Tom supplied the wines at our most recent monthly poker game, which due to circumstances beyond his control had to be moved to a secret location that normally doubles as a corporate board room when it’s not a Sunday afternoon. That was a bit different, to be sure, but it was a fun day with some very nice wines. As usual, all of the wines except the starter Champagne and the after-hours bottles were served blind.
Sparkling and white wines:
1996 Pol Roger Champagne Brut Vintage. Our first wine of the day displays a nicely layered bouquet featuring fine notes of herbs, pear and bright copper minerality riding atop deeper-pitched scents of nuts, vanilla and light toffee that work together quite well right now. In the mouth, it’s nicely resolved and ready to go, with plenty of body and secondary flavors but also a taut and refreshing core of finishing acidity. The pear, chalk, herb, light ginger and strong citrus tang flavors are effortlessly melded together, and I find this to be in a very good spot for my tastes.
2004 Schiopetto Mario Schiopetto Bianco Venezia Giulia IGT. This wine is kind of quiet and restrained, with aromas of wet chalk, orange blossom, slate, apple, pear and paraffin wax showing sneaky depth here and there. In the mouth, I find it to be oily and almost viscous in texture, but at the same time loaded with a cool, steely minerality. It’s a little sticky in the mid-palate, with flavors of lemon, grapefruit and earthier root vegetable accents. It really sticks to the palate for a long time after swallowing, but again brings in a steely minerality and dry acidity just when it needs it.
2000 Gérard Tremblay Chablis 1er Cru Montmain. Here’s a wine for the true rock-hounds out there. I mean this is insanely minerally—just loaded to the gills with aromas of graphite, limestone and flint that tend to dominate the softer notes of lemon sour ball and dry scrub brush. In the mouth, it is a bit thicker and rounder than the nose might lead one to expect, but it’s still cool, sleek, grippy and slinky. It may even be drier on the finish than the previous wine, but is bigger-framed and more fanned-out around the mineral-driven spine. In the end, I liked both of these whites and found them to be thought-provoking and rewarding to drink.
2003 Maurice Écard Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Jarrons. There’s an earthy-styled and slightly rustic bouquet to this wine that features somewhat murky and funky aromas of dried sweat, volcanic ash, weedy tobacco, mushroom, moist forest floor and dark berry fruit. In the mouth, though, it’s considerably tangier and more brightly-fruited than the nose would suggest. Indeed, I find this to have a really solid sense of lift and energy—with a giving spurt of sour cherry and blue and purple berry fruit riding atop fine-honed acidity. It’s medium-weighted, with a smooth texture and tannins that are kept well in check. Although the nose may need some time to find a more elegant vein, I can’t complain at all about the pleasure this delivers right now on the palate. It’s pretty darned nice.
2003 Bouchard Père et Fils Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot. This wine presents a more full-throttled bouquet—loaded with aromas of carob, hard leather, dried herbs and black cherry and black raspberry fruit. In the mouth, it has a lush texture and giving flavors of dark berries and creamy dark chocolate, but in the end is actually more drying in tone than the previous wine due to tannins that are much more in play. The longer it stays in the glass, the more candied it gets, especially toward the finish, and my guess is that this is still quite young and will benefit from some additional cellar time.
2006 Domaine Bernard Morey et Fils Santenay 1er Cru Gravière. CORKED.
2009 Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rùfina Riserva Bucerchiale. A number of people liked this wine, but I just had a negative reaction to it. First of all, it’s the most obvious and sweetest-smelling wine in the whole line-up—with overt aromas of blueberry, huckleberry, black leather, tapenade, chocolate and an annoying little streak of rubber rising up out of the glass. It’s big and bold and richly berry-fruited in the mouth, with a very smooth, warm and polished mouthfeel but just too much candy-sweet fruit and again that odd little rubber band note that always seems to bug me. Maybe I just need to try the wine in a different environment, I don’t know.
