Back in late October, Mike and Carla Lawton were kind enough to invite me and my wife, Susan, to their house for a delicious dinner. Also invited were Greg Mitrakas and his wife, Kathy. All 3 couples have daughters right around 2 years old, and along with Greg and Kathy’s older boys, we had quite a houseful! In between all the “child management”, we enjoyed fantastic food and wine and plenty of good wine talk.
We started with a beautiful cheese plate and some Alsatian tart deliciousness.
1990 Domaine Mittnacht-Klack Gewurztraminer Alsace Sporen. To be honest, I was not sure what to expect from a Gewurztraminer of this age, but I was very pleasantly surprised. This was a fun drink. Most prominent on the nose are aromas of rosewater and orange blossoms, but there is also some spice and crushed rock. It is medium-bodied and a bit oily-textured in the mouth and seems to have held onto a decent amount of fruit to go with a fine spiciness. The acidity seems to wait until late to gently kick in, giving more definition to the finish. I think we probably caught this just in time.
2001 Domaine Mittnacht-Klack Riesling Alsace Rosacker. Mike pulled this out of the cellar when he saw what Greg had brought. This wine opens with a nose of green apples, soft grapefruit, beeswax and wet pebbles. The entry is crisp and clean, and in the mid-palate it shows some fruit depth, but also a very rigid steely structure that makes it seem a bit austere overall. Over some time, it does soften a bit, especially on the pear-tinged finish. But it seems to lose a bit of focus, too, so I am not sure what the future holds. Maybe see what happens in a few years.
With the main meal of Italian pot roast and assorted sides:
1997 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra. Man, I really like this—it hit me just right on this night. Others seemed more focused elsewhere, but I kept coming back to this wine--it is so flamboyant and sexy and just packed with all kinds of goodness. Probably not what a staunch traditionalist might want, but I couldn’t resist it. It opens with a super-fragrant nose sporting a lot of cedar wood (verging on eucalyptus), spices, sweet red cherry, soft earth, bridle leather and exotic persimmon fruit. It is rich and young and pure in the mouth, but already showing nuanced notes of spice, tar and soft vanilla over its core of deep sweet red fruit. It really gives a mouthfilling experience, with lots of body and lush texture. The acids are not too noticeable and the tannins are quite fine through the mid-palate before clamping down very hard on the tougher finish. The thing is, even though this seems somewhat advanced for a Barolo of this age, you can tell it will just get better with time.
1996 Thierry Allemand Cornas les Chaillots. Now for something completely different… Here is a wine that is not quite ready for its close-up, but the component parts are all there. The color is dark and impenetrable. At first, it is all about meat on the nose, to go along with dark earth and cracked black pepper. There is very distinctive minerality in the mouth, along with cool, darker red fruits and spices. There is plenty of fine acidity to keep it fresh and moderately food-friendly. But overall, it seems very young and not fully integrated yet, even after about a 3 hour decant. Probably needs another 5 years before trying again.
2001 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. I knew this was very young, but wanted to check in on it to see if I should pick up some more. Well, it is approachable now, but will certainly be much, much better in 6-8 years. On this night, the bouquet features sweet blueberries and kirsch, along with pepper, clean saddle leather and a tiny bit of foresty earth. In the mouth, it is squeaky clean, with absolutely pure mixed berry fruit and cocoa powder at its tight, dense core. The texture is creamy and the tannins seem pillowy at this point. It turns spicy on the finish, with good length. Once that core expands and the palate begins to take on more nuanced characteristics, it should be outstanding.
2002 Fattoria Galardi Terra di Lavoro. Wow, talk about a tale of two bottles. A month earlier, I had this wine (blind) and it was unrelentingly strange and difficult to like. Now, after getting a second crack at it, I have to believe the first one was somehow an “off” bottle, because this was spectacular. Here was my note from that previous tasting on Sep 16th: The nose has strong aromas of creosote, fresh tar and something like lava. With time, it also takes on some single malt scotch notes, with peat moss, soot and liquid minerals. It’s a very complex expression of some terroir but it’s so dark and primordial that it seems to lack a sense of charm. The wine in the mouth is rather backward, as well, with a tight tannic backbone and very big tannins over a large structure featuring brooding black fruit, bittersweet chocolate, mineral and grilled meat flavors. Whatever this is, it might be ready to drink in about 15-20 years. In comparison: This has a wonderful, rich nose of different red and dark berry fruit, tar oil, dark volcanic earth and graphite. Texturally, this is just uber-dense, totally plush, with a low-acid, chewy mouthfeel and flavors of blackberry, crushed raspberry and something evoking black rocks. There is excellent depth you can get lost in. But, as before, it is clear that this needs a pretty fair amount of time in the cellar to show its best—time which should be very good to this wine.
With Kathy’s homemade apple pie:
2004 Schloss Lieser Riesling Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Auslese Gold Capsule (#14). Served from 375 ml bottle. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with this wine, but maybe it was unfair to open it so young. The nose is soft and shy and a bit simple for now. In the mouth, it opens up with some spritziness. Fairly light- to medium-bodied, but showing decent concentration of poached apple, poached pear and soft spices, it is not overly sweet by any means at this point. In fact, it is kind of gentle and easy-going right now, with a certain lacy quality. Maybe this will be more to my liking a few years down the road?