There were 7 of us recently at Erbaluce for dinner. The kitchen delivered some fantastic plates and folks brought some tremendous wines. The wines were not served blind, and just about every red wine saw time in decanters for a while before we got around to trying them.
Champagnes and white wines:
2002 Camille Savès Champagne Grand Cru. This Champagne is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. Right from the start, I can tell I’m really going to like the wine, as it opens with a beautiful nose of apple, pear and crushed rock aromas that are refined, clear, lifted and brilliantly-honed. In the mouth, it shows tremendous energy, life and joie de vivre to go along with a sense of precision and focus. Elements of toasted bread, apple, pear and taut minerality all jump right up to be noticed but at the same time flow so smoothly through the palate journey. This is all about presence allied to refinement, with a fanned out but taut mouthfeel. It’s drinking just wonderfully, and has to be added to the growing list of 2002’s that I’ve had over the past year that are seemingly right there in the zone and truly delivering the goods (e.g. Goutorbe Special Club, Chiquet Millesime Or, Dhondt BdB VV, Pol Roger, Milan Terres de Noel, etc.).
1999 Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Cuvée Palmes d'Or. This is more rounded and perhaps prettier on the nose, featuring gentle chalky aromas of lemon peel, apple and graphite that are easy-going and open but not nearly as exciting. In the mouth, it’s rather expansive and fanned-out, with good resolution to the open-knit flavors of apple, lemon and mineral. It’s not especially cut or zippy, but instead easy-sipping, gentle and giving.
2008 Château d'Epiré Savennières Cuvée Spéciale. This is exceedingly tight and muted on the nose, with rather reserved aromas of beeswax and honey only occasionally popping out for a brief look around. Otherwise, it’s not showing much, even after a few hours on this night and then over several days in the refrigerator after that. In the mouth, it displays an oily texture and matted mouthfeel that give it kind of a surprisingly thick and bottom-heavy feel at times. But my major beef is that there’s just no flavor to be found here. It seems to lack any semblence of life, really, as it maybe gives up some steeped lemon tea and lanolin impressions but little else. Everything about it just feels flat and boring to me, and my guess is that it’s shut down awfully hard right now.
2007 Pieropan Soave Classico La Rocca. CORKED.
2010 Domaine de la Pinte Chardonnay Arbois Pupillin Fonteneille. This wine has a very nice nose that delivers peppery and prickly aromas of white peach, pear, smoke, chalk, schist, canteloupe and alpine meadow that are pleasingly evocative and inviting. In the mouth, it’s lovely-tasting, with flavors of spiced pears, crushed shells, white peach, green melon, white pepper and blanched nuts. It’s pithy in texture and finely-layered, with a fanned out and squeaky finish that shows a solid earthiness and fine acidic lift that’s clean and lasting. It’s very enjoyable all around.
2006 Boekenhoutskloof Sémillon Franschhoek Valley. This semillon from South Africa is quite smoky on the nose, with underlying scents of lime, lemon, jalapeno pepper, green herbs, oak and vanilla. In the mouth, it fleshy-textured to be sure, but also coolly acidic in support of the vanilla, canteloupe and botanical herb types of flavors. It is certainly interesting in the way it successfully straddles the line between fruity/fleshy and herbal/acidic, but I have to admit I just didn’t really connect with it all that much on this night for some reason.
2007 Tolaini Valdisanti Tenuta S. Giovanni Toscana IGT. This is dark, fudgy and a bit obvious on the nose, with dense aromas of black cherry, black olive, anise, vanilla and rubber band that are powerful but not especially nuanced or intriguing. It’s better on the palate and is showing more open for business than the last time I tried it a few years ago. Still, it’s dark, ropy-textured and chewy initially, gently turning prettier and more refined the longer it sits in the glass. It’s still young and a bit inelegant, but it seems to be moving in the right direction. I’d say re-visit in 18 months or so.
