Our dinner group met recently at Smithy`s, the newest rendition of what originally was Arts & Letters, then sold to become Somerset and now this by the most recent owners. We sat outside on a chilly night and although we had overhead heaters, the air temp was uneven and it became a challenge for my olfactory and taste senses to be perceived at their highest potential, not to mention varying temperatures of hot food servings.
The wine theme was champagne, white Burgundy and interesting world class reds. We definably satisfied the request for the latter.
As usual, we ordered way too many appetisers and passed wines around in all directions, continuously and repeatedly. Also as usual, we had more than twice as many wines than people.
We started with 3 champagnes:
2005 JACQUART BRUT MILLESIME- IMHO, this 05` was one of the better releases of the vintage; I even have placed in the quality category of Taittinger`s Comtes de Champagne; it has wonderful balance, consistently pleasing floral and citrus notes in the nose and taste profile and bright acidity.
2008 VEUVE CLIQUOT BRUT ROSE- my first exposure to the 08`; I found it to be rich and seriously fruity with red cherry and red raspberry most prominent; it`s full bodied and very generous and would be a great candidate to serve prior to red Burgundy/ Pinot Noir with a similar profile.
NV MARIE COURTIN CHAMPAGNE RESONANCE EXTRA BRUT- 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 2014 fruit; was looking forward to tasting this for the first time, but unfortunately it was corked.
5 white wines:
2014 DOMAINE de la VOUGERAIE CLOS BLANC de VOUGERAIE MONOPOLE 1er Cru- Le Clos Blanc, a mythical, mystical vineyard, is on an East facing slope adjacent to the Château du Clos de Vougeot. This golden triangle, surrounded on all sides by great reds, first offered its pure, golden sacrament to its spiritual fathers, the first monks of Cîteaux, in 1110. Known as “The White Vineyard”, it is like a diamond set in the centre of rubies. Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot used to be known as the Petit Clos Blanc de Cîteaux, or simply Vougeot’s white vineyard. Like the Clos de Vougeot, it was founded by the monks of Cîteaux, which was constructed on the nearby plain in 1098.
What was in the bottle was as exciting as its history; 95% Chardonnay, 4% Pinot Gris, 1% Pinot Blanc; it was a lovely wine with generous amounts of floral and citrus fruit in the nose, mineral laced stone fruit shows up on the palate; it had bright acidity and an amazing mouthfeel with its chewy creamy texture carrying all of the goodies to the back end.
2014 LA QUERCIA MONTINICO SUPERIORE ABRUZZO- 100% Montonico, an ancient local variety, made from centuries old vines; it had stark acidity with some mineral infused citrus and green apple notes.
2014 BIBI GRAETZ BUGIA BLANCO TUSCANY- Ansonica 100% abv. 12.5%; from an artist both on canvas and in the winery, Bibi Graetz is a true artisanal, self-taught winemaker; glad I did not get this in a blind tasting and have to ID it; everything was way different from my sensory recall; the nose was muted and of no help; then upon tasting I got menthol, minerals, mild citrus and melon like notes; I kind of called it a deal and moved on with so many more wines coming up.
2014 MARIO SCHIOPETO COLLIO MALVASIA FRIULI- Malvasia Istriana is one of the historic varietals of the hills of Friuli; straw yellow colour; very elegant wine with nice floral notes in the nose then first some citrus flavours followed by mineral laden stone fruit; it had nice texture and a palate cleansing finish.
2010 PIERRE-YVES COLIN-MOREY LES NARVAUX MEURSAULT- a frequent visitor to our dinners, this shined as those before it with nice, bright acidity, fresh lemon notes in the nose and taste joined by some mint and lime; it had that every so pleasing mouthfeel to highlight the treasures carried within.
Flight of 2 red Burgundy:
2005 COMTE ARMAND CLOS des EPENEAUX POMMARD MONOPOLE 1er Cru- lots of flavours in this bottle with depth and complexity unfolding with each taste; I got chocolate and spiced black currant, black cherry and black raspberry; it was full bodied, had soft tannins and a long, satisfying finish.
1997 MEO-CAMUZET CLOS de VOUGEOT GRAND CRU- ageing colour and tertiary dried fruit profile with still some welcomed redeeming qualities; in fact, it seemed to improve with time and finally arrive and maintain in a decent place; it gave slightly sweetened red and black fruit with underlying spicy notes.
3 more assorted “interesting” reds:
2001 DOMAINES OTT CHATEUA ROMASSAN BANDOL ROUGE- Indicative blend: mostly Mourvedre with small almonds of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah, all from young vines; the bottle shape was as interesting as its contents which I guess qualifies it for being “interesting’; it was quite flavourful with loads of spice complimenting the red and black raspberry and red cherry/ berry fruit.
1992 WILLIAMS SELYEM RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY ZINFANDEL- 15.6% abv; once Burt Williams was informed he would only receive 2 more years of fruit from the Leno Martinelli Jackass Hill Vineyard, he took the vineyard reference off the label and called it RRV; fortunately, I`ve had the pleasure of drinking quite a few of this gem especially in the past couple of years; it is so viable now and beautifully balanced with such surprising ease on the palate for a Zinfandel with relatively high alcohol; the fruit profile consists of blueberry, cherry and plum with a touch of cola/ sassafras and baking spices.
