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WTN: Catching Up

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David Lole

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WTN: Catching Up

by David Lole » Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:48 am

Sorry for being slack over the last month and a half .... I have been making weekly notes but have posted them en masse in one big catch up.

Just finished (30/4) a 1999 Majella Malleea Cabernet Shiraz, drunk over two nights. Excellent juice with a jubey, black pastille and dark plum nose with a fair underpinning input from savoury/spicy/mocha oak (22 months new French). The usual Coonawarra culprits lurk cagily underneath - red earth, green olives, some old leather and cigar box - the wine, night two, really came together and displayed much better integration, immaculate balance and was fully resolved on a long and prestigious finish. Not the greatest Coonawarra but certainly up there. Ready to drink now with a decent decant or cellar for a few years and drink relatively soon thereafter. 91 points. 13.5% A/V Cork closure.

Seppelt Moyston Cabernet Merlot 2003 - Murray Stiles served this masked (alongside a magnificent bottle of 1990 389) at a Melbourne offline in circa 2005 - this was a $10 wine on release, and at the time I thought it truly outstanding (scoring it about 92 points, IIRC). At ten years of age and from a notoriuously hot and difficult vintage, this wine still shines like a beacon, just entering its secondary fruit development stage with bucketloads of reserves, excellent balance and structure, good colour, impressive aromatics, full body, lovely oak complexity, resolute tannins, softening acidity and a long resilient finish. I'd score it about the same as ten years ago. It will last for at least another ten years.

Opened one of my last pristine bottles of 1988 Orlando St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet after buying multiple bottles of puss of the same from auction recently. My cellared wine was impeccably coloured for its considerable age, had that amazingly complex aged Coonawarra nose and palate of weedy blackcurrants, cigar box, herbs, sweet earth, spice box, saddle leather that justs sits so nicely in the mouth with its refined excellence and wonderful structure. 92 points but definitely a drink now/soon experience.

And a blast from the past - I bought a mixed case of 1989 and 1990 Zind-Humbrecht Alsace Vedange Tardive varietals - (Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer) - from John Osbeitson many years ago that provided truly memorable drinking experiences and just recently saw a bottle of 1990 Hengst Gewurztraminer VT from Z-H languishing at a local auction. I bought it for far less than I paid all those years ago. The wine is still in remarkably good condition, although the colour is now a slightly cloudy gold colour. Aromatically the wine reveals a wealth of spicy lychee and apricot fruit with telltale varietal musk and lavish tropical fruit character. The explosive palate is still both fresh and exceedingly complex with remarkably good lively acidity providing the perfect foil to the rich and unctious fruit (aka the nose). Although mature, this outstanding wine shows no signs of cracking up and should drink awfully well for at least to the end of this decade. 93 points

Whlist performing at the Tooleybuc Jazz FestivalI opened a 1990 Ch. Giscours (Margaux 3rd Growth) with dinner on Friday 19th April which was spectacularly good - heaps of developing red and black fruit - mostly ripe blackcurrant with perplexing cigar box, sweet earth and underbrush character. Plenty of concentration on the palate with exceedingly good structure and terrific length featuring superfine lacy tannins. Good for medium term cellaring. 93 12.5% A/V

Next up (Saturday 20th April) was another sterling bottle of 1988 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet. Very similar to the last bottle I had very recently, perhaps a point or two less but right up there in quality and just a sensational glass of classic Coonawarra cabernet. I was surprised by the beguiling green peppercorn character in this wine (amongst all the usual culprits).

On the Sunday night after we completed our final set, I opened a 1990 St Hubert's Cabernet which was a picture of refined elegance and varietal clarity with alluring aromatics of leafy blackcurrant fruit and a wonderfully fine palate with a long satisfying finish. 92 A very well preserved (and cellared) bottle I bought for less than $20 last year.

Had another mini-post-birthday-celebration last night (17/4) with the family and cracked an excellent bottle of 1989 Calon-Segur. Poured like an old-coloured wine and, initially, not much of note to report on the nose, this morphed out beautifully over many hours picking up on both bouquet and palate - mostly aged red fruits, lots of leather, sweet earth, gently sweet tea-like tannins, pretty well fully resolved wine. Drink up if you have any. About 88 from me.

