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Bill Spohn

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WTN: 81 Lafite, Haut Brion, Chevalier, Huet Constance, 77 Dow .....

by Bill Spohn » Sat Dec 23, 2006 12:47 pm

Notes on some really fabulous wines from the last lunch of 2006.

1982 Bollinger RD – showing some colour and a lovely nose, complex and toasty, with the smooth toasty element following into the mouth. Marvellous wine in great shape. I often prefer the RD to the Grand Annee.

2003 Vergelegen – this wine is just named after the producer and is a Semillon sauvignon blanc blend. Very clean citrus nose with crisp minerality, nice complexity and good length. Classy wine, and a great ringer for a white Bordeaux tasting.

1995 Huet Vouvray Cuvee Constance – I am a big fan of this producer yet this was the first time I’d tasted this reserve cuvee. It showed an amber colour, an uplifting nose like orange marmalade with some honey and botrytis. It was long and smooth, with significant residual sugar but so well balanced that it was impossible to say just how much. It went very well with food, and had a lingering finish. Wonderful wine and a real highlight of the tasting.

1998 Panther Creek Freedom Hill Pinot Noir – some didn’t go straight to pinot with this one, but I felt it was quite typical, with an earthy pinot nose, not heavy on the usual cherries. Good weight with significant tannins – a bit assertive and dry, which left me wondering what the future would hold for this. Nice now with food.

1996 Dom. Lamarche Vosne Romanee Les Chaumes – slightly stinky Burg nose nicely scented with fruit and a touch of mint, tannins to the front, good now with food.

1981 Haut Brion – OK, I admit that this lunch wasn’t 100% blind as one attendant at the previous lunch had indicated that he had this wine he’d been wanting to try, a 1981 Lafite, and a couple of us said we’d try to complement it. This was the first of three 1981 Bordeaux. It had a sweeter nose than the Burg, with some interesting complexity, and as light greenness and some earth. Fully resolved, ready to drink, smooth and a bit lighter than I’d have predicted.

1981 Dom. de Chevalier – I had to either join in the 1981 program or run and hide by bringing something totally different. I opted to bring this wine. It had a nice limpid colour, darker than the others, an excellent sweet nose with some spice, though not quite as complex in that way as the other two, and was much brighter and younger in the mouth than the Haut Brion, in fact seeming the youngest of the three. Glad I hadn't made a 'graves' mistake!

1981 Lafite – sweet luscious nose with bits of fruit, cedar and pipe tobacco, again, medium weight in the mouth, with excellent length and a good backbone. No rush. Many people will not know the 1981 vintage, living as it has in the shadow of 1982 and 1983, but I have had some wonderful wines from this year and would probably take it in preference to most 1979s. What a nice trio of mature Bordeaux!

1976 Martin Ray Cabernet (California) – another rarity, from the original Martin Ray winery. When I nosed this it had another mature Bordeaux nose and I wondered if we had the fourth in a series, but when I tasted it, the full bodied tasty fruit and the structure headed me back across the Atlantic. I was thinking early 80s, but one person went right to 1976 – full credit due there! Excellent length, another piece of history.

1995 Cousino Macul Finis Terrae – the select cuvee of this Chilean producer, it was all powdered sugar and cocoa in the nose, and some mint, and full and smooth on palate. Nicely made wine.

2000 Dom. du Pegau Cuvee Reservee – we realised we’d got something completely different here! Dark, cassis, cocoa, black pepper, smooth in the mouth with lots of soft tannin, and with very good length. No rush on this, but it drinks surprisingly well at this young age.

1981 Bertani Amarone – this is a favourite producer for me although I do not cellar this vintage (I did offer to bring out the 1974 or 1971 for a friendly match some time). Hot rich ripe nose, with a hint of sherry, though certainly not indicative of any maderisation. As expected, very long with a hint of bitterness at the end. Great finishing wine with cheese.

1977 Dow – the nose on this threw me – it was unusually floral although clearly Port. I was surprised to hear it was the 77 Dow as the last bottle I tasted had a completely different nose! Only slightly warm nose, and excellent on palate, seeming to be still young, just coming on line and with a long future ahead.


