I’ve been off the wine grid for the last five months or so, especially after I lost my tasting notebook. But the notebook was quite recently found and I figured I’d get some of them typed up and posted. This first set is from a weekend up at Zach’s place in Vermont.
1994 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien. Right off the bat, we jumped into this fine bottle of Bordeaux that shows off an immediate and outgoing bouquet that grabs your attention more with its class and distinction than with its power or flash--offering up lovely aromas of cigar box, leather, tea leaves, earth and red currants that slowly fan out and pull in additional nuances of red flowers, rusty iron, graphite and darker-styled fruits with time in the glass. In the mouth, it is nice and creamy in texture but not particularly expansive or fanned out. It does have a nice juicy character to it, though, despite some sour overtones to the red cherry fruit flavors. Overall, it is an excellent 1994, and a fantastic way to kick off the weekend.
2001 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Steinhauer Ranch Napa Valley Howell Mountain. This wine starts off with a bold yet welcoming bouquet that features big purple fruit notes with undertones of roasted meats, toasted herbs and sweet chalk dust. It is definitely ripe and sweet-toned, with an open-knit, berry-fruited personality. In the mouth, it shows very good concentration of holistic flavors that revolve around sweet blue and purple bramble berries, but also notes of rich mocha and chocolate. It stays true to its personality throughout and carries its ripe California fruit badge openly on its sleeve without ever going overboard or losing focus. It is satiny-smooth in texture, with finely-polished tannins—which adds to the pleasure factor, for sure. Overall, it was very well-liked, though I think I was a tad less enthused than the consensus.
2006 Le Cadeau Pinot Noir Équinoxe Willamette Valley. In contrast, there was 100% consensus on this wine, which was not well-liked by anybody, really. The nose features some odd notes that don’t really seem to go together quite right, like sweet cranberries atop notes of gypsum, burnt stems, smoke and pomegranate. It is obviously ripe and glycerin-laden in the mouth, where it features a huge mouthful of candied berry fruit flavor to go with stemmy notes and roasted herb accents. The sweetness factor gets way too high after a while and it becomes just too much in the end—turning annoyingly cloying.
2009 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Temperance Hill Willamette Valley. Although this is obviously young, it already strikes a mellow, earthy tone on the nose--with aromas of suede leather, dusty earthy and crunchy red and black berries. In the mouth, it is pretty and well-balanced, with red berry fruit galore to go with an inner mouth perfume of flowers and dusty chalk. The texture is pleasingly pliant and the acidity gently leads to a pliant finish of good length already. For such a young wine, this is already drinking well.
1985 Château La Lagune Haut-Médoc. This wine takes a good 30 minutes to an hour to sort itself out after the cork is pulled, but once it hits its stride, it is quite nice—offering up tons of smoky ash aromas to go with charred leather, turned earth and a sliver of jalapeno pepper. In the mouth, it is sinewy and ropy in texture and personality—with a good spike of creamy red currant and dark cherry fruit running down a moderately narrow beam all the while accented by notes of campfire smoke and tangy acidity. The finish is drying out a bit, but the tannins seem rather gentlemanly at this point. I enjoyed this a good deal but it certainly seems like time to drink up.
1988 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Vintage Rare. At this point, a palate-cleanser was offered up in the form of this ’88 Champagne. It doesn’t display much in the way of bubbles and the aromas are a bit advanced, but I do like the notes of honey, caramel, copper kettle, steeped lemon and tangerine peel that it’s showing. On the palate, it is kind of fun to drink—with flavors of lemon peel, tangerine, lemon meringue, copper and honeycomb accented by quinine-tinged acidity running underneath. It is showing its age, but it is interesting and enjoyable.
2008 Akoma Zoume Cabernet Sauvignon Zeus Mountain Terraces Sonoma Valley. There’s a whole lot of vanilla bean, cocoa powder, oak spice and sweet purple and blue berry fruit aromas on the soft nose of this wine. In the mouth, the initial impression is dominated by flavors of vanilla and chocolate riding atop sweet berry fruit. It seems pretty young, oaky and primary at this point, not showing much in the way of nuance or dimension. I’m not a fan of the style, but it should improve with some time in the cellar.
