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Robin Garr

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December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Robin Garr » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:19 pm

It's holiday season around the world, and winter in coming in the North. These are two good reasons to celebrate with the warming nature of sweet and/or fortified wines and to celebrate with the fun of cork-popping bubblies. So the whole world of these festive wines opens up for our inspection this month, from the great classics like Port, Sherry, late-harvest Rieslings and Chenins and, of course, Champagne to all the other national and regional wines made in these styles.

I'm not sure where I'm going to begin, but I'm sure looking forward to it! Bring on your posts as soon as you've got them, or even before you start pulling and popping corks, let us know what you're hoping to try!
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JC (NC)

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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by JC (NC) » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:19 am

I'll be reporting on the Sandeman 20 Year Tawny Port and probably on some late harvest or Auslese Rieslings. I have a Cremant de Limoux Rose' that may or may not get opened this month.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:40 pm

Some LBVs lined up here Chez Bob plus some late harvest goodies from land of Oz.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Robin Garr » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:50 pm

We've got a passively aged '94 Duff Gordon VP over here. Not that great a producer, and I doubt the wine's likely to get any better. I probably ought to be hoping that it's not too late!
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Paul Winalski

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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Paul Winalski » Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:23 pm

Robin,

Do you mean anything by "passively aged" other than "aged in a cellar that had no active cooling system"?

-Paul W.
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David M. Bueker

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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by David M. Bueker » Mon Dec 02, 2013 8:07 pm

The wife says she wants to have some Port. I might be involved this month after all.
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Robin Garr » Tue Dec 03, 2013 9:10 am

Paul Winalski wrote:Do you mean anything by "passively aged" other than "aged in a cellar that had no active cooling system"?

No.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sandeman 20 Year Tawny Port

by JC (NC) » Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:54 pm

Still working on this bottle which was opened on Thanksgiving Day. I have a small pour each day. 20% abv. Somewhat darker amber in color. Prune, dried apricot and nuts on the nose. Dried fruits, caramel and toffee on the palate (nuts not obvious on the taste buds.) This Port is not overly sweet but more in the style of a dryer Tawny such as the Cockburn that I like. I enjoyed sipping it with a couple Werther's Chewy Caramels or on its own after dinner. Very enjoyable.

Next up is a Sauternes but probably not for another week or ten days.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by David M. Bueker » Sat Dec 07, 2013 7:47 pm

2008 Graham's LBV Port
The after dinner pour on my Lufthansa flights today. Not bad. Good, solid flavors with just a bit too much alcohol showing. Wines never show their best in the air, so I am going to give this one the benefit of the doubt.
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by JC (NC) » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:37 pm

Are you in Germany now? Never mind, David. Saw the note below about your destination.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Clint Hall » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:07 pm

Pike & Western, a wine shop on the edge of Seattle's Pike's Market, holds an annual Champagne tasting at this time of year, a sort of pre-New Year's party for regular customers. As usual, the emphasis this year was on grower Champagnes, providing a much more interesting night out than predictable big house wines. Here are this year's Champagne selections, described rather sketchily as I took no notes.

NV GASTON CHIQUET "TRADITION' BRUT" proved a tasty effort and a good buy at $42 and change, but it immediately took a back seat to its vintage Chiquet companion, the remarkably accessible

2004 GASTON CHIQUET BRUT. Although not disgorged until this year, in May, this luscious 60% Pinot Noir 40% Chardonnay Brut is drinking suprisingly well now, and it will no doubt get even better with a little more time. My number-two wine of the night and headed for my cellar. A big favorite with the crowd.

NV DOMAINE MARIE CORTON "CUVEE RESONANCE" EXTRA BRUT. This no dosage wine, also disgorged in May 2013, is lean enough to be a worthy companion for oysters even though it's all Pinot Noir. .

2009 DOMAINE MARIE CORTON "CUVEE EFFLORESCENCE" EXTRA BRUT, also no dosage, and also disgorged in May 2013. One bottle of this searing 100% Pinot Noir is headed for a corner in my cellar where I will try to keep my hands off it for several years. Had my wife and friends shared my enthusiasm for this exciting wine I would have bought more. But unfortunately extra bruts aren't everybody's Champagne. My WOTN.

NV PIERRE GIMONNET & fILS "CUVEE CUIS" BRUT appeared to me to show relatively little of the considerable complexity and verve of the other five Champagnes.

