My wife and I were really excited to join 3 other couples at a good friend’s house for a stellar evening of food and wine recently. This was the fifth annual iteration of this particular event, and it just gets better and better every year.
N.V. Vazart-Coquart Champagne Blanc de Blancs Reserve Brut. Our opening wine features a fun and inviting bouquet of sweet chalk dust, pear, cantaloupe, herbs and ground nutmeg aromas that are fresh but have a certain languid ease, as well. In the mouth, it froths up nice and creamy with good volume to the expanding flavors of apple, pear and white peach that linger through the mid-palate and onto the spice-tinged finish. There’s an unusual little prickle of bitter citrus and mineral toward the back, but it fits in nicely with the wine’s overall persona—which I like.
1990 Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Millésimé. This is quite lovely on the nose, showing off layers of lightly-toasted bread, fresh-chopped nut, yellow apple, lemon drop, smoke and soft wood spice aromas. It is very poised and driven in the mouth, with pinpoint control and harmonious class. Focused flavors of lemon, grapefruit, light butterscotch, chalk and spice are tightly-knit but show a mellowed aged note now and again that just adds to the overall package of refinement and synergy. Overall, it is wonderful stuff--still very fresh and driven but with a lot of finesse.
1985 Krug Champagne Brut. This is classic Krug all the way, with that wonderful toasty-dark personality to the aromas of citrus peel, peach pit, roasted nut, yeasty bread dough, earth and browned tree fruit. In the mouth, it’s in a great spot—showing a ton of power and richness all around, and loaded to the brim with baked fruit, dark berry, nut, mineral and smoked wood flavors that are creamy, smooth and generous. It still has an element of freshness, but it is definitely opened up texturally and finishes with an interestingly winey character on the lengthy finish. It’s hard not to like this.
2001 Sybille Kuntz Riesling Wehlen Sonnenuhr Spätlese Trocken Mosel Saar Ruwer. This wine absolutely pops out of the glass with immediate and fantastically layered aromas of quince paste, honeysuckle, star fruit, diesel fuel, blue slate and all kinds of fun spices. It immediately gets your attention and draws you right in for a big sip, where it surprises you with just how dry it is after all those luxurious sweet and exotic aromatics. Like the bouquet, though, the palate is big and bold, rich and loaded. Still, there’s a fine crunchy acidity and mineral spine underpinning all the flavors and making for a complex, rewarding and delicious wine.
1971 Kirchmayr Neuburger Neusiedlersee Konig Altwein Solist. Here one finds interestingly dark-pitched aromas of Korean tea and barley to go along with more piquant notes of cantaloupe, yellow apple, white peach, dried pineapple and minerals in a finely-honed, rather healthy and wide-ranging bouquet. In the mouth, it shows off a surprising density of sappy yellow fruit flavors to go along with fennel, crabapple, herb and crunchy mineral edgings. It is cool, structured, dry and unique—a definite treat to drink.
1999 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune. This is simply a fantastic wine all around. The bouquet shows all kinds of class, precision and purity, but also sneaky power in its fabulously bright and clear aromas of petrol, limestone, pineapple, guava and schist. I could seriously just sit and sniff this all night long. In the mouth, it’s pure and utterly mouthwatering—delivering delicious citrus, mineral, pear, blanched nut and white peach flavors that are luscious and creamy but driven and finely-cut. My wine of the night.
2009 Damien Laureau Savennières Roche aux Moines. This is gorgeous Chenin Blanc, starting with the creamy, broad and lovely aromas of white peach, pear, melon and white flowers that rise up out of the glass beautifully. Although it doesn’t really match my image of traditional Savennieres on the palate, it’s impossible to argue with the gorgeous flavors, impressive depth and outstanding acidic balance this wine brings to the table. It presents a nice pithy mouthfeel, with more richness than you might expect, but I have to say it really hits a sweet spot on my palate with the appealingly waxy yellow apple, dark peach and melon fruit that is nicely balanced with crisp minerality. I think everyone at the table was really impressed with this wine.
1996 Château Cantenac Brown Margaux. This is easy and soft on the nose, with aromas of loamy earth, muddied leather, cigar wrapper, cedar wood, pencil shavings and moderate funk notes combining nicely with gentle berry fruit and sweet mocha notes that are quite pleasing. On the palate, it comes across as totally ready to drink right now, with rounded acidity and fully resolved tannins supporting light and tangy berry fruit flavors. It isn’t the most concentrated wine, but it still has a nice little gripping feel to it at just the right times. It’s a smoothly-textured and femininely-styled wine that isn’t profound or anything, but is really easy-sipping and able to deliver a fine dose of drinking pleasure right now.