2005 Orofino Ice Wine – small BC producer making small amounts of pinot/merlot based ice wines. Pale colour, grapefruit and rhubarb nose, sweet but not cloying – unlike almost all other Canadian ice wine (fit only for anointing flapjacks IMHO) this had good balance and was actually pretty interesting.
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Re: WTN: 81 Lafite, Haut Brion, Chevalier, Huet Constance, 77 Dow .....

by Jenise » Sat Dec 23, 2006 2:07 pm

1982 Bollinger RD – Maybe because I arrived late and the wine had been sitting a bit, but I wasn't as taken with this wine as you were. It seemed a bit flat to me compared to, say, an 82 Salon Mesnil I had a few months ago. Not bad, but not a rave for me.

2003 Vergelegen I cannot remember the last time I mistook a non-French wine for a White Bordeaux, but this definitely had it going on. No wonder it's Vergelegen--I've never not been surprised by how good this winery's wines are.

1995 Huet Vouvray Cuvee Constance My wine, and it is a most happy day when I manage to supply you with a 'first' . This one showed significantly more advanced and mature than the last bottle (well, all previous bottles) I had, both in color and flavor. If this one was orange marmalade, then the last was lemon marmalade. Still, a fabulous wine. And what a great and totally unexpected match with those salty little salmon and endive rosettes. That was my favorite wine/food combination of the day, just because it was so off the wall.

1998 Panther Creek Freedom Hill Pinot Noir
"Some didn’t go straight to pinot with this one." That would be me, for one. Made more sense when I found out it was a Freedom Hill, that bizarre vineyard that makes such tannic, cab-like pinot noirs. And this one was drier than most, which added to the confusion. Not a bad wine, but not what I hope for from Oregon pinot. (St. Innocent makes a FH, and though I buy annually from this winery I never buy the FH's.)

1996 Dom. Lamarche Vosne Romanee Les Chaumes I agree with your description except that I'd add that this wine simply isn't ready yet. It was better with food than without, but someday you'll be able to taste what you smell. Now, you can't.

1981 Haut Brion Loved the wine, BUT: yes, much lighter than expected. I wouldn't have recognized it from the last Haut Brion I had, a 79 about a year ago. Didn't have the depth of flavor, and it didn't have that grip of red rock minerality that makes Haut Brions so haunting. I didn't get First Growth-ness here.

1981 Dom. de Chevalier I liked your wine a lot. It wasn't as complex on the palate as the HB, but it did have that red rock nose. Excellent showing.

1981 Lafite You described it perfectly. And I'll add that where I didn't recognize John's Haut Brion from my memory of a 79, this 81 rang perfect and true from a 53 I had about a year ago. And no, I didn't remember that DC was bringing a Lafite--I thought he was bringing an 82 Haut Brion. But as soon as I put my nose in the glass, I went straight to Lafite. It could be no other.

1976 Martin Ray Cabernet (California)-- I didn't find this as Bordeauxish as you did, but what impressively threw me off the trail was it's youthfulness--I'd have guessed it to be a 91. Great guess on Jim's part about the 76.

1995 Cousino Macul Finis Terrae--other Americans will understand the reference that you guys couldn't: but my notes say "See's Candy Store nose." Chocolate, confectionary sugar, mint, butter--it was all there. Interesting but odd.

2000 Dom. du Pegau Cuvee Reservee I thought this wine had a wee-ist pruney taste of heat damage/early oxidation. Or maybe it was just that we'd been on such a long cab ride that none of you seemed to think so, but I wonder if what I thought I tasted explains your observation that it "drinks surprisingly well at this young age." Maybe they're on a faster aging curve.

1981 Bertani Amarone Loved the nose on this, which I found a bit port-like. (And more so than Jim's port, that's for sure!). Lovely wine, very very pure. Btw, you guys asked me what I paid for it, and I thought $170. Later, that seemed high so I looked it up this morning: $138.

1977 Dow Never in my wildest dreams has a port smelled like Chanel No. 5, but this one did. It was THAT floral. One had to sip without breathing to clearly identify it as port. That did start to blow off toward the end of the glass, though, and as you say, it was "excellent on the palate" and youthful.

2005 Orofino Ice Wine Not a sweet wine fan but I loved this. Light but intense, sweet and tangy, intriguingly different and seductive. I would have been happy to just smell it. From one of only ten six-packs made/sold.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov

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