My first-ever visit to China King with the gang was a lot of fun, with the usual grab-bag of interesting wines and the usual tons of great food (as would be expected from these former owners of King Fung and now owners of both King Fung II in Brookline and this new-ish place in Chinatown). None of the wines were served blind and most were pop and pour, though a few reds were decanted at the table upon arrival.
Sparkling and white wines:
N.V. Agrapart & Fils Champagne Les 7 Crus Blanc de Blancs Brut. According to the label, this was bottled in May 2010 and disgorged in March 2012. On the nose, it’s fresh but also gently rounded with aromas of lemon peel, chalk, yellow apple, minerals and white flowers. It seems more youthfully taut and vibrant on the racy and penetratingly sharp palate. It’s clean and alive but just a bit too linear and not fully formed just yet. It should be quite nice but I’d wait another year or two before trying again.
2007 Henri Bourgeois Menetou-Salon Le Prieuré des Aublats. This is a pretty little bouquet here, showing soft and airy aromas of honeysuckle, orange blossom, chalk and vanilla—and no grassy notes at all. In the mouth, it’s loaded with lemon-lime, grapefruit and melon fruit flavors, with a very nice saline streak running through them. It’s medium-weighted, with a round and easy texture and a fine tangy finish. I thought this was nice.
2010 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume. This is bright and chalky, showing some aromatic themes of apple, orange blossom and hazelnut. In the mouth, it vacillates between tangy sour-tinged apple fruit and creamier malolactic elements. It’s slippery-textured but fairly dense and weighty through the middle. It’s not the steely or minerally archetype, but it’s enjoyable enough in this creamier and more rounded style.
2010 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Bianco. This wine sports a unique sort of bouquet, loaded to the gills with all kinds of nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, roasted nut, pumice and lightly toasted oak aromas that I find rather interesting and engaging. In the mouth, it has a spherical feel to it and slips right across the palate. The cool but moderately weighty flavors of lemon curd, smoke, nutmeg and limestone have a spicy undercurrent I like, and the wine finishes snappier but maybe a tad abrupt. It’s definitely something a bit different and I’m curious to come back to it in maybe another 2 to 3 years.
2009 Marcel Hugg Gewurztraminer Réserve des Chevaliers. This is just a classic Gewurztraminer nose, with immediate and almost explosive aromas of rosewater, orange blossom, peach and melon lifting right up out of the glass. In the mouth, it’s completely consistent with that profile—tasting of orange peel, honey, lychee, peach and exotic spices on a light to medium-weighted frame supported by plump acidity in a gently off-dry style. It’s fun and enjoyable.
2005 Rene Joggerst Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg. I really enjoy the nose of this wine, as it delivers delightful aromas of blue slate, diesel fuel, lime peel, honey and puffs of light smoke in a finely-layered package. In the mouth, it’s driven and intense, with a steely core of lemon-lime, green apple and mineral flavors that can seem a bit compact or linear at times, but that show fine balance at all times. I’d like to see it fan out just a bit more, though, so I’m going to suggest holding it a few more years.
2001 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Kabinett Nahe. This wine just says “yum” to me with its absolutely fetching bouquet of gorgeous pineapple, peach, apple, honey, chalk, slate and powdery mineral aromas. Those lovely notes continue onto the palate, where they come across as pure and gently sweet, riding atop lively acidity that shows just a perfect sense of tension and drive for the weight and frame of the wine. It still shows some grip on the pithy finish, and the whole thing is just drinking quite nicely right now.
2004 August Kesseler Rüdesheimer Bischofsberg Riesling Spätlese Goldkapsel Rheingau. This wine possesses a beautiful nose of white peaches, apples, grapefruit, petrol and slate, with a sweet little sliver of botrytis creaminess down low that I really enjoy. In the mouth, it delivers a big mouthful of flavor—loaded with golden apple, peach, cream and spice flavors that are surely more auslese-level sweet, but which display effortless flow across an absolutely luscious texture. The density of flavor, the sensuousness of the profile and the persistence on the finish are all impressive, and for my tastes this is a feast for the senses.
2006 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Westside Road Neighbors Russian River Valley. The youthful nose here shows a surprisingly liberal dose of oak influence—with scents of cedar and balsa wood, eucalyptus, baking spices, cola, cherries and mixed berries leading the way. It aims for lighter weight and greater elegance on the palate, where it does possess those traits but can also seem a bit thin or overly streamlined at times. However, the flavors of wild berries, soft oak and toasty spices are lively, boisterous and zippy, with a classy bit of adroitly-polished tannins in support. I do like the profile a good deal, but recommend waiting a few years to let the wood integrate more.
1995 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Beaux Frères Vineyard Yamhill County. The nose here surprises me with its almost Burgundian profile of bright red and purple berries, toasted spices, dried autumn leaves and loamy earth. In the mouth, it kind of fluctuates between seeming modernly-polished and a bit candied and seeming sort of earthy with its notes of desiccated leaves. It’s not a favorite of the table at all, I can tell, but I generally don’t dislike it, and I find some facets of it fairly interesting.
