Our lunch group met for the first time in 2018 at our treasured venue, the Santa Barbara Club with a wine theme of champagne plus reds from Cote-Rotie and Hermitage. Chef Humberto paired the food courses perfectly with our wines. The menu:
Seared scallop with foie gras mushroom sauce
Wild arugula salad with pear, goat cheese, candied pecans and champagne vinaigrette
Rack of Lamb with mint risotto
Pork tenderloin with apple sage sauce
Wild mushroom brie, triple cream, Gouda
Chocolate cake whit eggnog sauce and lemon curd
The champagne flight included 6 bottles:
NV HENRIOT BRUT- a great start as this cleansed our palates and prepared us for all that was to come; it was refreshingly good, had nice citrus notes, a fine mousse, was full bodied and easy on the palate all the way through.
NV ALEXANDRE LE BRUN CUVEE FASCINATION BLANC de BLANC BRUT- medium yellow colour; peppery, spicy honey dew melon plus apple and pear fruit with just a bit of sweetness; some citrus notes came in late; overall a nice, easy quaffing champagne and getting better in the glass with time; this is my 2nd exposure and it`s an easy conclusion, I like this bubbly.
2008 LAUNOIS SPECIAL CLUB BRUT- from grand cru vineyards, this wondrous champagne got off to a good start and got better with time; it had forward notes of fresh citrus, was medium to full bodied, had nice balance and elegance and sophistication; one of my favs of the all of the bubbly on this day.
NV CHARTOGNE-TAILLET CUVEE SAINTE ANNE BRUT- 50% Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; disgorged in January 2017 with 6 grams per litre; stone fruit dominates in this champagne with rich and spicy apricot, peach and pear fruit.
2006 TAITTINGER COMTES de CHAMPAGNE BLANC de BLANC BRUT- I`ve reported on this champagne many times as I`ve had numerous bottles; I bought my first 2 6 packs early on when first released and loved every bottle; I`ve read and heard others say there were 2 different releases and the 2nd release was not nearly as good as the first so i bought another 6 pack reportedly from a newly arrived shipment which I am told from an informed source was from a 2nd release to do a comparison; there is no difference IMHO; this is consistently fine champagne with similar consistent notes of excellence; I`ve also stated this and other earlier 2000s CdCs seemed to have a different and more elegant profile than those of the 90s and older and I still maintain that is true; even in its youth, the 06` is beautifully expressive, has depth and complexity and exudes royalty.
After writing up my notes, I thought to solicit the Champagne Warrior, Brad Baker, who is my go to source for all in depth champagne questions. Here`s what he had to say:
“A number of random thoughts on this: They make a lot of Comtes. Forgetting about DP (which is its own universe in terms of quantity), this is one of the highest volume prestige cuvees on the market. They disgorge multiple times over a year or two (sometimes even three depending on the release cycle). I wouldn't call them distinct releases as different disgorgements can sometimes get released at the same time but anytime you disgorge a wine over a multi-year period, you have a chance for differences to develop. Extra lees aging can change a wine and change the way dosage effects the wine. This is why some producers will change the dosage for different disgorgements. Also as they make hundreds of thousands of bottles of this wine, there is going to be some variation especially considering different sources, the gray market, and how well distribution took care of the wine.
Most of the biggest effects of lees aging are seen by the time a wine turns 8 years old so wines that see at least 8 years of lees aging (a lot of prestige cuvees) are not going to see big swings between different disgorgements as you might see in wines that are disgorged at younger ages. You can see a big difference in a wine disgorged with 3-4 years of lees aging and one with 7-8 years of lees aging.
I am a believer in an optimum time to disgorge although there is no formula or science that tells you what this optimum time is. Occasionally a Champagne hits this magic disgorgement and even a 3-6 month difference in disgorgement results in a very different wine. This is not the norm, but it does happen. Don't ask me why/how - I don't know. Studies are being done on this, but it is still based on taste and experience and remains a bit of a black art and changes from cuvee to cuvee and winery to winery.
Generally, disgorgements of prestige wines that are within a couple years of each other can start off quite different, but over a 3-5 year period come together as the differences fade. This isn't always the case as you do get the 'optimum disgorgement' examples, but it usually is. It isn't until you start talking about wines disgorged multiple years apart or dosed differently that the differences stay.
As for the 2006 Comtes, I think the wine is consistent across all sound bottles I have had. I like it and think it delivers for the money and the vintage; it isn't a great Comtes, but it meets expectations. The only odd thing I noticed with this vintage (2006) is that I have had a higher rate of affected/corked bottles (both at the winery and purchased) than what I have had with any other vintage. Probably just random luck, but it has stuck out to me.”
2008 VEUVE CLICQUOT VINTAGE BRUT ROSE- this was more on the elegant side with mild pleasing red fruit flavours enhanced buy a touch of pepper; red raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb were most evident.
We now moved into the reds with the first flight of 5:
1983 E. GUIGAL COTE BRUN et BLONDE COTE-ROTIE- it had a medium red strawberry colour with no signs of ageing; this beauty was in perfect balance giving nice red fruit notes accented and embellished with some pepper and spice; it was so soft and easy on the palate and yet had enough gumption and pizzaz to get and keep ones attention; at this point, I`m already thinking red WOTD which was verified after tasting through all the reds.