NV VILMART & CIE "CUVEE RUBIS" BRUT ROSE provided an impressive and more expensive but not necessarily more intresting saignee contrast for the five whites, and I think created less excitement than the remarkable 2004 Gaston Chiquet Brut and the 2009 Marie Courtin "Cuvee Efflorescence."
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Robin Garr » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:41 am

My 30 Second Wine Advisor E-letter yesterday bore on this topic, involving an "aging experiment" with a decidedly second-tier Vintage Port aged 12 years under less than ideal conditions.

Any old Port in a storm?

So you want to enjoy a mature, well-aged wine without spending a bundle, but you can't afford a temperature-controlled wine cellar? Go with Madeira, most any savvy wine geek will advise. As far back as the 15th century, the sturdy wines of this Portuguese-ruled Atlantic island were being built to survive ocean voyages and last for the long haul.

This good advice still holds. But the savvy wine geek's usual second suggestion, Vintage Port, takes a bit more analysis. Vintage Port, or "VP" to those who know it well enough to use nicknames, can last for generations indeed. But to find a keeper requires a little knowledge and a lot of good advice. The producer's record and, perhaps even more important, the vintage, matter.

I wrapped up a 12-year experiment the other day, pulling cork from the second bottle of a Duff Gordon 1994 Port that I had originally purchased and first sampled in 2001, then kept on a wine rack in a cool but not cellar-quality home location since.

Cutting to the chase, the bottle was still drinkable. But I can't say it was any better than when I first sampled it only seven years after the vintage, a practice that's not recommended for the higher-end VPs that may need 20 years to come around in a good vintage.

To expand on that a little, 1994 was indeed a splendid vintage. Duff Gordon, however, is not normally ranked among the top-tier Port producers. The label is owned by Osborne, a giant Spanish Sherry producer that purchased the old Duff Gordon property in the 1960s. Osborne makes a Port under its own label, but also unveils a Duff Gordon VP every now and then. More "then" than "now," as this 1994 appears to be its most recent release.

In short, there is a good reason why this VP cost only $25 a decade-plus back, in a market where its more upscale cousins commanded a still quite reasonable $50 to $75 or so: It's just not that great a wine, a truth that was revealed when I pulled the cork and found a short, tiny tree-bark stopper a fraction the size of the massive plug more commonly inserted into Ports meant for the long haul. It was also bottled in 1996, only two years after the vintage, another practice that suggests a Port made more for drinking up than laying down.

All that being said, I was pleased to get a good, licorice-plum Port scent when I opened the bottle. As I decanted it, I was surprised to find relatively little sediment in the bottle. And then I noticed The Blob. What is this gross thing? A big, gelatinous, reddish-purple blob that resembled a sizable dollop of cranberry jelly came out of the bottle. What was it? Mother of vinegar, I guessed, prompting me to fret that much of the flavor might have been sapped out of the wine.

Good news: It was actually pretty good, although I think I liked it a little better 12 years ago, when it was loaded with fruit and perhaps at its peak. Now it's thin and light. If you have any left - even in a better cellar - you may want to consider drinking it soon.

Today's Tasting Report

Duff Gordon 1994 Vintage Porto ($24.99 in 2001)

Despite its time under less than optimal conditions and the odd jelly-like "mother of vinegar" that had developed in the bottle, here was absolutely no sign of vinegar and none of Sherry-like aromas or browning. It seems thin and rather light for a mature VP, though, clear dark garnet in color, with good Port scents of black plums and licorice. Aromas carry over on the palate, sweet but acidic, medium-bodied and not overly "sticky" sweet. Its 20.5% alcohol is standard for Port, and the wine carries it well. Tannins seem largely resolved, although there's still some astringency joining the fresh-fruit acidity in the finish. U.S. importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (Dec. 6, 2013)

FOOD MATCH: Personally, I like to drink Port and other sweet fortified wines as dessert rather than with dessert, so I need no accompaniment. That said, however, such traditional accompaniments as cracked walnuts or pecans (or nuts in general) and cheeses will serve just fine. Blue Stilton cheese is a British tradition, and blue cheeses will certainly work, but a sharp, aged Cheddar does the job very well for me.

WHEN TO DRINK: As discussed, while Vintage Port is considered a great candidate for aging, both high-quality storage conditions and some discernment of producer and vintage in the original purchase are important factors, too.

