Back in the saddle!

Hello and apologies for the long absence.  It has been a busy spring for the Newman household and juggling many hats has proven difficult for keeping things here updated.  Life as a professional amateur cyclist who also puts in time as a father, husband, wine advisor/reviewer, fisherman, and has an actual job is difficult!  The good news is that my highly regimented training throughout the winter and spring led to my first podium in a major bike race!  Ok… major race could be up for discussion, but it was a race and I finished 3rd which is the best finish of my short racing career.  I anticipate European teams are scouting me on Zwift given the watts I’m cranking out.  Who knows, I may be riding on the continent next year!  Ha!  I’d give you more details on the race, but I know if you are reading this, you aren’t here for cycling updates.  So I’ll move on to vinous things as we prepare for more regional posts in the near future.

I’ll briefly run through a couple of my highlight wines of the last few months.  I have been fortunate to try many great wines recently (though my wallet has not really been fortunate due to this….) so I will share some tasting notes below:

1980 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: this is especially apropos given the recent sale of this Napa legend.  While for me it was sad to see the Heitz family move away from the place they created hopefully the outstanding terroir will continue to be utilized well.  This bottle was absolutely stellar; the cork had an incredible seal which may have played a role; the nose was beautiful with the classic mint/eucalyptus notes, lots of dark fruits, damp leaf litter, tobacco, a whiff of herbs, and hints of mineral notes. The palate is just singing in perfect harmony; beautiful fruit, mint and spice, and forest floor in a beautifully mature wine. A fabulous example of aged cabernet.  I’ve tasted Martha’s Vineyard 3-4 times now and it truly is an outstanding wine.  This was probably the best one yet.

2002 Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Champans: 2002 has a good reputation in Burgundy and I have tried to find some to taste; this vintage was well before my foray into wine and now they are hard to find and pricey.  I did manage to get 3 bottles of this a few years ago from a great shop outside of Aspen called Catherine’s.  This was the final bottle of the trio and was probably the best bottle of the three I’ve had.  The nose is beautiful and mature with lovely red fruits and floral notes, hints of spice and crushed stone, a bit of mushroom; the palate is just singing with beautiful fruit and more freshness than my prior bottles and it delivers the classic power without weight sensation that I love in Burgundy. Really good and based on this bottle I’d say this has several years left, though my other 2 seemed more mature.

2001 Comte Senard Corton Les Paulands: I purchased this bottle directly from the domaine in 2016.  This was the second of 2 purchased and was fabulous. The nose has a lovely core of red berry fruit, with minerality, forest floor, worn leather, and dried floral notes. Overall the nose is fresher and more vibrant than prior tastings. The palate is quite nice and has lovely balance with resolved tannins and still nice acidity. It lacks the depth of the better grand crus, but is still excellent (not to mention priced below many 1er crus these days).

2010 Louis Michel Chablis 1er Fourchaume: I love Chablis, especially during the spring and summer when the crisp mineral notes of these wines just brightens my mood. This is a great bottle and just now really starting to show itself; opened over the hour or so it took to consume; the nose has lemon zest, green apple, lifted floral notes, and tons of mineral/iodine/seashell notes. The palate has lovely concentration and depth with very good balance and great driving tension. Delicious and should remain so for several more years.  This would be perfect with shrimp, scallops, etc.

1989 Eyrie Pinot Noir: Eyrie remains for me one of the reference point US pinot noir producers.  The history alone of being the first pinot noir producer in Oregon gives them significance, but the wines have been and still are beautiful examples of what the grape can do.  Not a blockbuster style (many, including myself, would argue that pinot noir is not a blockbuster grape and should never be in a blockbuster style, but that is another discussion) but shows the purity and beauty of pinot noir.  This bottle was an absolutely stellar example of beautiful, mature Oregon pinot noir. Those that think wines need lots of extraction, tannins, etc to age should try this. An exquisitely balanced wine that based on this bottle is no where close to being over the hill. The nose is fabulous with orange peel, red currant, dried cherry, just a hint of sweet spices, forest floor, and a whiff of a savory/sanguine note. The palate is supremely elegant with great energy and the classic great pinot characteristic of power/depth without weight. This simply dances across your tongue and yet leaves a lasting note of sweet red berry fruits and autumn woods. Simply a great wine made in the classic Eyrie style and aging fabulously.

2006 Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Clos St Jacques:  If you are a Burgundy fan, then you likely know of Clos St Jacques.  Widely considered to be the best 1er cru in the Cote with maybe Amoureuses and Malconsorts competing, it is a classic Gevrey wine.  Unfortunately the renown of the vineyard means that most of the wines are priced at or above many Grand Crus… This was my first experience with Clos St Jacques and it did not disappoint. The nose is classic Gevrey with dark brambly fruit, black cherry, damp earth, sauvage, and a subtle hint of spice. The palate is where this is really a step above with an added level of depth and concentration, suave but still noticeable tannins, and lovely balance. This is where I can really notice the class; much more power and depth than any other Gevrey 1er I’ve had. Excellent. I bought this for $65 9 years ago…. those were the days…..