FYI, here`s some: The Côte-Rotie vineyard is one of the oldest in existence in the Rhône valley. Vienne wines were already highly reputed by Rome as far back as 1 B.C. An old fondly told legend belonging to Côte-Rotie relates the story of the seigneur de Maugiron who having two daughters, one blond and the other dark haired, bequeathed a hillside to each one of them. And thus were born the names of " Côte-Blonde " and " Côte-Brune.”.
The grapes grown on the hillsides in this Rhone Valley appellation produce red whites that are deep-colored, luscious, and powerful. Syrah is the most prevalent grape here, producing complex berry flavors and smoky notes. Increasingly producers are adding up to 20% of Viognier grapes, which give the wines an exotic violet and apricot perfume.
1995 MICHEL OGIER COTE-ROTIE- sadly, corked with wet cardboard aromas. [check label info for more detail]
1993 M. CHAPOUTIER le PAVILLON ERMITAGE- medium red colour; this had a big nose and a small body of work; after getting serious aromatics of spicy red cherry, the taste was more subdued with nice red fruit and a touch of spice delivered in a soft, easy on the palate texture; this had elegance and finesse and had good balance.
1996 M. CHAPOUTIER LA MORDOREE COTE-ROTIE- I liked this bottle for its middle of the road temperament and steady course throughout; it had nice and subtle red fruit flavours with red currant most prominent carried by a medium weighted texture all the way to the back end.
1990 DELAS CUVEE MARQUIS de la TOURETTE HERMITAGE- the nose had an unexpected mineral oil and menthol fragrance, of which the latter continued on and was joined by some dry red currant, cherry and berry fruit; I have to think this was a bottle variation for what it should have been. As I recall, I had a fabulous bottle a few years ago and very different from this bottle.
2nd flight of 4 reds:
1998 RENE ROSTAING COTE-ROTIE- Indicative blend: 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier; the nose was so inviting with hints of pepper and spice and everything nice; this full bodied wondrous wine was the epitome of power and finesse; the lightly peppered and spicy red fruit stayed the course from the nose though the tail; loved it.
1997 JABOULET LA CHAPELLE HERMITAGE- a decent bottle compared to many I`ve had before; the colour was indicative of youthfulness although the red and black fruit profile was more on the dry tertiary side with some spice and less pepper providing accents; with time, the red and black fruit expanded with more freshness and tastiness.
1998 JABOULET LA CHAPELLE HERMITAGE- medium dark purple colour; contrary to past comparisons, I liked this better than the 97`; there was more pepper and spice especially in the taste; liquorice and red currant were most evident; it had medium to full body and long finish with a pepper trail.
2000 DOMAINE JOEL CHAMPET LA VIALLIERE COTE-ROTIE- muted mild aromas persisted, but more came in once tasted including wild, earthy red and black cherry; it was medium to full bodied and easy on the palate.
3rd flight of 4 reds:
2008 TARDIEU-LAURENT COTE-ROTIE- a fine bottle with wonderful balance, spicy red and black currant fruit, a bit of sweetness as well as some milk chocolate, layers of complexity with unfolding nuances inside each layer; it kept on expanding and giving more and more treasures; this would be a wise slow ox decant candidate.
2013 E. GUIGAL BRUNE et BLONDE de GUIGAL COTE-ROTIE- 96% Syrah, 4% Viognier; this showed quite nicely albeit in its youthful and unbalanced state; serious pepper and spice notes compliment the mildly sweet blueberry, blackberry and black raspberry fruit with some dark chocolate coming in past mid palate; it`s full bodied, vibrant and powerful; again, decanting is strongly suggested or better yet, allow this to rest for a decade or more, then open and decant.
2012 DOMAINE GEORGES VERNAY MAISON ROUGE COTE-ROTIE- this youngster is in its infancy and promises to provide much delight in its adulthood; the nose was redolent of leather, spice and pepper accents to the plum, blackberry and black currant fruit; it has good structure and fine acidity; it just needs time to evolve, mature and come together.
2010 DELAS DOMAINE des TOURETTES HERMITAGE- surprisingly, this young wine is nicely balanced with plenty of stuffing to fill up good sized turkeys for many Thanksgivings to come; it also had the requisite pepper and spice notes that I love so much in these wines; there was also plum, black cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint of fig; with all that`s going on, it`s really on the mellow side; you just know it`s waiting to pop its buttons and gloat over the joy people receive upon opening this when it`s in its prime.
2 dessert wines:
2001 CHATEAU RAYMOND-LAFON SAUTERNES- 375 ml; Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc blend; green, honeyed lemon lime, creme brûlée nectar served up in a creamy, honey like texture; delicious.
1996 M. CHAPOUTIER VIN de PAILLE BLANC HERMITAGE- 1 of 2,500 375 ml bottles released; 100% Marsanne; such a great bring; the maple colour was reflected not only in the taste profile, but the texture; joining in was honeyed almond butter, coffee, caramel, butterscotch and marmalade; this is pretty intense, concentrated juice and a little sip did me just fine.
The wine theme for this lunch deviated from our usual single wine region/ variety in that we had champagne and 2 of the top appellations in N. Rhone. I like this change and encourage our group to continue to do which in turn broadens our scope. It makes for much greater wine exploration and allows for the chef to pair the food more specifically with individual courses.
Our membership also continues to bring stellar wines to share and I am deeply grateful for that as well as the fellowship.