VALUE: The original $25 price tag was a good deal even at the original purchase. There's apparently little left in the marketplace, based on limited Wine-Searcher.com "hits," which offer it in the $30 to $50 range.

WEB LINK: Palm Bay Imports no longer has Duff Gordon in its portfolio. For an interesting company biography, see this article on the Jerez-Xeres-Sherry blog.
http://jerez-xeres-sherry.blogspot.com/ ... ordon.html

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
If you really want it at this late date, Wine-Searcher.com offers limited U.S. listings. Wine-Searcher Pro adds a half-dozen European vendors but no more in the U.S.
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Duff+ ... g_site=WLP

To learn more about Vintage Port and to find an extended list of VPs and vendors, browse this link at Wine-Searcher.com.
http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-vi ... g_site=WLP

Online edition:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvis ... 131213.php
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Clint Hall » Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:14 pm

Robin, the Pro version of Wine Searcher shows two US shops as having the 1994 Duff Gordon, Premier Wine & Spirits in Fairfield CT at $29.99 and Schnieders of Capitol Hill in Washington DC at $49.99. Surprisingly a couple of shops in Engtland have it at considerably higher prices, the US equivalent of $65 abd $80.

I wasn't able to call up CellarTrackerTNs on your wine but the dozen or so scores there were all over the board, from the low 90s on down to undrinkable. Maybe there's a lot of bottle variation?

So you found the wine better years ago, when you bought it. I had the good luck to attend several tastings of the 1994 VPs on release, and the Taylors, Fonsecas, Dows, and even Warres and Grahams and others were exceptionally forthcoming and luscious at the time. Several years later they were shut down, and I have a hunch the bigger ones might not be as enjoyable at this in-between juncture as they were on release. Deciding when to open VPs is a tough guessing game, but I'm going to guess your wine is over the hill, given its storage conditions, but then it may be snoozing, or the victim of some sort of bottle variation.

Your 1994 Duff Gordon wine reminds me I have a notably undistinguished VP in my callar, a Broadbent, which maybe I got as a gift. Probably I'll open it and see what's going on.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Robin Garr » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:32 pm

Clint Hall wrote:Robin, the Pro version of Wine Searcher shows two US shops as having the 1994 Duff Gordon, Premier Wine & Spirits in Fairfield CT at $29.99 and Schnieders of Capitol Hill in Washington DC at $49.99. Surprisingly a couple of shops in Engtland have it at considerably higher prices, the US equivalent of $65 abd $80.

Clint, that's sort of what I said: Wine-Searcher's free version shows the two US shops ... only. The Pro version adds the European shops and includes the two in the US.

If I didn't make it clear in the surrounding article, in any case, I would not pay $50 - or even $30 - for this '94. There are too many other good opportunities to enjoy better Port. I don't believe Osborne/Duff Gordon ever intended this wine for keeping. The cork was smaller than some I have pulled from Soave or Valpolicella.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Dec 15, 2013 5:11 am

WTN: 2010 Scarborough Wine Co Sémillon Late Harvest New South Wales (split).

Friend just back from the land of Oz, think he said cellar-door sale. Lovely attractive dessert wine, sweet and balanced, fair acidity, honey peach and watermelon. Way too young of course but what the heck!

http://www.scarboroughwine.com.au/
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:28 pm

WTN: 2010 Rudera Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
$32.99 (375mL)

Local wine bar steps out with a CB! Nose has some smoky botrytis aromas. Light to medium-bodied, it has lovely depth, and a silky-textured character. Botrytis, fresh almonds, white peaches and spices all add to the expressive character. Drink it over the next 5-6 years, went well with creme caramel.

Have been spoilt this past week I think! Next up late-harvest Tannat from Uruguay.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Paul Winalski » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:03 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Any old Port in a storm?


No, drink it only in bad weather. Any old storm for a Port.

-Paul W.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by JC (NC) » Thu Dec 19, 2013 3:19 pm

2009 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines, Sauternes, France. 13.5% abv. Attracttve golden color. Fragrant, with apricot and pineapple and botrytis. Apricot is the predominant flavor with perhaps some honey. Rich but at this stage of its evolution, not showing much complexity. I prefer the 2007 vintage but maybe the 2009 will match it in future years.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Richard Fadeley » Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:44 am

JC (NC) wrote:2009 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines, Sauternes, France. 13.5% abv. Attracttve golden color. Fragrant, with apricot and pineapple and botrytis. Apricot is the predominant flavor with perhaps some honey. Rich but at this stage of its evolution, not showing much complexity. I prefer the 2007 vintage but maybe the 2009 will match it in future years.