2000 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I’m back on happy ground here, even though the fine aromas of worn leather, sweaty horse, black cherry, juniper, crushed raspberries and granite stone are still pretty tightly-coiled at this point. It is cool and savory, with excellent drive and poise on the palate, where it also displays a cool acidity finely balancing the mixed currant fruit. This definitely has the stuffing, the structure and the pedigree, and I’m confident it will fan out more as it ages. Still, it is approachable and enjoyable already.
2003 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Cannubi. There’s a very appealing nose to this wine, with lots of high-toned red cherries, raspberries, gardenia flowers, ashes and tar aromas that show good lift, brightness and a sense of transparency that I like a lot. The flavors echo the bright cherry notes and the fine earth tones of the nose, but this is awfully taut, tight, rigidly-structured and tannic in the mouth. The acidity and tannins are right there on the entry and stay with you all the way through to the smoky finish. I do like the purity of this wine and it has obvious aging potential, so I wouldn’t touch it again for like 5-7 years.
1991 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley. The nose of this wine is simply gorgeous, with outstanding aromas of sweet blueberries, glossy darker-toned fruits, scorched earth, white pepper and pencil shavings that are layered, giving, classy and inviting. In the mouth, the fine layering is again evident, with waves of purple and blue fruit, chalk, creosote and herb flavors showing plenty of life but also a certain old-time muscled goodness. The flow is excellent, the balance is superb, and the texture is quite fine. This is outstanding all around.
1993 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain. I really like the nose of this wine a whole lot. It is a bit more lifted and lively, perhaps a tad more sinewed than the Mondavi Reserve, with a fantastic concentration of aroma. It features beautiful bits of leather, tobacco, graphite, charred ember, black currant and smoked herb aromas that have immense appeal. On the palate, it feels full of life and it shows off a fine stream of tangy acidity that pushes the black currant and mountain berry fruit flavors along really well. The wine has a lot going on, and it is delightfully balanced and rock solid at the same time. I could drink this all night, and I don’t think it is going anywhere soon, either.
1996 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Napa Valley Stags Leap District. Man, this is a fantastic wine. The nose just gets better and better the longer you smell it. It captivates with its fleshy aromas of red currants, crushed raspberries, leather and fine tobacco that are at once full of finesse and distinction but also seemingly masking a reservoir of sneaky power underneath. Its true class comes through on the palate, where a silken-smooth texture and a juicy lift provide a great sense of luxuriant flow that also shows off all kinds of airy top notes. The warm red fruit is absolutely delicious and there is simply not a hair out of place as it flows across the palate. It is top-shelf stuff all the way and a fantastic wine of pure pleasure.
2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Washington. The last Cabernet of this quartet is deeper and denser on the nose, featuring rich aromas of sweet blueberries, scorched earth, charcoal, incense and menthol. In the mouth, it is much the same, with rich blueberry fruit coming across as gently sweet-tinged but utterly seamless and densely layered atop a creamy and mouth-filling core of plush flavor. It is a pleasure to drink and has a certain sense of gravitas to it, as well. It was a fun comparison point to the California Cabernets that came before it.
2005 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d'Ampuis. The dark purple color indicates a very young wine, and while it is obviously youthful, it is fairly open for business. Aromatically, it is very smoky and a bit meaty and feral—but also full of pure black raspberry fruit and a solid whack of vanilla. On the palate, there are definitely tannins in play, but they are polished and rounded already. The fruit is plush and intensely mouth-filling, if a bit chewy on the finish. It is definitely modern-styled and forward, but drinking pretty well, actually. While happy to dip a toe now, I’d prefer to sit on this another 5-7 years.
1996 Marc Brédif Vouvray Moelleux Nectar. We had two half-bottles of this and my pour was from the second bottle. The nose is all yellow apple, lemon peel, lanolin, funky wool, and sugar cubes, but it’s not actually all that sweet in the end. In the mouth, it is gently tropical and yellow-fruited in tone with gentle sweetness and a nice fresh finish. There’s a little caramel twinge at the end, but otherwise this is a refreshing and easy-going dessert wine that is a lot of fun to drink.
2009 Selbach-Oster Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese Mosel Saar Ruwer. The next day started with this wine that features airy floral aromas of apple blossoms, cantaloupe, apple juice and fruit cup that are pretty and welcoming. It is heavier on the palate than the nose might suggest, with a very good concentration of apple, lime and sugar cane flavors and a good spike of acidity. It is mildly big-bottomed, but also carries some lacier top notes of honeysuckle. Those two elements could use some time to better integrate, so I might suggest holding off a few years before trying again.
