Tasting weekends

I have had 2 celebrations recently with some great wines consumed. One was my wife’s birthday celebration (which was more than one day for the record) and then we had some great friends come in for the weekend and in honor of them we opened several great bottles. Here is a review of some of the best recently sampled:

Giacomo Conterno Barolo 1970 – disclaimer, I love old nebbiolo. I love the orangish-brown color, the haunting perfume, the flavor that seems out of proportion to the light color in the glass. So yes I’m biased, but this was a great wine. Still had a solid seal on the cork. The nose was simply exquisite… dried mint, forest floor, dried rose petal, dusty library, dried cherry, a bit of balsam, and orange peel. The smells were constantly changing and so intriguing. The palate was elegant, almost delicate, but delivered pretty and intense flavors with a surprising amount of tannic structure. The finish was a tad blocked up by the structure, but that’s just nitpicking. A treat to try an older wine from my personal favorite Barolo producer.

Ridge Monte Bello 2007 – this wine had multiple special meanings as my friends recently had a milestone anniversary and their wedding happened to take place very close to Monte Bello. In fact we mountain biked the “monte” a couple days before the ceremony! So it was only fitting to try one. Again, disclaimer, Monte Bello is probably my favorite American cabernet blend (Spottswoode is a close second or maybe tie for first) so my view may be biased, but this was stunningly good. It is still in its infancy for my personal taste, but that made it no less enjoyable. Still very dark in color with a nose of ripe blueberry, cassis, dark plum, cedar, green tobacco, some herbal nuance and spice notes from oak. With air the fruit becomes more dominant and a floral hint develops. The palate is perfectly balance with incredible concentration and intensity, yet still balanced and in the world of US cab quite elegant. There is plenty of underlying structure and despite the elegant feel, this is without a doubt a very powerful wine. Excellent now with food, but lots of development potential ahead.

Eyrie Original Vines pinot noir 2006 – this was the last bottle of my first “major” wine purchase about 12 years ago. A tasting at Eyrie in their McMinnville tasting room further opened my eyes to the Dundee Hills of Oregon and I bought 6 bottles (including 3 of this). That tasting was with my visiting friends, so only fitting to drink with them! The nose here shows the ripeness of the vintage with baked cherry, raspberry, and even a hint of cola. With air this freshens and has some lovely floral notes, lovely baking spice and some Asian spices, and just the earliest hint of mushroom and leather. The palate is still classic Eyrie and is very elegant and ethereal. A lovely long finish. Superb.

Michel Lafarge Volnay 1er cru Caillerets 2006 – this was opened to compare to the Eyrie and while it wasn’t as good on the night, this probably has the better future. This bottle seemed quite young and not really ready to reveal itself. In retrospect I’d like to taste it again in 6-8 years. The nose again shows the ripe vintage with darker fruits than normal, classic Caillerets mineral and stone notes, and lifted floral tones. The palate is a bit tight and structured, not fully unfurling, but still very good. One to keep in the cellar if you have it.

Faiveley Echezeaux 2009 – this was also young, but more open and quite tasty. There was plenty of ripe fruit, but also a feral and game meat note that added lovely complexity. There was just a hint of Vosne spice and violets. The palate was very powerful and this baby has plenty of time ahead of it.

Graham’s vintage Port 1977 – older Port is something that I don’t drink much, but really do enjoy. This was paired with an incredible flourless chocolate cake and it was really quite heavenly. Dried plums, fig cake, spiced raisins, and a hint of holiday tea blend. The palate is suave and delicious with lingering, sticky finish that begs you to sip again. Just be careful with the extra fortification!

Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape 1995 – I tend not to drink or buy much Chateauneuf anymore due to the excessive ripeness and ETOH in the wines these days, but it was one of my initial favorite regions and I still really enjoy the more classic expressions. This bottle of Pegau was absolutely pristine. The cork had an unbelievable seal and looked nearly new. This likely contributed to the crystalline purity in the bottle. The fruit was so pure and almost pixellated in feel. Alongside this is tobacco, leather, garrigue, and lavender. The intensity of the flavor with nearly no weight is just lovely. Great stuff.

Heitz Martha’s Vineyard cabernet sauvignon 1981 – I had this wine earlier this year and it seemed shockingly young. This bottle was slightly more advanced, but also impressively young for a 40 year old wine. The nose was full of rich cassis, crushed blueberry, mint, eucalyptus, a hint of bell pepper, damp earth, cigar box, and violet. With air the fruit actually became fresher and the wine seemed more primary! The palate was impressively robust and rich with a huge amount of fruit and spices. The finish was intense and long. Great showing with ribeyes!

Domaine JL Chave Hermitage 2000 – Chave is a special wine for my wife and I and she requested one for her birthday. First time having this vintage and it was really very good. This bottle seemed to be definitely approaching its peak of maturity. Delicious ripe dark fruit (plums, black raspberry, black currant), smoked meats, dried violet, damp earth and crushed rock. The palate is full bodied and has plenty of power, but remains very well balanced and delivers a long and pure finish. Should drink well now and for another 5-10 years.

Domaine Forey Clos de Vougeot 2012 – last, but not least, Forey is a slightly under the radar producer based in Vosne who makes very good wines. Many of them still offer quite excellent value (considering today’s Burgundy market). This Clos de Vougeot has immense potential, but was really too young. The nose was super primary with ripe dark fruit and classic Vougeot damp earth. The structure on the palate kept things relatively tightened up. The potential was there and with time the nose will develop more complexity and the palate will open up. Given this another 5+ years to enjoy it in prime time.

Given the crazy times in the world recently, my approach has been to drink special wines with special people as often as I can because who knows what tomorrow holds… obviously there has to be some moderation in that approach to maintain health, but you get my point. I hope you all are also enjoying some stellar bottles out there!

Until next time,

J. Newman, CSW

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