New Year’s and DRC

It’s been a wild fall and winter so far. COVID continues to run rampant and mess up the best laid plans…This makes travel and wine tasting more difficult and in some cases nearly impossible. So instead, we decided to have some close friends over to celebrate the new year and open some memorable bottles. Here are some notes regarding some of the best ones:

The first night’s fare was a cheese plate and olive appetizer followed by antelope backstrap and lamb chops with a cross over spice rub with an herbed potato gallette. Dessert was ricotta pound cake with blood orange glaze.

Jacquesson Cuvee 732: Jacquesson is one of my favorite Champagne producers and I buy their wines regularly. The numbered cuvee series is their standard wine and each number corresponds to a vintage that makes the majority of the base wine with some reserve wine blended in. I also find that these wines take some time to come around; in their youth they can be austere and tight, but with some cellar time they gain complexity and open up. The 732 is the oldest of the numbered cuvees I’ve had and it is based on the 2004 vintage. This had a lovely nose of almost honeyed apples, jasmine and pear blossom, brioche and crushed stone. The palate is silky and elegant, with a lovely mouthfeel; the effervescence slightly reduced by the bottle age. A long finish of sweet orchard fruit. Just goes to show that aging Champagne is worth it!

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1981: a second growth from Pauillac; this is from a very average vintage. However, this particular bottle was a late release direct from the Chateau in 2021; so essentially it was cellared on site and not moved for nearly 40 years before being released; that provenance certainly helped this wine as it showed quite well and much better than a prior bottle I sampled. The nose still has plenty of dark fruit though maybe it is moving into the dried fruit spectrum, there is green tobacco and mint, a hint of bell pepper, dried cedar, dried violet, and damp earth. The complexity on the nose is lovely. The palate has excellent freshness considering the age with plenty of fruit and fully resolved tannins. A lovely harmonious finish brings to close what is certainly a very enjoyable Bordeaux.

Chateau de Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone 2005: generally a 16 year old Cotes du Rhone would not be something to look forward to; however Fonsalette is the sister estate to the famed Chateau Rayas in Chateauneuf. The Rayas wines are quite pricey (Fonsalette is now also sadly…) but I picked this up relatively cheaply about 6 years ago. Syrah based and from a site close to the northern Rhone, this is excellent. Red berry fruits, garrigue and spice, violet, lavendar, hints of smoke and leather. The palate is still well defined and exquisitely balanced. Good if not great depth and a lovely spice tinged finish. This is probably about at its peak, but should continue to hold.

Alain Burguet Chambertin Clos de Beze 2008: of course we had to put some Burgundy in the mix! 2008 was a cooler year with higher acids and in some cases underripe fruit. I’ve had some hits and misses in sampling them, but this was a definite win. A lovely nose of bright red berry fruits and floral notes initially; it gains density, spice, and the fruit turns a bit more black/blue with air; further time brings out more spice and some sanguine hints. The palate is fully ripe, though definitely not a blockbuster especially for Clos de Beze. It has a lovely elegance with still good intensity and a lingering finish. A very well made wine that still has plenty of life.

Chateau d’Yquem 2013: this is from a 375ml bottle; Yquem rarely disappoints, and this certainly doesn’t. The nose is explosive and rich. Honeyed apricot and mango, orange and peach blossom, vanilla and clove, a hint of botrytis; with air orange marmalade and peach pie; the palate is decadent, but fresh, more elegant than you would expect based on the nose. The finish lingers for minutes. Great stuff.

Michel Chapoutier Vin de Paille 2007: also from a 375ml bottle; first time I’ve tasted a vin de paille; these are relatively rare dessert wines made from Hermitage blanc grapes; the berries are dried on straw (hence the name) to concentrate them and the wines are made in very small quantities. The nose initially opens with some oxidative notes of bruised apple and toasted walnuts; this faded into a background note over time and ripe peach and pear notes emerged; there was a hint of varnish, a hint of sweet hay, pie crust, honey, and blooming lilac. The palate was denser and lower in acidity compared to the Yquem, but still didn’t feel heavy or cloying. I found this really fascinating and would love to try another at some point.

Night two was more geared towards having some whites mixed in so we had Alaskan spot prawns and Alaskan silver salmon with teriyaki glaze alongside parmesan risotto. Dessert was incredibly rich pot de creme.

Henri Boillot Meursault 1er cru Perrieres 2016: the vineyard of Les Perrieres in Meursault may well be my favorite white Burgundy. Certainly in the top 3. In my mind it warrants grand cru status, and the market appears to recognize this as the best producers are clearly priced in the grand cru range. 2016 was not a great year for white Burgundy, but this bottle was excellent. Beautifully ripe orchard fruits of apple, pear were followed by tangy lemon zest and massive amounts of crushed stone minerality which is certainly the hallmark of this site. The palate is concentrated and intense, yet full of bristling mineral driven energy which drives this into a long and delicious slightly saline finish. A vineyard worth exploring if you’ve never had it!