Today (18/4) after band practice, I opened an 1988 John Riddoch over lunch, with a fill level of bottom of the neck. Cork was evenly saturated to within 1mm of it's end. This bottle was beyond outstanding and somewhat better than the 1984 I opened the other night that, too, performed very well indeed. It was a more youthful and statuesque version of the marque with gloriously fullsome and complex aromatics and a fantastically rich, well-endowed (but only just over medium-body) palate with simply superb counterbalancing structure. At a very moderate 12.3% alcohol, this wine is the perfect Coonawarra Cabernet. At least 10 years drinkability on this bottle's showing today. Somewhere approaching 95 points for this bottle today.

The 1985 Leoville-Barton is a rip snorter of wine. Great colour for its considerable age followed by a quite mesmerizing powerful nose of loam, sandalwood, complex mature red and black fruit amongst umpteem other much smaller things going on ("good" barnyardy stuff at first (blew off quicky), cigar box, herbs, green peppers, iron, beef blood and lots more). The palate was just as impressive although didn't quite match the bouquet for intensity but was in no way any the worse for it. A wonderful array of beguiling, integrated flavours mimicking the bouquet, near perfect mouthfeel and wonderful structure, including a lengthy, soft, delectable finish. A textbook St Julien from a wonderfully elegant but sumptuous vintage and one of my all time favourites. Simply amazing how French Bordeaux red wine can just keep on keeping on. 94 points.

As a pre-dinner quaffer we cracked the 2009 Willi Schaefer Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese that was very good to excellent in all respects, piles of crunchy green apply fruit with some tropical top notes, perhaps a wee too sugary for me for the spatlese level but has the potential for a lot better things down the track. Quite decent extract in the mouth - expansive with plenty of balancing acidity. I'd leave it for at least 3-4 years. 88+

2007 Christian Moreau Chablis Valmur - ready to rock'n'roll, developing orchard fruit with a surprising hint of butterscotch and a chablis-like chalky minerality. Not quite up the lofty heights I was expecting but still an excellent wine. 90

2008 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay - heaps of trophy's and golds on the bottle - lifted, heavily worked new barrel charaters (including flint, struck match and char) galore on the nose - too much so for me - palate much better balanced with great harmony of tight quality melon and underripe stonefruit and classy subdued, integrated oak, heaps of nicely-judged acid and a long, quite classy finish. Probably needs several years in the cellar to be fully ready. 89+

1983 Ch. Beychevelle - a most successful vintage for this mostly overperforming lowly St. Julien classified growth - fully mature bricking colour, ever unfolding complex, mature nose of some considerable class and a silky, ohso good palate of identical excellence, both in it's aged definition and immaculate structure. This drank almost increasingly well for almost 8 hours until the bottle was exhausted of its delicate precious contents. A memorable drinking experience. About 92.

Bullers Premium Fine Muscat - 375 ml (screwcap) - for just over $20 this is one helluva good sweet fortified. Wonderful old aged material blended expertly with fresher, grapier, material to produce an outstandingly smooth and sumptuous liqueur muscat. 93 and fantastic value.

Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet 1984 - I have been drinking this wine in small quantities for over 24 hours (cork not back in) and it has hardly budged. Nice deep ruby colour with only minimal lightening in the edges. A little worrisome when first poured with seemingly some DMS character, this wine improves dramatically on the nose shortly after sitting in the glass, offering up classic inky Coonawarra scents of weedy blackcurrant, plums, herbs, cedar, sweet damp, earth, saddle leather, savoury oak and regional mint. The palate is an absolute treat, medium bodied, everything nicely integrated, still good levels of lively acidity but almost fully resolved, delicate lacy tannins with still quite fresh dark berried fruit with bits and pieces of wonderful complexity similar to what I describe on the nose beautifully woven throughout. I read rather ordinary things about this wine from a lot of supposed fine palates from time to time. For the life of me, I have not had one bad experience with this wine in recent years. I'd rate this a solid 93 and could be drunk safely over the next 5 -10 years if in as good condition as the bottle reviewed here.