1994 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée. This wine is a true delight and seems to be drinking very nicely right now. First off, I just love the nose of suede leather, tobacco leaf, dried sweat, horsehide, red currants, Christmas candles and fine earth. On the palate, it’s warm and giving, with a pliant and moderately open-knit texture at this stage of the game drawing one right in. It’s full of spicy red fruit flavors to go along with earth notes and savory supporting bits that I like a lot. The finish has a nice little acidic twang to it and the whole thing just flows along effortlessly. This is obviously quite nicely done and was one of my favorite wines of the night.
1990 Château Pradeaux Bandol. This wine has a very earthy nose that smells of barnyard scrabble, worn leather shoe insoles, old baseballs, dried cherries, toasted orange peels and fireplace ashes. In the mouth, it’s a bit muddled and maybe even a little bit “dirty” to my tastes—featuring a darker-fruited profile than on the nose to go along with notes of leather, ash, acrid smoke and scorched earth. Also, the tannins feel a bit aggressive to me and I just don’t find myself warming up to it much at all.
2000 Bernard Faurie Hermitage. This wine displays an absolutely feral nose that’s loaded with dark and masculine aromas of dried blood, pen ink, black olive brine, grilled meat, charcoal, burnt bacon bits, dried seaweed, black leather shoes and cracked peppercorn—with a little hint of black currant fruit hiding way in the back of all that. In short, it’s totally intense and just demands strict attention. In the mouth, it’s extremely old-school and seems to be almost the epitome of earthy—featuring flavors of blackberry, iodine, black pepper, game meat and umami notes galore. It’s quite singular, really, and although it’s not all that welcoming, it’s quite distinctive and really interesting to contemplate. It’ll put hair on your chest now, but I’d be very curious indeed to see what this becomes 10+ years from now.
2001 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Paje. Here we find a wine that is really a delight to sit and sniff for a good while. It’s pretty and gently seductive with its aromatic inflections of red roses, suede leather, tar, clean earth, soft spices, strawberries and liquid cherry. Perhaps not surprisingly, though, it’s still a bit too tannic on the palate. Those tannins are fine-grained and polished but, combined with the wine’s taut acidity, seem to dry out the palate a bit. Still, the profile is extremely pretty and engaging—with an elegant mid-weight feel to the lovely strawberry, tar and fine earth flavors. I think a lot of folks really liked this one, but there’s no doubt it will be even better once the tannins recede a little.
2005 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato. The nose here is classy and restrained, with aromas of old leather, dried red flowers, dusty earth, soft oak, pencil shavings and dried cherries. It’s quite young on the palate, but it’s clearly well-made and finely-balanced, with a nice mid-weight feel to the bright red fruit flavors. I feel like we’re just dipping a toe right now, but I’d say the future is quite bright for this wine.
2008 Tommasi Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore. I’m less sanguine about the future (or present) of this wine. It delivers a dense and annoyingly rubbery nose of black leather, olives, rubber band and black pepper aromas that don’t provide much pleasure at all. In the mouth, it has a medicinal overtone to the blackberry fruit and dark earthy notes, and there’s a bit of alcoholic burn poking out from time to time. It’s rather monolithic, primary and tough—and I just don’t know what the future holds for something like this.
N.V. Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Rosso 8 Etna. I was looking forward to trying this producer, but never got around to pouring this wine.
1995 Domaine des Baumard Coteaux du Layon Clos de Sainte Catherine. This lovely wine is intensely aromatic, featuring a very nice core of sticky apricot fruit and classy liquid caramel aromas. It’s extremely lively, fresh and tangy on the palate, yet features deep and seriously sweet flavors of apricots, nectarines and caramel. I love that interplay of vivacity and depth of sweet flavor, and I really appreciate the overall balance of the wine. This is giving a great showing of itself right now.
1998 Müller-Catoir Haardter Mandelring Scheurebe Spätlese Pfalz. This wine shows off an absolutely fabulous nose of peach preserves, mangoes, dried grapefruit, purple flowers, petrol and slate that are heady and exotic. In the mouth, it’s smooth and slinky, and delivers loads of gorgeous peach, mango and other tropical fruit flavors supported by fun spices. It’s long and languid and just keeps delivering the goods. It’s simply wonderful stuff and easily one of my favorite wines of the night.
2004 Producteurs Plaimont Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Saint-Albert. This is definitely a heavier, and in many ways more obvious, sort of sweet wine than the two previous examples. It opens up with aromas of prune, fig, hazelnut, vanilla bean and dark caramel on the nose that yields to a thick, dense and super-sweet palate of surprisingly tasty apricot, caramel and vanilla extract flavors. It doesn’t have nearly the breeding of the other sweet wines, but I still find it a pretty enjoyable way to cap the evening.