2009 Dusted Valley Vintners Chardonnay Old Vine Yakima Valley. I missed this one.
1998 Mongeard-Mugneret Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru. There is a nice earthy nose to this Burgundy, with refined Old World aromas of hardscrabble earth, leather books, ash, persimmon, dried flowers, red currants and dried cranberries. In the mouth, it is cool in tone, with dark cranberry and cherry fruit at the core and earthy bass notes in support. It is classy-textured and quite enjoyable, though it turns a bit sour on the finish over time.
2006 Faiveley Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. This is rather broad-shouldered but very giving of its fine aromas of soft suede leather, tree bark, baked cherries, toasted orange peel and soft oak. In the mouth, the grippy tannins really coat the back of the palate and tend to overshadow the fine acidic lift and impressive vibrancy of the pure dark red fruit. Everything here bodes well for the future, and there is a lot to enjoy now, but it is just awfully young and really ought to be given some additional cellar time.
2004 Paumanok Assemblage Long Island North Fork. This pleasant surprise is a blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 12% Petit Verdot. It features a fruity, red berry-driven nose with some tobacco leaf, menthol and chalky cherry undertones that are finely-controlled and nicely-balanced. It is similar in the mouth with cool acidity and a fine texture carrying along nice flavors of red and blue berry fruit and little hints of tobacco and menthol. It is fresh, medium-weighted and refreshingly pleasing.
2001 Barton Vale Shiraz The Challenger Barossa Valley. This wine sports a big-boned, slightly fudgy nose with incredibly-concentrated aromas of baked plums, cherry paste, fruitcake, dates, creosote and exotic incense that coat the nostrils. In the mouth, it is pretty seamless and rather creamy-textured in addition to being very lush and dense with its fruitcake, plum and blueberry fruit flavors. Despite its size, it flows along pretty easily and is enjoyable in moderate doses despite the tannins that start to flood in with time in the glass.
2001 Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon Jericho Canyon Vineyard Napa Valley. There’s a big, brambly, boisterously briery nose to this outgoing wine, with undertones of tar, green leaves and menthol aromas. In the mouth, it ratchets things up even more, with tons of sweet cherry and blueberry fruit flavors at the dense core and plenty of mocha and sweet cotton candy elements in support, as well. It is warm, glycerin-laden and kind of glossy and satiny in spite of its rambunctiousness. The alcohol becomes a bit apparent after a while, though, and sort of takes it just a step too far for me.
2001 Jones Family The Sisters Napa Valley. The nose of this wine is full of very ripe cherry, blueberry and purple cotton candy aromas, with little hints of tar now and again. In the mouth, it is very warm and sweetly-fruited—with flavors of cherry candy, blueberry pie, chocolate and mocha that are long and persistent. It is loaded with glycerin smoothness but is not as dense or deep as the Ramey, showing a bit more lift but also notes of alcohol on the finish. With both this and the Ramey, I may not connect with them now, but I’d be curious to check back in on them in like 5 years.
1973 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. This wine displays a very fine-toned nose of dusty back road, menthol, jalapeno pepper, old leather boots, currants and Christmas candles. It is a very solid bouquet that has a certain blue collar dignity to it and a quiet confidence about it. I really enjoy it. In the mouth, it is wonderfully holistic, with a finely-layered feel to the currant and dried cherry and loganberry fruit. It is far from huge, and actually feels rather tight-knit still—a wine with finely-honed tannins that clearly was built for the long haul. It hangs together very nicely and delivers solid waves of juicy fruit flavor to go with intriguing tobacco and dried blood accents. This was a real joy to drink.
1973 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve Napa Valley. This 1973 has a very different sort of aromatic profile, leading with strong scents of pine needles and sap right off the top, supported by aromas of caramel, leather couch, pomegranate and wild herbs that are quite unusual but interesting. In the mouth, it is warm and gently roasty, again showing the unusual notes of menthol, pine and minty Girl Scout cookies that still have a decent kick of flavor intensity to them. The roasted red fruit character grows more obvious and less appealing over time, but this is at least more enjoyable than a bottle of this same wine we drank a year earlier. All in all, though, this should have been drunk up by now.
1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve Napa Valley. The bouquet here shows a good deal of life and lift, with fine aromas of raspberry, cherry, limestone and herbs that are not particularly big but are fairly serious, well-defined and perfectly pleasing. It is much fruitier on the palate than the 1973, with warm cherry and raspberry fruit riding atop a soft and rounded texture. It hangs together nicely and offers a good deal of pleasure—a solid performance.