Just a couple for me this last (very sad) week ending 7 April. Chateau Ferriere (Margaux) 1996. Drunk with my best friend on Saturday night with about the best lamb roast I've ever knocked up (the herb and garlic marinated leg was slow-cooked on a rack in my hooded bbq for 3 hours at 95C over a replenished water-filled baking tray). This was fitting because, the wine was so lovely to drink and in such a nice spot and matched the lamb and the roast and steamed vegies to an absolute tee, and also because my friend has just lost his daughter (27 years old) to suicide. His wife also departed this earth in the same sad way about 15 years ago, which makes this whole episode just that much worse for everyone involved. I'm sorry I burden you with such terrible news, but it may give you some idea of the extent of my grief at the moment, let alone what my friend and his family are going through. And it was a nice gesture of Rob to propose a toast with this fine glass of claret to "life". 90 points

Here's a bit about the Chateau from the pen of Master of Wine, Jancis Robinson - "This property was officially ranked a third growth in the 1855 classification but was virtually abandoned during the first world war. The vineyards, which extend to barely 10 ha, began to be revived in the 1960s by Alexis Lichine but it took the Merlaut family, now owners of Ch Gruaud Larose, to put it back on the map and marketplace. Today, Jean Merlaut’s niece Claude Villars-Lurton runs it, alongside Chx la Gurgue and Haut-Bages-Libéral. Looking at my notes for other vintages of Ferrière via the tasting notes search, I see that the 2001 also stood out in a similar way for me – and this was another vintage, like 1996, in which the Cabernets had difficulty ripening in the Médoc, but clearly the Cabernet Sauvignon which dominates the encepagement here has some ingredient X – gentle winemaking? – which makes it shine in such vintages."

The other wine I opened earlier in the week was a very ordinary bottle of 2010 Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Gris. I can't understand why anyone bothers with such a grape and this style. Unoaked, 14% A/V with a fair dollop of residual sugar. Non-descript melon and musk stick nose with a so-so melon/apply palate with almost prickly acidity, then the sugar kicks in, then the alcoholic heat and not much of a finish. The Alsatians and Italians can handle this grape pretty well at times, but in general, I just always pass with this somewhat "orphan" varietal. 65 points

Tyrrell's 2002 Vat 47 Chardonnay can be quite a beast (and also annoyingly variable with cork and oxidation problems) and although I have not tried one for some time now, I wasn't expecting a whole lot. Upon opening, the colour was a gloriously bright yellow with virtually no evidence of any significant age. The nose delivered a bevy of fresh complex scents of butter, yellow peach, honeydew melon, grilled nuts, fresh cream with a substantial but not overpowering delicious oak backing. Likewise, the palate delicious and loaded with bucketloads of crunchy green fruit, grapefruit, a distinct vein of minerality, plenty of lively acidity and subtle oak. Possessing excellent poise and fine balance, finishing with very good length and some attractive astringency, this excellent white is worthy of something approaching 90 points.

Chapel Hill's 1990 Reserve Shiraz is a bit of a legend with me. I bought quite a lot of this and cellared and drunk over a case until circa 2005. This bottle was acquired recently on the secondary market and again, not many expectations accompanied its procural. In top condition, harbouring a delightful medium ruby core, stunning aromatics of sweet plums, blackberry and licorice with leather and earth in the background. The palate's fully resolved with sweet mature fruit aka the nose, of medium weight with subtle integrated oak, melted tannins and a long soft finish. At the end of its drinking window most probably but a wonderful experience all the same. 91 points.

Early in the week I opened an impressive bottle of 1996 Ch. Du Tertre, a classified growth from Margaux. The wine displayed a slightly transparent but bright and healthy ruby red colour and a typical damp earth nose enhanced with attractive notes of cassis, herbs, green bean, truffle, leather and iron that improved and intensified with extended breathing. The palate, only of medium weight, revealed very similar flavours to what was found in the bouquet. The structure here was exemplary with a wonderful elegance, a tight line, excellent persistence, bright acidity and lacy, fine tannins. About ready to be drunk but could have a ten year drinking window. Approaching 89 points.

Opened a newly arrived bottle of screwcapped Petaluma 2002 Hanlin's Hill Riesling that is a whole different animal to anything I've opened before. A certain oiliness has permeated here, something I haven't noticed to such an extent before. Otherwise the colour was pretty healthy (a good sign, I suppose) and there's a wealth of lime and toasty varietal fruit to burn with enough acidity to pull things together at the back end ... but something's just not quite right. If I had not seen so much of this in the past, I would score it at 88 points. It lasted reasonably well in the fridge for 3 days ... hardly budging an inch. I now have to open another bottle to try and make some sense of this.

