Our friend Ed had three of us over for dinner at his house. We supplied the take-out food and he supplied all of the wines—a good deal if you ask me!
1988 Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Millesme 1er Cru. The bouquet of this wine features a lot of attractive praline and nut aromas to go along with ginger, brown sugar and lemon peel notes riding atop a streak of minerals and herbs. I like this style of aged Champagne. In the mouth, it is quite similar. It opens with a swath of nut and praline flavors, but is soon cut through by excellent lemon-lime zest acidity. I like the full body and round mouthfeel, as well as the nutty and citric yin-yang it presents, and I think we are catching this just before it is starting to slide into a more sherried profile. It is in a good place now but it is time to drink up.
1988 William Deutz Champagne Cuvee William Deutz. Conversely, I think this Champagne is showing pretty youthfully and could benefit from a few more years of cellar time still. First off, there is a much livelier bead to this and it just assails the nostrils with its huge aromas of flint, gunsmoke and crystallized mineral that are very fresh, vibrant and taut. It slowly yields to more giving aromas of butterscotch candy, honeysuckle flowers, baked apples, citrus and wet chalk that are extremely engaging. On the palate, it shows a ton of energy and almost feels too strident at times. It features smoky, mineral-laden flavors of lemon and lime, apple, chalk and botanical herbs in a leaner, more medium-weighted package with a considerably drier personality. The finish is compact and a bit bitter-tinged. There is a lot of stuffing here and the bouquet is just starting to sing, but I would suggest giving this a bit more time to find a more elegant and giving vein.
1999 Pol Roger Champagne Rose. This is a beautiful salmon-colored sparkler that initially features a lot of sulfur on the nose but eventually finds its aromatic center of intense and driven currant, dark citrus, smoke and mineral aromas. In the mouth, it is broad and expansive, coming across as a rather masculine sort of rose Champagne. The red fruit flavors are sappy, tangy and vibrant and revolve around a coiled core of graphite minerality. The acidity is wonderfully refreshing and uplifting here and the wine probably just needs another few years to let the fruit come out from behind it all a bit more.
1981 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne. The nose of our first red of the evening takes a while to sort itself out, perhaps emerging a bit cranky and confused from its hibernation. It sort of bounces around a bit before the classic Syrah aromas eventually begin to show themselves and come to the fore in a dark, smoky, mysterious melange featuring scents of leather, dark currant, green peppercorn, charred wood, limestone and aged tobacco leaf. In the mouth, it is similarly complicated and difficult to assess, but eventually I find it to be a rewarding exploration. At times the wine is creamy and full of mixed currant, rhubarb and black cherry fruit flavors, and at other times it seems to push forward notes of limestone and concrete supporting charred wood, loamy dirt and smoked herb flavors. There is no doubt that the core personality is earthy, but it features airy top notes that show attractive bits of citrus and caramel at times, too. It is a medium-weighted wine and also finely acidic. Overall, it is obviously not one of the great La Landonnes, but it offers a bit of a wild ride that at least keeps things interesting for the drinker.
1981 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. I love this wine. This is my third time drinking it in the past few years and it never fails to thrill and delight. First of all, it has an amazingly feral nose to it—loaded with aromas of sweat, leather, tobacco juice, horse stable, frozen persimmon, menthol and dusty back roads that are fantastically unique. It may even be a bit “cleaner” than either of the two previous bottles were, but I just adore the complexity and Old World goodness with which this wine is imbued. On the palate, it has a nice cool personality, with medium to full body, fantastic acidic freshness and fabulous energy. It has so much going on, but the bottom line is that it is lip-smackingly delicious for my tastes. Red currants, cassis, sour cherry, leather, funk, tobacco and dirt—it’s all therre and it all works in perfect harmony and flow. The length of the wine is impressive, as well. The tannins are resolved but the structure is still plenty apparent and I think this will just keep chugging along for years to come. A wonderful wine of unique personality. My WOTN.
1986 Chateau Rausan-Segla Margaux. This wine has a rich, pasty red currant-fruited nose delightfully accented by peppermint dust, menthol and tobacco leaf aromas. It gets better and better throughout the evening, showing great life and classic character. In the mouth, it is structured and tightly acidic, with a cool personality featuring flavors of mixed red and black currants and a variety of berries. It seems very classically-made to me and still looking ahead to a long life. Yes, there is a persistent whisper of tannin throughout and a bit of a tacky feeling texturally at times, but this has a delightful core of fruit and earth flavors that are highly satisfying right now.
1986 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection Napa Valley. I like the nose of this wine a good deal, with its lovely notes of roasty dark fruits, tomato plant leaves, bacon fat, eucalyptus, dillweed, coconut, pure cassis and liquid cherry aromas that fold in with time. On the palate, it is gently sweet, with cherry compote, cassis, sweet bbq sauce and dusty earth flavors giving a sense of richness and warmth. I know I like this better than most at the table, but I appreciate its obvious Napa roots and enjoy drinking it a great deal.
1986 Chateau Climens Barsac. This was served from a 375 ml bottle. It is singing right from the get-go, showing tons of honeycomb, baked apricot, orange marmalade, butterscotch, lime pith and roasted nut aromas that soar up out of the glass. In the mouth, it is thick, sumptuous and utterly mouth-coating with its sticky flavors of baked peaches, apriocts, crème brulee, orange marmalade, spun sugar and botrytis spices. It is a fabulous bottle of Climens.
1986 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes. This Cordier bottling is not quite as expressive or unctuous on the nose as the Climens but it has a lot of similar aromatic notes in its profile—like burnished apricots, copper kettle, sweet chalk, butterscotch and botrytis. In the mouth, it is wonderfully-balanced, with a bit more lift than the Climens but less complexity and flamboyance. It is rich but lively, and while not quite as intensely hedonistic as its flight-mate, is nonetheless delightful.