1971 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva. This is a light, faded color, with a cloudy appearance overall. It shows a bit of madeirization on the nose, with aromas of tangerine peel and pressed flowers riding atop stronger notes of caramel apple. In the mouth, it is quite similar, with a bit of an austere edge to it. The flavors of baked cherries, caramel and praline are soft but the tannins are hard and aggressive and the acidity oftentimes comes too far forward. It is clearly advanced, and while it has some interesting elements, it’s not great.
1975 Château Cos d'Estournel St. Estèphe. This is showing some browning in color throughout and a definite clearing at the rim. It displays a rather earthy bouquet that is a bit shy and compact, with some aromas of dried cherries, cranberries, dusty dry earth and little hints of weediness. In the mouth, it is grippy and rather furry with tough tannins. There’s some red berry fruit but it is fairly light and surface-driven. I wouldn’t call it totally austere, but it is puckeringly tangy, fairly underfruited and not very substantial. It certainly seems past its peak.
1988 Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac. This wine features a lithe, slinky, seductively powerful aromatic profile that is showing tremendously well on this evening—highlighting notes of tar, black currants and sliced peppers that are dark, cool and savory. It shows quite similarly on the palate, where it doesn’t really fan out a whole lot but instead stays laser-locked on the coiled, tensile, black-fruited elements of its personality. This is a precise, driven, black-fruited wine that isn’t hedonistic at all, but has great vitality and vigor to go with a tasty flavor profile. Previous experiences have been a tad more rustic, but this was a really enjoyable bottle.
1988 Château Gruaud Larose St. Julien. This wine is also sort of slinky and wiry on the nose, with expressive aromas of charred earth, lava, black tea, black leather, grilled peppers, black currants, cherries and a little sliver of menthol. Notably, it’s not showing much in the way of Cordier funk tonight (especially compared to earlier experiences with this wine), but I like it a lot all the same. In the mouth, it has a little juicy tang on the entry and again on the finish. The mid-palate is perhaps a bit flatter and less expressive than one might hope for, but I do like the overall sense of control and balance. The fruit here is warmer in tone than with the ’88 Lynch-Bages—and showing more nuance and moderately aged grace. Flavors of red currants, black cherries and dried berries still show plenty of life, and with the tannins growing stronger and stronger over time, I can see this going a while longer without much problem.
1988 Château Sociando-Mallet Haut-Médoc. A strong mustiness when this was opened had some folks claiming it was corked, but after a few hours left open on the counter, it is clear that it just needed some time to come around. Eventually, the nose finds its center, which is typically Sociando in style, featuring aromas of green pepper, loamy earth, tobacco leaf, baked plums and cassis, with little undertones of Belgian chocolate. In the mouth, it is cool and dark, with a fairly tannic, angular frame, but with an underbelly of juicy sweet cassis fruit that partially keeps the growing tannins and savory earth tones at bay. It is medium-weighted but feels subtantial and serious. After a while, though, the tannins really start to clamp down and challenge the tongue quite a bit. So, while I like a lot of what the wine has to offer right now, I think it can be a bit of a bumpy road.
1989 Château Meyney St. Estèphe. This wine had a pristine cork, but unfortunately it smells rather roasted and a bit cooked—with a caramelly, weedy character riding atop sour cherry aromas. In the mouth, it isn’t quite as bad, but there are definitely notes of porty spirits, toasted spices, warm baked cherries and caramel that indicate some heat damage somewhere along the line. Too bad.
1989 Château d'Armailhac Pauillac. I’m glad to see this wine still going strong—’89 d’Armailhac was my first Bordeaux purchase when I first started getting into wine, so it has a soft spot in my heart. In the case of this particular bottle, there’s a very nice boquet emanating from the glass, showing off excellent and pleasing aromas of cassis, creosote, rawhide leather, grilled herbs and damson. On the palate, it is medium-weighted and displays a nice smooth mouthfeel and easy balance from start to finish. It has really good lift and vigor, but a nicely mellowed red fruit flavor profile that is accented by interesting notes of raw meat and iron ore. It just sort of melts in the mouth, but keeps you on your toes with that little feral streak it has. It is a nice mix of things going on that makes for very enjoyable drinking right now.