Our regular tasting group got together at Tom and Sandy’s a while back and enjoyed their amazing cooking and hospitality as we tasted through some fun flights of Champagne, Burgundy, Chateauneuf du Pape and Sauternes.
N.V. Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Réserve. This bottle was disgorged in 2009. It displays soft and gentle aromas of ginger, copper and baked apple on the nose, and follows that up with a soft and airy palate presence featuring ginger, pear, apple and chalk flavors. It has an easy balance to it, keeps things fun, and is drinking nicely.
1996 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame. This is a classy lady of a wine, displaying finely-etched aromas of apple, pear, lemon peel, yeast and struck match on the nose. It shows off a sculpted body and fullness of flavor on the palate, but again has a lot of finesse to go along with a lithe structure and excellent persistence of lemon drop, honey, grapefruit, pear and light nut flavors. I enjoy it quite a bit.
1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. This is darker-toned on the nose, with baked apple, dark ginger and honey aromas that sadly start to fade as ever-stronger notes of TCA rise up from the depths. Despite being CORKED, it still delivers nice ginger, nutmeg and browned apple fruit flavors that have me wishing it wasn’t.
1996 Dominique Laurent Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux. The room was pretty much evenly-split between those who preferred this wine and those who preferred the next one. I happen to like this better, especially the gorgeous bouquet it offers up, which features fleshy and rich aromas of crushed raspberries, lifted cherries, cigar wrapper, fine earth, mulling spices and singed iron. It’s fun, a little bit sexy, and nicely fleshed out right from the start. In the mouth it feels seamless and beautifully-fruited to me—full of graphite, smoke, dark cherry and black raspberry flavors that are delightfully slinky and savory, yet fruity and generous. It’s delicious stuff right now, but there’s certainly enough tannin, acidity and structure to age it further.
1996 Dominique Laurent Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Chaignots. This is darker and meatier on the nose, with all kinds of iron ore, dried blood and smoke aromas to go with scents of blackberry, tobacco and turned earth. In the mouth it’s loaded with dried blood, mineral, leather, cherry and black raspberry flavors that show great drive and vivacity despite the dark and grounded personality. It’s tighter and more tannic than the Champeaux and I suspect it will be longer-lived, but I just find more pleasure to be had in the other wine at this time.
Chateauneuf du Pape:
2000 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This wine is just starting to show a little bit of leather, horsebarn and sweaty hide aromas that I typically associate with this domaine, which I’m happy to see. It’s smooth and seamless on the palate, with an effortless flow and sense of balance. Flavors of cassis, ripe cherry and black raspberry are pure and delicious and are finely accented by bits of fireplace ash, smoke and leather. This can easily go a long while yet, but it’s continuing to drink really nicely right now.
2003 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes. This wine is considerably riper and bolder-styled on the nose—showing intense and rich aromas of cherry liqueur, cassis, suede leather and black olives. In the mouth, it’s extremely ripe and fully-fruited, with stacked and loaded flavors of blue and purple berries, plum and menthol that are much warmer and stickier than the 2000 Beaucastel. Indeed, it’s a whole different kind of animal, and one I’m not nearly as fond of, I’m afraid.
2003 Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes. Like a lot of 2003 Sauternes, this is exotic, rich and absolutely loaded with sweet botrytis cream aromas, scents of baking spices, crème brulee, dried pineapple squares, lavender honey and tropical overtones. Liquid caramel, vanilla, honey, dried tropical fruits and botrytis flavors on the palate are gorgeously rich, creamy and luscious, but this is also finely acidic and driven in a way that makes it really fun, pure and delightful. It’s a hedonistic wine that’s really hard not to like.
2005 Château Climens Barsac. This wine demands a bit more introspection and consideration. The nose is not nearly so dense, but it’s still loaded with sort of crystalline aromas of honey, lemon oil, patchouli, grapefruit and pineapple—plus a fair bit of sweet oak still. The woody character continues onto the palate, which has a classy, ethereal weight and less honeyed flavors but a fair bit of youthful single-mindedness. I don’t think there’s much doubt that it will be outstanding, but the ’03 La Tour Blanche is much more ready to go right now.