2008 Christian Moreau Chablis Les Clos: Many would consider Les Clos to be the epitome of Chablis Grand Cru.  This was the first Les Clos for me and it was quite delicious. The nose is lovely with ripe apple and pear, lime zest, sea breeze, and lilac. The palate has another level of concentration and intensity with fabulous fruit and mineral flavors that seem to sear into your tongue.  With all the intensity it somehow retains an ethereal balance though the finish lasts over a minute.  Wow.  I need more of this!

2012 Arnaud Ente Meursault: I’ve never been into white Burgundy on the same level as red, but the wines from Ente may change that.  See my prior post regarding their wines for a bit more info.  This is another excellent bottle and it punches above village level class. The nose is lovely with a bit richer and riper flavors than the ’11. Lovely orchard fruits, just a tiny hint of matchstick, a whiff of gardenia, a bit of wood spice, and crushed stone notes. The palate is also riper than the ’11, but still has exquisite balance and energy with beautifully judged acidity. A finish that lingers. Excellent.  Too bad these are hard to find and overpriced….

2015 Domaine Dujac Chambolle-Musigny:  I don’t get the chance to drink much Dujac as the prices are generally stratospheric.  2015 has gotten tons of hype in Burgundy (as well as most of Europe) and I must say the few I’ve tried are fabulous.  This was young for sure, but I had to try it given the reasonable price on a restaurant list; beautiful nose with ripe, rich and pure red berry fruits, lovely floral notes, and spice. The palate certainly shows the ripeness of the vintage, but maintains great balance with lovely energy and no hints of roasted/overly ripe flavors. While it is polished and modern, it is really a lovely village level Chambolle that has tons of upside for the cellar given the balance and concentration of the purity of the fruit.

2003 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia: Conterno is considered by many to be the reference point producer in Piedmont and his Monfortino is arguably the best/most famous wine in all of Italy.  While I haven’t gotten the chance to drink too much wine from the estate, the wines I have had do nothing but enhance my opinion.  2003 was not a good year in Piedmont as the grapes suffered from too much heat and drought and the already tannic nebbiolo became thicker skinned and even more tannic.  However, this is an example of what superb winemakers can do in “off” vintages; this is stellar; this bottle was still quite young with loads of dark berry fruit, tar, floral notes, leather, dusty earth, and tobacco. The palate is still dense with formidable, but ripe tannins, good energy, and no hints of excess ripeness or roasted flavors. Just powerful, delicious Barolo that was excellent with truffle stuffed pork loin.

2001 Chateau Cos d’Estournel: As I generally rotate much more in the Burgundy world I don’t often buy Bordeaux.  On a trip to Virginia recently though, a restaurant did not have the Burgundy I requested so I opted to change gears and try this mature-ish Bordeaux.  It turned out to be a great choice as this was superb. In fact probably in the top 3 Bordeaux I’ve had (which granted is limited). Probably not as good as a 1982 Leoville-Poyferre but otherwise better than or as good as anything I’ve tasted. Lovely nose with mature notes starting but still quite a lot of juicy fruit. Creme de cassis, blackberry, lovely spice, cedar, cigar box, hints of mushroom and earth, just a touch of floral notes, anise and leather. The palate is elegant and perfectly balanced with great fruit and concentration. Feels lithe and yet full at the same time with a lingering and delicious finish. Seems to be near peak but likely drinking well for another 10-20 years easily based on this bottle.

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera: I love nebbiolo and though I don’t drink a ton of it (mostly due to the perceived need for bottle age and certain types of food) every time I have a bottle like this I move it back into my rotation.  Vajra has a great reputation and the wines are still reasonably priced compared to some of his counterparts in Barolo.  I found this in a shop while traveling recently to celebrate my niece’s graduation from high school.  I wasn’t sure how it would drink at this tender, young age, but this showing was incredible. I did open it about 5 hours before drinking to try to allow it time to open. The nose was excellent with lovely red berry fruits, mint, leather, tobacco, tar, spring floral notes, and a hint of mushroom. The palate was better than I expected with the tannins certainly there, but not aggressive or too drying. My first Barolo from Vajra and I will certainly be on the look for more as this was excellent.

There you have my top 10ish wines of the last couple of months.  There were more excellent bottles, but I suspect most of you are tired of reading.  One other note on wine stuff; I recently read Allen Meadows tome on Vosne-Romanee, The Pearl of the Cote.  It was absolutely scintillating and a fabulous read.  Yes, you probably need to be fully into the Burgundy dork spectrum to enjoy it, but if you are, it is a fascinating review of the history of the village, all of the 1er and grand cru vineyards, and has excellent info on who owns what within the village.  So if you need some light reading, I highly recommend this.

Ok, that will be it for now, however I’ll be attempting to be back and more engaged with more regular updates and posts including regional reviews as well as shorter, easier to digest quick hitters.  I am also in full prep mode for my upcoming trip to Burgundy in September so I’ll be sure to pass along pertinent things as I come across them.  I certainly hope you all have had the chance to drink some killer bottles recently as well and would love to hear about them if you have!

J. Newman, CSW


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