Birthday Weekend Wines

We recently took a trip up to a great friend’s place to celebrate my lovely wife’s birthday. We planned a 3 night celebration with great meals and fantastic wines! Since we went through a lot of bottles, some old and some young so I figured I’d better write about them! Hopefully it can give you some insight into bottles or producers you may be looking into.

Night 1: A great start right out of gates!

Food: Appetizer – Cheese plate and prosciutto, Toad in the hole; Main course – Grilled pork tenderloin with mushroom cream sauce, garden salad with basil vinaigrette, mashed potatoes; Dessert – Rhubarb coffee cake with vanilla ice cream

Wines:

Michel Genet Champagne MG BB Brut nature – a nice aperitif bubbly, this was fresh and vibrant, but also had nice flesh to the fruit. Lovely to start

Huet Vouvray Petillant Reserve 2009 – this was lovely and certainly noticeably different to the Champagne; you could definitely pick up the earthy/wool hints of chenin blanc here alongside some notes of honey and tropical fruits; good depth and notably less pressure in the bubbles gives a silky and tasty wine

Cameron Le Blanc Cuvee Liner and Elsen 2016 – this was from magnum; a barrel selection cuvee from Clos Electrique that the folks that run Liner and Elsen (a great wine shop in Portland) select every year. This was a lovely showing. The nose was a little tropical leaning initially with mango and pineapple, ripe orchard fruits, some floral notes. Good depth and concentration on the palate. This continued to get fresher as it got more air with the fruit becoming more orchard and citrus.

Buisson Charles Puligny Montrachet 1er cru Les Caillerets 2017 – This bottle was better than the prior one I tried from the same vintage; had more freshness and minerality that I like from Caillerets; good depth, also quite floral, but still had a decent amount of oak spice. Very good, but still not in the top class of Caillerets for me which can be as good a white Burgundy as you can find

d’Angerville Volnay 1er cru Champans 1999 – Based on some of the reviews I read on CellarTracker it appears that this wine has been pretty hit and miss, but thankfully this bottle was lovely. The nose was mature, but beautiful. There is still red fruit though it is not a dominant aspect, lots of damp earth/sous bois notes, hints of leather and just a bit of dried floral notes. The palate was refined with tannins that have largely melted. Really enjoyable and paired well with the pork.

Beaux Freres Belles Soeurs pinot noir 2018 – this was young, but lovely; this is a cuvee I really like from Beaux Freres; it is definitely more feminine and elegant than the single vineyard wines and I think it drinks well young; this had lovely red fruits, floral notes, hints of spice, and just a bit of mineral tinge. The palate was very well balanced with great fruit concentration, but delivered in an elegant package. Hard to see how anyone could not love drinking this!

Domaine de la Taille au Loups Montlouis sur Loire Romulus 2017 – Jacky Blot is an under the radar producer of incredible chenin blanc. This is a dessert wine that is made only in select vintages and I bought a few to age as 2017 is my daughter’s birth year; wanted to try one to see what it was like young. It was really quite incredibly delicious! A lovely nose of ripe apricot and baked peach, honey, a hint of botrytis, saffron, a whiff of chalky earth and hints of sweet hay. Unctuous and sweet on the palate, but with a juicy core of acidity that lifts it into a long and delicious finish. Excellent and should age incredibly well.

Great views and great wines make for a fun weekend!

Night 2: An attempt to moderate before a bike ride

Food: Appetizer – mushroom galette, cheese and cured meat plate, sausage and garden vegetable galette; Main course – seafood paella; Dessert – tiramisu

Wines:

Egly Ouriet Champagne Les Premices – this is the entry cuvee from Egly and it is still delicious as is everything I’ve ever had from them; definitely shows the vinous nature that all the wines here tend to have with lovely richness, but nothing that feels fat or overly leesy. Delicious and disappeared quickly

Tempier Bandol Rose 2020 – my favorite rose; this is the first bottle of the 2020 I’ve tried and it didn’t disappoint, fresh melon and strawberry, sea breeze, orange peel and blossom; good balance and depth; will improve with another year or two in the bottle

Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva Rioja 2010 – this is an intriguing wine that I’ve only had once before. It is definitely not your typical rose, but it is quite interesting and paired really well with the paella. Definitely is a wine that needs food. Almost copper in hue, the nose starts out with some oxidative notes of bruised peach and herbs, then opens up with air and time to show saline infused red berries and apples, floral and earthy; it is somewhat hard to describe, but delivers lovely length and a lingering finish.

Abbott Claim pinot noir Orientate 2018 – this is relatively new producer in Oregon that I like quite a bit; wanted to check in on a bottle of this cuvee which is a winemaker’s barrel selection of the estate vineyard. I tasted it last in 2021 on a visit here; the nose was explosive with red raspberry and cherry, high toned and bright with floral notes, a hint of black tea, and just a bit of baking spices. The palate is fresh and juicy with good depth, just super primary right now. This was really tasty, but so young and primary it will benefit from another 5+ years to allow complexity to show through the young fruit.

Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja 1981 – this was killer and a candidate for wine of the weekend for me; I love the Lopez wines and these older gran reservas can be stunning; this was a bottle sourced from the Rare Wine Co and directly released from the winery about 5 years ago, so the provenance was perfect. The nose was fabulous! Lovely ripe dark fruits, black cherry, black currant, a hint of plum, followed by cured tobacco, worn leather, damp earth, a hint of clove, just a whiff of oak spice and herbs. Simply fascinating to smell. Thankfully the palate was not a let down. Fully mature, but no where near fading this showed the beautiful dark fruits with lovely fresh acidity and a complex finish that lingered in harmony. Blind I’d have guessed this to be maybe 15-20 years old. Great stuff from a benchmark Rioja producer.

Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes 2001 – this was a direct release from the winery in 2021; very nice and still has loads of time to go; the nose was classic Sauternes with ripe apricot, peach, orange blossom, botrytis, and honey. The palate is rich and decadent, but has plenty of acidity to keep some tension in the rich honeyed fruit. This will easily go another 20 years.

Night 3: The last hurrah!

Food: Appetizers – super size gougeres, cheese and fruit plate; Main course – braised leg of lamb with pan gravy, elk backstrap steaks Diane, roasted fresh potatoes, fresh garden salad; Dessert – chocolate bundt cake with chocolate glaze and vanilla ice cream

Wines:

A killer line up of reds

Jacquesson Cuvee 737 Champagne “degorgement tardif” – from magnum, the 737 from Jacquesson is based on the ’09 vintage in Champagne, so 80% from ’09 and 20% reserve; the late disgorgement means this spent a total of 9 years on the lees and was disgorged in 2018; this was delicious. Jacquesson is one of my go to producers that rarely disappoints. The 700 series cuvees are still reasonably affordable though the single vineyard options are pretty pricey. This showed added richness from the additional time on the lees and ripe radiant orchard fruit typical of the 09s. A great start to the evening.

Samuel Billaud Chablis 1er cru Sechets 2014 – I’ve had this several times and really like this producer, but this bottle seemed a bit odd; much more tropical and fat than the other bottles I’ve had; it still had some Chablis minerality, but seemed bigger and lacked freshness. Not sure why this was off…

Domaine du Collier Saumur La Charpentiere 2015 – this estate is run by the son of the found of Clos Rougeard and from what I’ve heard has some similarities in style; this was a lovely dry chenin blanc; complex with plenty of ripe orchard fruits and floral notes along side mineral, earth, herbs, and hay. Great depth and very good acidity give this lots of potential heading forward.

Domaine Ballot Millot Meursault 1er cru Les Perrieres 2018 – a producer that I really like, this bottle seemed slightly corked to me; it never took full flight on the nose and just seemed muted; not obviously full on TCA, but there was a subtle mustiness; too bad because the palate seemed lovely and had good energy considering the heat of the vintage.

JL Chave Hermitage rouge 2007 – a special producer for my wife and I as we had a ’98 on our third date and it was mind blowing; the 2007 was in full flight tonight and went incredibly well with the lamb and elk; the nose was classic Chave, loads of ripe blackberries, blueberries, plums, and black currants, violet, crushed stone, a hint of oak spice, and a hint of olive and salumi. Primarily though the fruit and floral notes drive this and though it sounds big, everything has an elegant and almost airy hint to it. The palate is super intense in flavor, but maintains the classic elegance that this great estate is known for. Probably the consensus wine of the weekend and with plenty of time to grow.

Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Marie Beurriere 2013 – Bonneau is a legendary producer that I have really just begun to explore and since our host happens to be a huge CdP fan I brought this along; the Bonneau wines that I’ve had so far seem to transcend the fall into overripe syrupy messes that have largely driven me out of buying Chateauneuf. This wine was spectacular. Beautiful red berry fruits, floral, and just a bit of the classic garrigue. An elegant and balanced wine with great density and freshness on the palate. This was certainly more red fruited and lighter than the Cuvee de Celestins 2012 I had a few months ago, but for current drinking I preferred this.

Chateau Montelena “The Montelena Estate” Cabernet sauvignon 2001 – as you have probably noted from this list, cabernet is not my favorite grape, however I do still enjoy aged and well balanced cabs. I thought this would pair well with the lamb and it was certainly a winner. The nose was classic older Napa; cassis, blueberry, mint, a hint of green tobacco, some leather, dried violet, and oak spice. The palate retained great freshness and the fruit was no where near gone. This had good energy and balance and really has another decade or two of pleasure to give!

Vincent Girardin Charmes Chambertin 2011 – this was a classic Charmes; ripe red berry fruits and floral notes give a “charming” nose with a bit of spice and stone that comes in with air; this continued to improve with air gaining intensity and depth as it developed into a delicious and classy example of this vineyard. Based on this bottle, this still has plenty of life ahead.

Domaine G Roumier Morey St Denis 1er cru Clos de la Bussiere 2009 – Roumier is a benchmark in Burgundy and while I’ve had a few of his wines I haven’t had the chance to drink many and especially not any with significant bottle age; this was the first bottle of Roumier I bought many years ago (for $95 at the time…) and decided I wanted to see if these wines are worth the hype. The short answer is yes. This bottle was superb. This is a monopole of the estate and one of the easier cuvees to find. The prices have certainly gone up, but this was killer stuff and really quite young. The nose showed ripe raspberry, dark cherry, some classic Morey underbrush and a hint of sauvage; with air some notes of black tea, lilac, and orange peel come out. The palate had great intensity and density, yet still felt suave. Elegant isn’t the right word as this was very powerful and while by no means rustic, it was very true to its terroir. The finish was excellent. This has easily a decade plus of great drinking ahead. I loved it and wish I could drink these wines more often!

d’Oliveiras Verdelho Madeira 1981 – we finished the party with a lovely Madeira that was excellent with the chocolate bundt cake. The acidity of the verdelho playing perfectly off the rich and slightly bitter tones of the chocolate. Orange peel, dried apricot, fig, toasted almond, and chocolate on the nose with a fresh and delicious palate that has some spice cake and a juicy finish.

All in all it was a great weekend. Hedonistic and debaucherous no doubt, but shared amongst a group of great friends weekends like this live on in infamy as they are few and far between. Looking forward to the next one!

J. Newman, CSW


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