A Seppelt 1999 Dorrien Cabernet from the same source also looked pretty good albeit different to what I've opened before. It seems to have lost some weight compared to the last bottle, although the fruit is still decidedly fresh and berried and delivered consistently very good drinking over the weekend. The cork was saturated almost to the end, so I would think this has not come from the greatest of cellars. 89 points.

Orlando's 1998 St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon was the highlight of the week. This wine is in a very good place now with the fruit decidedly secondary and taking on some of the classic Coonawarra 'red dirt' character but displays enough youthfulness of structure to warrant extended cellaring for at least another 5 years. It should drink well for another decade thereafter. 92

Made the necessary sacrifice and thank the wine gods this next bottle of Petaluma 2002 Hanlin Hill Riesling is in absolute magnificent condition. Gorgeous colour and sublime aromatics followed by wonderful freshness, balance, perfect symmetry, wonderful line, great purity, amazing texture and terrific length .... 94+ points. And the fruit and acidity ain't half bad either. Only worry now is the bottle variation.

For me, with a good friend coming over for dinner Friday night (15/3), I decided to take a bit of a punt (against the prospect of premature oxidation) and open one of my last bottle's from Francois Raveneau - the 2002 Montee de Tonnerre. And what an absolute belter it was. Still a healthy and bright youthful colour of very pale straw gold; engrossing flinty aromatics of minerals, citrus, pear and a faint nuttiness (perhaps hazelnuts) from a kiss of quality oak followed by a strikingly beautiful palate that holds the most immaculate, lengthy line, possesses sublime steely fruit (suggestive of crushed salty, calciferous rocks, pear and lemon/lime juice and nutty oak) and amazing purity and breed throughout. Considerable drinking window possible if this bottle was representative of the marque - 94 points. Why can't all top French Chardonnay remain in as good condition as this? Paired almost perfectly with Tassal Tasmanian smoked slamon served with sour cream, chives, capers, cracked pepper and a simple fresh (from our) green garden salad with red onion and drizzled with virgin avacado oil.

This was followed by a disappointing Hubert Lignier Morey-St-Denis 1999 1er Cru Les Chaffots. Colour still excellent with a strong core. Nose was akin to a dirty duckpond. Almost unsniffable at first but did "breathe" off somewhat with swirling and air time but never completely left the wine. Startlingly, the palate was excellent, almost fully resolved with a graceful, rounded mouthfeel, attractive sweet plum and cherry fruit with some nice complexing contributions from gamy meats, truffles and pinot sap. Unfortunately the nose killed this wine. Hard to score - probably something nearing 74 points from me. Unacceptable wine. My peking duck pancakes went down a treat, though.

Other wines opened during the week included a stunningly good bottle of Grosset's 2010 Picadilly Chardonnay - top of the tree quality from go to woe here and made in the savvy new wave style that should prove successful for mid-term cellarability. 93

And lastly, one of my last bottles of Petaluma 1996 Coonawarra Merlot. I bought a small stash of these quite a while back for not a whole lot more than 20 bucks a bottle (IIRC). Last night's bottle exhibited everything a mature local Merlot should be - soft, plush, plummy with aging mulberry and blackberry with traces of cedar/biscuity oak, a slight earthiness and hints of spice, herb and dried tobacco leaf. It's got nowhere to go but downhill from here, methinks, and should be drunk in the near/very short term. 90
Last edited by David Lole on Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Cheers,

David
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:57 am

Thanks David, were you up all night posting this?
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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by Sue Courtney » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:32 pm

Wow some names from the past there, like Seppelts Moyston. Thanks for your evocative notes, even on the not so good 'uns.
Re the Petaluma and bottle variation, bottle variation on screwcapped wines has been noticed by the guys who pour the wines at the Wednesday tastings we go to, but more noticeably on Chardonnay. I think someone was going to test the theory out on a case.
I've drunk a fair bit of the LDH PG and wonder if the bottle you opened had a failed sc?
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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by Dale Williams » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:17 pm

First of all, thanks for being there for your friend-- suicide is so brutal on those close. I'm glad he could toast life.