I hope you are right. I've got 8 more bottles of the '09 D-V, and it is an enjoyable wine right now, but hopefully get better. To compare it to the '07 is a little unfair. That was not only an excellent vintage for Sauternes, but it is obviously 2 years older already.
It should be fun to watch the '09 D-V evolve.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Rahsaan » Sat Dec 21, 2013 1:47 am

Ir's only moderately sweet, but the 2003 Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Auslese is as close as I'm likely to come over the next few weeks.

Blind, I'm not sure I would have picked this as '03, but then I haven't been drinking lots of '03 German rieslings recently. It definitely has a core of sweetness and I suppose the relative lack of brisk bracing mineral elements belie the vintage. But it's certainly not a plodding stereotype of 03 and it has plenty of easy pleasure. Now I'm looking forward to some '02 LMH Ausleses that I also recently purchased but have yet to try.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Keith M » Sat Dec 21, 2013 7:13 pm

Rahsaan wrote:2003 Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Auslese
Pardon my ignorance, but is there a geographic connection between this vineyard and Von Schubert's property? Or is 'Maximiner' a quasicommon qualifier of vineyard names?
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Rahsaan » Sat Dec 21, 2013 11:25 pm

They are not far from each other, and if you look on a map it appears as if the two properties were on opposite sides of the same hill, so maybe there is some (old) connection? But of course I have no idea. Maybe someone else does?
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Paul Winalski » Mon Dec 23, 2013 9:21 pm

I opened a 750ml bottle of Chateau Rieussec 1989 tonight. I bought this on futures and it's been in my cellar since I took delivery.

The color is a deep gold. There are tell-tale aromas of Botrytis shoe-polish, as the backdrop to an incredibly complex cascade of sweet fruit aromas--orange, lemon, grapefruit, coconut--and hints of clove or allspice. The wine feels thick and unctuous in the mouth. The flavors are perfectly balanced and incredibly complex. This wine is very, very sweet, but the balancing acidity is there, and at no point is it ever cloying. Everything slides seamlessly into a finish that rushes out into that "peacock tail" you expect from a great sweet wine, and then fades away gradually over the next several minutes.

At twenty-four, this wine is just gliding up to its peak. If you own any of this, there's no hurry, but if you do open it, you will be rewarded by a great wine experience.

Triple Curly.

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Re: December Wine Focus: Sweet, Fortified and Bubbly

by Tom NJ » Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:04 am

2007 Khvanchkara "Private Reserve" *cough* "Red Semi Sweet". 12 % alc., $17 +/-.

My wife just had to buy this Georgia (Republic, not peach) bottle when she saw it on the shelf at my local shop about 3 years ago. I don't know why we didn't open it immediately (fear?), but it stayed resting on the bottom shelf of my wine fridge til two nights ago when I was poking around for something to open on Christmas Eve while watching "The Grinch" cartoon....which is the ONLY version of the Grinch, thankyouverymuch.

I was surprised how much sediment this thing had thrown, so I stood it up for 24 hours before decanting it. It wasn't as mucky as an old V. Port, but it wasn't that far behind either. I didn't have much hope when I saw that.

However I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled the (very, very short) cork. The nose was good initially, it decanted nicely, and the color was very pretty - not brownish at all.

The taste was also better than I expected (which wasn't much). It was quite pleasant actually, gulped it down between bites of panettone and choruses of "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch." The sweetness wasn't cloying, and it was nicely balanced for the type. Granted, the aromas were very muted, it was pretty thin on the palate, and there was no finish to speak of. But the flavors - while they lasted - were tasty enough and it was perfectly matched to the occassion. And really, isn't that the best that can be said of any wine?

Unfortunately, it didn't make it all the way to the bottom. After about a half an hour it was definitely listing towards Madeira. I guess the sediments weren't lying. Still, we drank it down to the punt anyway. It's what the Grinch would have done after the roast beast was gone. :D

Merry Christmas, everyone!
Last edited by Tom NJ on Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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