1996 Château Haut-Batailley Pauillac. This is an appealingly earthy, rustic and savory style of wine on the nose—featuring aromas of animal fur, cooled bacon fat, tea leaves, carob, smoke and ash surrounding a plusher core of milky black currant fruit. In the mouth, it’s medium-weighted but demonstrates a fine level of concentrated flavors and a gently chewy texture supported by moderately tough tannins and a zesty acidity. Although it’s not as elegant as it could be right now, it has a very nice core of blue and purple fruit that’s quite tasty and giving.
1996 Château Cos d’Estournel St. Estephe. There’s a deep, rich, classy and almost regal bouquet on display with this impressive specimen of a wine, as it shows off dense black cherry, currant, tobacco, leather, forest, baked clay, olive, and fine earth scents that are expansive and serious. I find it to be rather strident, muscular and cool-toned, with fine-grained but serious tannins in play. At the same time, though, it shows off a lovely creamy texture, very classy acidic balance and wonderfully layered currant and black cherry fruit flavors that are long and youthfully concentrated. There’s just a lot going on with this chiseled beauty, and it’s all very nicely done.
1983 Dominus Estate Napa Valley. This very first vintage of Dominus pours a very healthy color. The nose is decidedly old-fashioned, with restrained, gentlemanly aromas of leather, multi-vitamin, cranberry, brown tobacco, fine spices and cool earth. In the mouth, it’s cool and lean, with a nice burst of finely-spiced black cherry fruit to go along with a persistent streak of leather and earth tones. I really like the fresh, twangy edges it shows and the classy character that persists through the fine finish. It’s a throwback kind of wine that I really enjoyed a great deal.
1985 Dominus Estate Napa Valley. The bouquet of the 1985 shows a lot of similarities, but perhaps is just a bit darker and more fully-fledged—with a whole lot of leather, herbs, and pasty dried fig and plum scents wafting out of the glass. It’s fruitier on the palate than the 1983 and certainly more full-bodied, but I don’t find it to have quite the same distinctiveness of character. It’s a bit warmer, with gripping, pasty flavors of dark fig, plum and black currants allied to finely-balancing acidity. It gets better and better throughout the evening, and indeed on day 2, it easily outperforms its older sibling.
1991 Dominus Estate Napa Valley. The 1991 is by far the ripest, richest and most all-around wine of the three we drank on the evening. If features very giving and finely-layered aromas of licorice rope, cherry paste, black currants, menthol, cedar wood, leather and spices that do an outstanding job of combining Old World earthiness and New World fruit. On the palate, one immediately senses the dark fruit stuffing and fine toasty oak spices, but also the classy texture and solid tannic backbone the wine possesses. Although it’s still a tad tannic, this is a wine that seemingly has it all going on and can also be held without concern.
1998 Costers del Siurana Priorat Dolç de L'Obac. This smells just like a chocolate-covered cherry, with sweet luscious aromas of kirsch kicking in, as well. It’s nicely juicy and mouth-filling on the palate, with all kinds of sexy and sultry flavors and textures carrying it along to a warm but racy finish. It’s definitely sweet and luscious, but somehow not at all overdone. And it’s a delight with our triple chocolate cake dessert.
1948 Primitivo Quiles Alicante Fondillon Solera. This wine is a bit cloudy and decidedly tawny-colored, with a nose that delivers fascinating aromas of toasted walnuts, dates, dried cherries, nutmeg, and Turkish coffee that I find compelling and full of character. In the mouth, it’s almost austerely dry and sharply acidic with a lot of bright tones riding atop rancio, chopped nut, dried fruit, pressed flower and strong sea spray flavor sensations. It definitely has some alcoholic bite to it, but I still enjoy a unique wine like this.
1989 Château Climens Barsac. I really dig this vintage of Climens, starting with the lovely aromas of peach preserves, orange marmalade, toasted meringue, copper pot and gorgeous botrytis spices. It’s creamy and unctuously sweet on the palate, but it’s also driven, tangy and finely-balanced. It’s a no-brainer and a wonderful accompaniment to the baklava we paired it with.
1990 Château de Malle Sauternes. This is dark amber-gold in color, with deeply burnished aromas of baked apricots, rich caramel, clementines, smoked wood and a little bit of nuttiness. It’s more advanced on the palate than the 1989 Climens, but it’s rather exotic and fully mature in its flavors of baked peaches and apricots, hazelnuts, toasted brioche and fun brown spices. I think it’s time to drink up, but there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in the near term.