1997 Tenuta Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino. Although occasionally marred by hints of volatility, the nose here is still rather pretty, with brightly-pitched aromas of baked cherries, red flowers, red licorice and rawhide leather, with more grounded scents of smoked meat and horsey funk growing increasingly strong with time and air. It feels a bit dry-edged and maybe a little leathery-textured in the mouth, but there’s a really nice beam of bright cherry, red currant and cranberry fruit flavor that carries things along quite nicely. It’s certainly a bit old-fashioned and again at times feels just a bit volatile, but it makes for pretty nice drinking right now nonetheless.
2000 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole. This is a very attractive bottle of Barolo, starting with the decidedly pretty bouquet of bridle leather, black cherries, cocoa, mocha, violets, lilacs, funky earth and cooler stone aromas that are very open, giving and fun. In the mouth, it’s loaded with flavors of dried plums, baking spices, black cherries, leather and roasted coffee that open up really nicely through the mid-palate. It features a pliant texture and good structure but not all that much in the way of tannic interference, as demonstrated by the clean and lasting impression it leaves on the finish. I really like this.
1996 Stefano Farina Barolo. This is an open and largely-resolved bottle of Barolo, starting with the gentle and soft-focused aromas of rose petals, tar, cherry, black leather, and clay. It’s similar in the mouth, where one finds easy-going flavors of smoked cherries, cranberries, licorice rope, tobacco and dusty dry earth that are moderately fleshy and fanned out through the middle before cinching up a bit toward the more acidic finish. Despite the fact that it doesn’t demonstrate the breeding or complexity of some of the other wines on the table, it’s pretty good and it’s ready to go now.
1996 Roagna Barolo Riserva La Rocca e La Pira. This wine is showing off a really inviting bouquet right now, featuring lovely aromas of creamed cherries, suede leather, turned earth, purple flowers and exotic perfume. It’s seductive, fun and just plain beautiful. In the mouth, it’s complex, layered and full of delicious spiced cherry, red currant and raspberry flavors that have a fine old-fashioned personality to them. It’s still quite youthful, though, with refined tannins lurking in the background, lots of structure and a drying acidity toward the finish. It’s a complete wine with winning qualities all around, but I’ll likely wait a few more years before delving back in.
1997 Marcarini Barolo Brunate. This is absolutely lovely on the nose, with pretty and perfumed scents of dried flowers, tar, leather, charcoal, sour cherry and brown spices. On the palate, it delivers loads of cherry, red currant and cassis flavors accented by a delightful inner mouth perfume. I really like the bright and lifted finishing kick, too. It’s not brutally tannic, but there’s still a lot of sneaky structure to this and a bit of a chewy texture to suggest it might be best to hold a while longer. Still, this is tremendous and I’m glad to have a few resting in my cellar.
2005 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato. This starts out with lifted and lilting aromas of crushed rose petals, violets, cherries, raspberries and charred earth that are quite nice. Even at this young age, it’s hardly a palate-bruiser, with a languid flow and a creamy texture to it. Classy earth-accented flavors of cherry, leather and flowery bits are tasty and giving. But as time goes on, the structure really starts to close in and the tannins do begin to clamp down, making me feel like another decade or so of aging will do nice things to this wine.
1997 Foreau Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Moelleux Réserve. CORKED. That hurts.
2009 G&M Machmer Riesling Bechtheimer Rosengarten Eiswein Rheinhessen. On the nose, this is loaded with ripe tropical fruit aromas like pineapple, mango and kiwi, but also enticing hints of grapefruit, quince and honeysuckle. It has pretty good lift in the mouth to go along with unctuous flavors of kiwi, guava, melon, peach, pineapple and baking spice. It’s thick and luscious, with a cushy texture and plenty of length already for such a young wine. Really, I see no reason not to enjoy this right now.
1988 Château Suduiraut Sauternes. This wine delivers a dark, sexy, smoldering bouquet of dried apricots, dried pineapples, spiced peaches, burnt orange peel and a little odd twist of mint leaf. It’s pretty, but with decidedly smoky undertones that really seem to define it. In the mouth, it’s packed with flavors or baked peaches, orange zest, mint, botrytis spice and again that smoky undercurrent. It’s full-bodied, rich and heady, with good acidic twang all the way through. It’s not the sweetest style of Suduiraut, but it’s layered, long and very tasty.