1978 Château Léoville Las Cases St. Julien. Tom served this and the next wine in a flight together, telling us that they were a pair of Bordeaux from the same vintage and that we were to guess the year and the producers. This first one shows a deep core of sweet cassis, tomato paste and baked cherry aroma surrounded by notes of menthol, jalapeno pepper, dark-roasted coffee bean and skunky white pepper. It shows occasional flashes of roasty torrefaction, but I like the complexity and warmth of it. In the mouth, it still has solid intensity of cherry, red currant, chocolate and woodsy flavors, but is a bit fudgy and tacky-textured in a way that makes it seem less elegant than perhaps it should be. It’s got some warts here and there, and it may not have been a pristine bottle, but I still find a good deal to like in its brawny yet aged character.
1978 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac. The nose here is cleaner, focusing on aromas like rawhide leather, tomato plant, dark earth, multivitamin, orange peel and mulling spice notes. Although it’s a bit more linear in nature than the previous wine on the palate, it also features softer acidity and a more elegant overall texture and weight. I like the fine-honed yet savory flavors of cranberries, multivitamin, toasted orange peel, meat and leather, but it definitely seems time to drink up. My preference in the flight was for this wine, and by the way, I did manage to get lucky with my guess of this particular chateau, though I was incorrectly guessing 1970 as the vintage.
1999 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To-Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley. For this flight, Tom let us know that all of the wines were from a single producer, though I can’t remember whether he specified that they were all from the same vintage or not. In any event, all three were showing quite well, I thought. The first of these presents a lovely bouquet that’s perhaps a bit less exuberant than the next two, but shows excellent refinement and breeding to the scents of black cherry, plum, fireplace ash and dark mocha. It’s sleek on the palate, with a creamy glycerin-infused smoothness to the rich and giving flavors of dark fruit and earth. Despite the volume it shows and the obvious youth underlying the stuffing, one can sense a classy wine drinking well now but likely to improve over the next several years, too.
1999 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley. The smoky bouquet of this wine isn’t as refined or as layered as the previous wine, but it still shows plenty of pleasing aromas of tobacco, fireplace ash, blueberries and plums. It’s kind of thick and pasty in the mouth, but is loaded with tasty dark berry fruit and black currant flavors that provide a solid and direct expression of Cabernet supported by a moderate backbone of tannin.
1999 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley. This is the warmest, richest and most giving bouquet of the trio, featuring luscious cherry, cassis, and raspberry fruit scents accented by menthol, cedar shavings and oak spice aromas. It’s beautiful and has a classical sensibility to it that I really like. In the mouth, it’s smooth, creamy and fully-flavored with pure red currant and raspberry fruit that’s juicy, warm and inviting. There’s still plenty of youthful structure erected about it, but this is pretty darned delicious and should hold a good long while, I suspect.
2005 Willi Haag Riesling Brauneberger Juffer Auslese Mosel Saar Ruwer. I like the aromatic profile here, as it’s showing a lot of pure, fresh and clean aromas of petrol, blue slate, quartz, white peach, lemon and herbs that are quite bright and inviting. In the mouth, it’s not all that sweet, but it’s also not all that complex. The peach, pear and melon flavors are fresh and direct, but not very fanned out or compelling. Maybe try it again in a few years to see if it fleshes out some and catches up with the pretty bouquet.
1988 Quinta de la Rosa Vintage Porto. This wine puts forth some interesting aromas of red flowers, raspberries, macerated cherries, shoe leather, caramel, mushroom and tar. In the mouth, it’s exceedingly spicy, and it shows a good deal of forward alcohol and ticklish acidity on the tongue before revealing the fig, cherry and raspberry fruit at its core. It’s gently sweet and more resolved on the finish, but the main characteristic here is the zesty spicebox notes that just pervade the entirety of the palate journey. I happened to enjoy that aspect of the wine, though I don’t think this was a particular favorite of the assembled group.