well. Thanks to the guys at Vin Rouge in Durham for great food and service.

1998 R. López de Heredia Rioja Rosado Viña Tondonia
Great showing for this. Earthy onion skin notes lead into some pretty red fruits. There are some woodsy, herbal notes as well. Still some structure. Went really well with the sweetbreads dish on offer. I know people like to age these, but I don’t know why.

1994 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Cuvée W
This was stunning. The texture was rich and unctuous without being over the top and broad. Honey comb and yellow fruits allied with herbs and some minerals bring together a complete package. I really think that decanting this wine for about 45 minutes made a big difference. The is a cool sort of autolytic thing I get from this wine that reminds me of Bernard Morey Chassagne Caillerets. I really love Kalin wines and I realize I own none. I bought this bottle the day I drank it and have been doing the same for 10 years. The last time I bought Kalin to cellar was 12-15 years ago and those are long gone. This needs to change.

1996 Barthod Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Fuées
Opened and decanted for an hour and then returned to the bottle. By the time we drank it a couple of hours later, it had totally transformed from a wine that showed a lot of savory, umami and sous bois qualities to a wine that showed much more fruit compote with those other things sliding to the background. The structure did the same thing. At first, I was worried that this could be another screechy 1996 experience, but while the structure was present at first, it receded into a pleasant nuance and scaffolding for the flavors. While this was not one of those mind-bending bottles of Burgundy, it was excellent and thoroughly enjoyable.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A good showing for a 1996 Barolo, finally

I was finally able to drag my friend Matt to Bella Mia coal oven pizza the other day. Maybe isn’t on par with the best of New York, but it is damn good. Miles above anything else in NC and will surely be worth a mention of top pizza joints in the country one day.

2009 Do Ferreiro Albariño Rías Baixas Cepas Vellas
OK, not an obvious choice to take to a pizza joint, but Matt wanted to drink it. There is something so saline and savory about this wine that is difficult to describe. Deep and intense and just makes you want to eat a Grand Plateau aux Fruits du Mer. Succelent and bracing at the same time. Profound.

1996 Marcarini Barolo La Serra
This was exciting. A wine that is coming into its drinking window with beautiful tertiary aromas starting to come to the fore as the fruit steps backwards into the mélange. There was a beautiful warmth and leather quality to the palate. The tannins could still resolve a bit, but if you want to start busting into your stash now, you won’t be disappointed. I’ll drink another bottle in 2 or 3 years, but this should be rising towards a plateau that will last for 12 or so.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The happiest I've ever been about a corked wine

At J. Betski’s in Raleigh.

1999 Freie Weingärtner Riesling Smaragd Achleiten
Deep golden/green color. The nose is still white pitted fruits and Achleiten stone. I can't think of another vineyard with this kind of stony signature. It really does smell like a glass full of rocks. I would have liked a bit more generosity on the palate, there was something that wasn't quite cohesive, keeping it from being excellent, but it was very good.

1999 Franz Hirtzberger Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Honivogl
Man, what a bummer. This wine has been a monument to Gruner Veltliner and I thought for a minute it might just be some mustiness that would blow off. That was not to be as it got more and more chlorinated as it was open. The strange thing is, I've never been happier for a bottle to be corked as it forced us to order from the list, and what we ordered blew our minds.

1993 Louis Jadot Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Boudots
The nose was full of beautiful fruit with spice and sous bois notes developing around the edges. After a couple of hours of being open, it began to shut down a little bit. I think that it has a little upward potential if the structure resolves a little. It's close now, but the tannin are still a bit hard on the back end. It has great lift and the nose is amazing. Very much the Vosne side of Nuits.

2001 Bernard Levet Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche
I opened this mid-afternoon on Josh's advice. By the time we tasted it at around 7 it was beautiful. Full meaty nose with hints of minerals, leather and other sauvage animal notes with some black and red fruit skins underneath. Really well put together. Smooth but still structured and cut. The structure was there to help the wine get across its meaning, not to dominate or distract. Given what the air did for it, I think this has years of development ahead of it. It is a hard wine to rate in the circumstances because the food wasn't geared to this type of wine, it was opened with another restaurant in mind. Really impressive and a singular expression of Côte-Rôtie.

1979 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Auslese Sang
We purchased this off the list at J. Betski's because the Hirtzbereger was corked. Man, what a great piece of luck. The color was an ambient golden. The nose was still full of gooseberries and slate with only a hint of diesel or milkyness. On the palate, the acids really lit the wine up, giving the sensation that it was glowing in your mouth. It was driving itself into pleasure centers of the brain that rarely get tickled, sensual and intellectual all at once. It was the sort of experience that just stops you dead in your tracks and you just have to say "Damn". Easily the best white wine of 2011 and a steal even of the list. It was so good that we ordered another bottle to enjoy over conversation with the chef and the owner of the restaurant. Really shockingly good and I'd advise anyone who runs across a bottle to buy post haste!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What I do for my friends

Went to dinner at Rue Cler with Matt. Brought his two favorite wines since he is leaving for a month.

2002 Azienda Agricola Stanislao Radikon Jakot Venezia Giulia IGT
A deeper color than when I last had it. After some air, the nose really opens up. This is my favorite of the Radikon wines and while this bottle doesn’t have the intensity of past bottles, the 2002 vintage was probably not a great candidate for aging. Not that these bottles should be aged in any event.

2003 Clos Rougeard (Foucault) Saumur-Champigny Le Bourg
This showed a lot of wood on first opening. After about an hour in the carafe, the wood started to become more of a complement, with notes of spice, rather than a focal point. This has excellent texture with a nose and palate that is pure Bourg. This wine, along with the 1997 of this and Breton’s Perrières of the same vintages, is the wine that made me question perceived wisdom about vintages and to start asking questions about how the wine can be so remarkable and fresh in such a hot and challenging year like 2003. What this comes down to is not so much ambient temperature, but soil depth. There is very little topsoil at Bourg and underneath is pure rock, according to Nady Foucault. The same is true of Perrières, according to Pierre Breton. This same topic came up a couple of years later with Kevin Harvey at Rhys when discussing his various vineyards. Although the Skyline wasn’t the coolest of his vineyards, it had the poorest soil which really makes the plant struggle to ripen and forces the roots very deep to find water.