Domaine Dujac Morey St Denis 1er cru Monts Luisants 2018: I’ve never had a white Cotes de Nuits 1er cru so this was as interesting as it was delicious; this particular vineyard has been planted to chardonnay for some time and was made famous by Ponsot in the 70s-80s. The Dujac version was certainly delicious! Interestingly this was fresher and less ripe than the Meursault served with it; green apple, lime zest, fresh floral notes, and saline mineral hints. The palate is vibrant and saline, almost Chablis like in quality! Still with good fruit concentration and a lovely finish. I’d have never guessed this was from the sun soaked 2018 vintage blind.

Vincent Pinard Sancere Chene Marchand 2017: If you’ve never had Pinard’s wines and you enjoy Sancerre and Chablis, they are worth looking for. Not the easiest to find in the US, these wines are excellent though in my mind not over typical of Sancerre. The nose certainly shows the sauvignon blanc notes with hints of cut grass and gooseberry alongside vibrant citrus and mineral notes. The palate however has more density and power than any Sancerre I’ve ever had. Not in a bad way, just different. For me it is reminiscent of a Chablis Valmur in texture and concentration. Super long and a great finish.

Eyrie Pinot Noir Barrel Reserve 1986: one of my favorite wineries, this bottle was a library certified release; the nose was incredible; red fruit, orange peel, black tea, forest floor, and mushroom; a hint of violet with air. A pure and seductive older pinot noir nose. The palate was remarkably fresh, in fact almost too fresh as the acidity seemed to slightly overwhelm the fruit and flavor making it feel just a bit thin. It was excellent after a bite of rich risotto, but on it’s own the acidity stood out a bit. Still, the nose alone was intoxicating!

The last night in this series comes from a trip to a local hot springs with some friends. We had planned on a gourmet dinner in their dining room with some fine wines off the list only to find when we arrived that the dining room was booked and they would not allow us to take away food to our cabin. Uh oh! We were invited to dine in the saloon and our dreams of fine wines faded into thoughts of IPAs. As we ordered up burgers, fries, and nachos after a soak in the springs, I happened to ask if the main dining room wine list was available for purchase and to my surprise they said of course! So I decided to splurge for some once in a lifetime type wines. Even though the food pairing wasn’t what I would have hoped for, the wines were memorable!

Domaine Dujac Clos St Denis 2016: Dujac is a great producer and two of their benchmark wines come from the grand crus of Morey St Denis. I was fortunate enough to drink a Clos de la Roche previously, so this night decided to try the sister vineyard of Clos St Denis. Of course I recognize that being a 2016 this is no where near its prime time window, but it surely was delicious. Explosive red fruit and floral notes with a hint of peppery stems; the nose expanded became more dark fruited with air, but remained elegant and floral throughout. I did not notice much oak, but there were some spice notes that emerged with time. The palate was lithe and exquisite and just like the nose continued to add weight and power throughout the 3 hours it was open. This has the potential to be absolutely stellar and it was certainly incredible in this young phase of its life.

DRC Echezeaux 2008: if you know anything about Burgundy, you are likely familiar at least in name with the Domaine de la Romanee Conti (aka DRC). They are almost universally recognized as the greatest producer in the region (though a few folks would probably take issue with that). Unfortunately the prices for DRC wines are such that very few Burghounds actually get to taste them anymore. Seeing this bottle for a “reasonable” price made me jump. It is the first grand cru DRC I’ve tried (I did drink a Vosne 1er cru bottling from 2006 previously) and while I was excited about it, I was also nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. Luckily it did more than live up to it! As I mentioned above, 2008 certainly was not a great vintage, but tasting this wine you’d never know. The nose initially was slightly peppery and stemmy, but with about 15 minutes of air, the nose just exploded. Gobs of ripe red and black fruits, huge amounts of Vosne spice (cardamom, clove, anise, cinnamon), black tea, blooming violets, and just a hint of damp earth. You could literally smell the wine while your glass was on the table and you were sitting up. The palate did not let you down after the phenomenal nose; so much spicy red fruit and power, yet it just danced over your tongue so you hardly felt it. The finish lingered for what seemed like 2 minutes or more. Wow. A great bottle that will live in infamy given that it was paired with a black and blue burger!

With that, I’ll take my leave. I hope to get the time to write a more educational post in the near future. Wishing you a great 2022!

J. Newman, CSW

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