Wines

While I prefer his dad's wines, the Olivier Humbrecht wines from 1989 & 1990 are impressive, I think it's about '94 he fell excessively in love with riipeness for me

83 Beychevelle- elegant wine from elegant estate. I like the 85 Leo-Barton, though not as much as you liked this bottle. Drank quite a few 96 Ch. du Tertre, alwaus a pleasant wine.

Haven't had the Valmur, but liked the 07 Moreau Clos. Raveneau sounds great.

Nice notes. I hope your friend can carry on and continue to find solace in his friends. Peace.
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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by David M. Bueker » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:32 pm

That's what I call catching up.

As far as I know, Willi Schaefer owns no Juffer Sonnenuhr. Wehlener perhaps?
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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David Lole

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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by David Lole » Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:30 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:That's what I call catching up.

As far as I know, Willi Schaefer owns no Juffer Sonnenuhr. Wehlener perhaps?


Correct .... stupido me .... noted and changed! Thanks for pointing it out,
Cheers,

David
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JC (NC)

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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by JC (NC) » Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:52 pm

I still have one or two bottles of 2003 John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, but to my dismay, it is no longer imported to the USA. My all time favorite Australian Cabernets were bottles of the Wynn John Riddoch from Coonawara. Even the more basic Wynn's Black Label was a good wine IMO.
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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by David Lole » Wed May 01, 2013 4:07 am

JC,

Wynns Coonawarra have returned to former glories over the last 10 years or so with an excellent new viticulturist, Allan Jenkins, whilst retaining the talented (ex-viticulturist) Sue Hodder as chief winemaker. Sarah Pidgeon and Luke Skeer are the two junior winemakers - both harbouring considerable passion and well-acknowledged expertise whilst with this firm. This new team have done some marvellous things together over this period. Some slack was extended from head office (Treasury Wine Estates - ex Southcorp/Penfolds Wine Group) some time back and this revitalised team have done some amazing vineyard improvements as well as resurrecting a red wine style more suited to Coonawarra's famous terra rossa soil/climate in one of the most famous Australian red wine regions. Wishing more producers do likewise! Who wants 14 - 15% a/v, massively oaked, blockbuster Cabernets from Coonawarra, anyway?

I'm sorry you can't source this brand anymore. Majority of blame goes to the high Aussie dollar, but the ongoing effects in America of the GFC and archaic U.S. wine regulations (particularly shipping) may have also have contributed to many of our best brands going to the chopper. "Just too hard" is what I've been told by a few of my contacts ITB as the reason why so many excellent brands are not being exported to the USA today.
Cheers,

David
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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by Andrew Bair » Wed May 01, 2013 11:07 pm

Hi David -

Thank you for the great notes. 1.5 months off is far better than I have done recently. :cry:

Anyway, it is always nice to read some well-written notes on regions that I don't follow that closely - in this case, Australia. I definitely like some of the cooler climate Aussies, as well as the fortified wines, but we don't see too many of the former around here; it is mostly Barossa and McLaren Vale.

Finally, the 1985 Leoville-Barton is a very nice wine - too few Bordeaux have that level of finesse these days.
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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by Jenise » Thu May 02, 2013 11:29 am

Great notes, and I second what Dale said so elegantly. I lost my own mother to suicide, and know what this does to a family.

Get a little thrill every time I see a Seppelts Dorrien mentioned--god, I loved those wines. Such a tragedy that they're gone. Envy you the Raveneau. It seems others appreciate it too: saw that very bottling at auction last weekend going for $185.
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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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by David Lole » Sat May 04, 2013 1:00 pm

Thanks everybody for your kind and compassionate thoughts and comments. I spoke to my friend today who was in good spirits. He has just returned from a business trip to China. He couldn't get over the new wealth generated in recent times and the number of high rollers he encountered over a five day period, although the fun stopped when he boarded the plane to bring him home. 43 hours later he finally arrived back in Canberra! Too long a story to elaborate on, but indeed mightily farcial. Another thing the Chinese are amazingly adept at it seems.
Cheers,

David
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Re: WTN: Catching Up

by David M. Bueker » Sat May 04, 2013 1:11 pm

Oof...that's a long time to be in transit.
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.

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