Some recent fun

Life is busy; especially when you are a parent of small children and both you and your spouse have full time jobs. Don’t get me wrong I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing family and they are the driving light in my life. I would be lying however, if I said I never wished for a bit more time to pursue my own passions. Luckily, I still find the time to drink some incredible wines every now and then. So I figured I would talk about a few of them that crossed my palate recently.

These first 2 wines were had with my beautiful wife on a weekend get-a-way to Seattle. My parents were in town and it was just after our anniversary, so we took a couples weekend to celebrate! It was so much fun to just be able to wander a city without a tight schedule regarding eating, snacks, naps, etc. We found some great places including a fantastic French bakery called La Parisienne. The pastries were delicious and the espresso was the best I had in the city! We also had a fabulous lunch at a little place in Beacon Hill called The Coupe and Flute which specializes in Champagne and has a great tasting menu of all things sparkling. The food here was also really incredibly good. From deviled tea eggs to the duck mousse everything was delicious and paired beautifully with the wines. We had two nights for dinners and one place I selected because the wine list looked to have some treasures that were reasonably priced. This was Ray’s Boathouse. Gorgeous views out over the water and the Olympic Penninsula make a stunning backdrop. The food was solid, but didn’t show me anything to write home about. That said, I went there for the following 2 wines that I noticed on the list so I was not at all disappointed!

Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 – this seems to be a legendary Champagne in the making and while I did get a couple of bottles to stash in the cellar for when it is more mature, I decided I couldn’t pass up the chance to try it young. It was “reasonably” priced considering this is a fine restaurant in Seattle so I went for it! This is an incredible wine no doubt, but it is absolutely still a baby. We drank it over about 90 minutes which wasn’t enough, but what can you do. The nose was shy at first with mineral and lemon zest; then opened to reveal apricot and peach, riper baked lemon, pastry dough, a hint of vanilla, orange blossom, and crushed chalk. The nose seemed to show something different each smell (I was really wishing I had this in my Conterno Sensory rather than the flute it was served in!!). The palate was incredible as well with a silky, cashmere like texture that was almost indescribable. Yet you could absolutely feel the power and intensity in the wine. The citrus and stone notes with some hints of brioche were the initial flavors and with more time you get some floral and orchard notes as it fans out on the palate. The finish tightened up and became a little austere cutting short the fireworks just a bit. I anticipate this will drink well for 3-4 decades and probably longer. Super fun to have been able to try a bottle young and hopefully will have a few more closer to maturity.

Vincent Dauvissat Les Clos 2017 – this was the other wine I was drawn to on the Ray’s list. I love Dauvissat Chablis period, from the village all the way up. The 2014 Les Clos had at Les Climats in Paris is still probably the best white I’ve ever had. Sadly, the prices have sky rocketed for these wines and I find myself being able to buy fewer each year (poor me, I know….). Ray’s had 2 vintages of the Les Clos available and they were priced really well so I knew I couldn’t pass it up. This was also a baby, but showing so much potential. The initial nose was just pure crushed stone and mineral; no fruit at all! Then with air it began to show some beautiful citrus, granny smith apple, and some of the saline/iodine notes that are so classic to Chablis. The palate was super tight and you absolutely had to have food with it. There was a razor sharp acidity and minerality that kept this so taut. The finish felt tight, but the last glass did finally fan out a little and offered some orchard blossom and lemon peel that lingered forever. If you have any of this, don’t open one for awhile. A killer wine in the making, but it needs at least 4-5 more years to start to unwind.

The next wine was had on another brief weekend excursion. This time to see Elton John in concert in Phoenix. I had never been to Phoenix so I was perusing places to eat and I stumbled across Vincent’s on Camelback which was noted as classic French cuisine with some southwestern flare. The menu looked excellent and the wine list was long and packed, so we went for it. The meal was excellent from the appetizers to the desserts. Everything was absolutely on point. The wine list also did not disappoint starting with some lovely Champagne, moving through some white and red Burgundy and on to the piece de resistance below! The next night we ate at Pizzeria Bianco which was mind bogglingly good. Chris Bianco is truly a master/genius when it comes to pizza. The crust was so light and airy, yet still soft and chewy at the top and so crisp at the end. It was an incredible meal that was worth the wait for certain. The concert was great as well, but the highlight of the weekend for me was the pizza and the next wine!

Latour 1975 – if you’ve read much of anything on this site, you know I’m much more of a Burgundy lover than a Bordeaux lover. Not that I have anything against Bordeaux, I just prefer pinot noir be it domestically or internationally. These days given the prices of Burgundy I wish I liked Bordeaux more! The wine list at Vincent’s had so many older Bordeaux’s that were reasonably priced I had to veer away from Burgundy and try one. I’ve only had one other 1st growth Bordeaux which was Chateau Margaux. Latour is considered by many to be the absolute benchmark in Bordeaux and while ’75 wasn’t a great vintage by any stretch I couldn’t pass this opportunity up given the “reasonable” pricing. The nose was like text book old Pauillac (at least from what I’ve read); started with some dusty earth and then opened to show a surprising amount of mostly red berry fruits. The fruit has a surprising amount of freshness for the age! The nose then shows the complexity that aged Bordeaux is so well known for; dried tobacco, pencil shaving, cedar chest, burning embers, a hint of herbs. The nose was always changing and so fascinating. The palate was lithe and muscular, definitely leaner than many modern Bordeaux wines, but I actually liked it. There was plenty of acidity and while it was a sensual palate it definitely provided lots of pleasure and was intellectually stimulating for me. An experience that was simply fabulous!

This last wine was had at home as most of my wines are. I try to buy some of Roberto Conterno’s wines pretty much every year because they are simply put the benchmark for nebbiolo in my mind. I tend to buy more of the Gattinara (Nervi-Conterno) because it is much more affordable, but I like to lay down a couple of the Barolos if I can. As with many other top notch producers they are becoming harder to find and more expensive! I decided I better try one to make sure I want to keep buying them so I opened this bottle with some truffle cream topped pork chops. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed. If you want to try his wines but don’t want to lay down the significant amount of money the Barolos will cost you; try the Barbera d’Alba or the Gattinara as they are consistently excellent.

Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2009 – my recollection is that there was no Monfortino made in 2009 so all of that juice is included in this bottling. The nose is explosive with red berry fruits, tons of floral notes, mint, tobacco, tar, and forest floor. So pure and classic. It seems literally like the essence of nebbiolo to me. With air the fruit, floral, and spice notes expand and a touch of blood orange emerges. The palate is still young with plenty of prominent tannins, but initially the density of the fruit is winning. After about an hour it actually seems to shut down some and the tannins became more prominent and shortened the finish. The nose stayed open and delightful through the 2+ hours it was consumed. This has a great future ahead and really hasn’t even entered its initial drinking window for me. If you do drink it soon though, I wouldn’t decant based on this experience or do a really long decant. Better yet, drink it in 15 years.

I hope that you have also been able to have some exciting wine experiences in the last several months since I was able to make a post. There is no doubt that wine is a frivolous and secondary pursuit for me and for most of us that aren’t depending on it for a living. When put in contrast with things like health, family, etc it seems silly to think about people paying thousands of dollars for bottles of fermented grape juice. I can’t say I’m not guilty of getting caught up in it sometimes, but I am usually able to refocus and realize what is truly important in the short years we have on earth. I will be the first to admit that wine is not on the list, but I will also be the first to point out that it sure does add some joy to the occasions and experiences you share with those special to you! Until next time

J. Newman, CSW

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