1995 CELEBRITY CELLARS BOB DYLAN CABERNET NAPA- another great artistic bottle presentation with some decent contents; the colour was much more youthful than the celebrity; this was a highly concentrated, full bodied Cab with integrated oak influences and soft tannins; nice effort for a pop marketed speciality type wine.
more “interesting” reds:
1997 ARIETtA RED BLEND HUDSON VINEYARD NAPA- the winery was founded in 1996 by long time Napa winemaker John Kongsgaard, his wife Maggy and Fritz & Caren Hatton who were brought together by their love of music and a passion for wine; their label was named after Beethoven’s sublime last piano sonata. Today Fritz and his wife are the proprietors; I was looking forward to tasting this as it`s been many years since I`ve had any of their wines; however, our bottle was sadly Brett laden.
1995 SENA RED WINE ACONCAGUA VALLEY CHILE- I remember when this first came out, it was the end all be all of serious Cabernet based wines and was often acclaimed to be stiff competition with First Growths; the winery was initially established as a collaborative venture between Viña Errázuriz and Robert Mondavi; since 2005 it has been owned by the Chadwick family, proprietors of Errázuriz; it is a Bordeaux blend; our bottle had a serious deep dark purple colour, intense aromatics and a taste profile that would not quit; it was really big, complex and layered with cedar and chocolate covered dark fruit with noticeable oak influence; I believe this can go another few decades and bring delight to those who cherish this highly reduced style.
1998 VEGA SICILIA UNICO GRAN RESERVA RIBERA del DUERO- a great bottle with perfect balance, power and finesse in the iron fist in a velvet glove analogy giving immense pleasure from the nose through the tail; initially, it was so big and powerful, a little sip was all I could tolerate; with time in the glass [and I gave it a lot], it moved into its ideal place with generous amounts of rich, full bodied, layers of unfolding nuances with spicy oak accented blue and black fruit; my #2 WOTN.
2012 DOMINIO de PINGUS FLOR de PINGUS RIBERA del DUERO- second label for the real deal Pingus; Tempranillo, 14.5% abv; this was spirited, energetic, young, vibrant and a glimpse of what I expect it to evolve to in a few decades; it had nice appealing aromatics which when tasted included spicy black cherry/ berry fruit with a hint of liquorice.
1978 PODERI ALDO CONTERNO BRICCO CICALA BUSSIA BAROLO- what a treasure this wine is and a rare bottle to find at that; it had everything going for it, even its colour was pure; the entire evening could have been framed around this bottle; I have to think this is at its perfect peak and that it can hold this place for a long time; black cherry stands out amongst all of the taste treats plus some liquorice and tar compliment the dark fruit; if there is one hallmark, it`s its impeccable balance; my #1 WOTN.
2000 DAL FORNO ROMANO AMARONE della VALPOLICELLA- almost inky black colour; concentrated dark fruit jumps out of the glass almost giving me whiplash before approaching carefully for the next nose; spicy, chocolate, leather and liquorice accent the plum, black cherry and black currant fruit; it`s big and serious with amazing depth and complexity; I`m thinking it should be poured into 1 oz. shot glasses. A BIG DUDE!
2011 FRATELLI BROVIA BAROLO- youthful Nebbiolo with untamed rambunctiousness throughout; underlying staunch tannins should shore up the foundation for a lengthy life; ripe plum, black raspberry and red cherry notes come through with a hint of liquorice; decanting would have benefited the expereince; this just needs time to evolve.
2012 VATAN TINTA de TORO TORO- Tinta de Toro grape is an ancient clone of Tempranillo that is native to D.O. Toro; with all of the intense wines we`ve had prior to this one, I was expecting a let up; not to happen; this is also serious, concentrated, complex, big and long; super ripe sweet blackberry, black cherry and plum fruit shine brightly from the nose though the tail with a coffee accent coming in late; its has noticeable oak influence yet to be integrated fully, so time is needed again for this wine`s maturity.
2015 THIBAULT LIGER- BELAIR MOULIN A VENT les VIEILLES VIGNES BEAUJOLAIS- it seemed fitting to have a Gamay come into the mix after numerous and various other varietals have appeared on this night; this wine gave our palates a break; it was nice and easy and just swooned over my palate delivering tangy, briary wild red fruit in a medium body with its velvety like texture.
2004 DAL FORNO ROMANO SIGNA SERE PASSITO ROSSO vina DOLCE VENETO- 375ml; 04` was the last but hopefully not the final release of this special wine; it is comprised of a blend of 55% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 20% Croatina, and 10% Oseletta which are dried for 6 months then pressed; the drying time is twice as long as for Amarone and two months longer than Recioto; it gave generous amounts of honeyed plum, raisin and raspberry jam like notes with underlying tones of coffee and leather; it`s delivered in a syrupy, thick texture which just enhances the experience immensely; outstanding dessert wine.
HEINZ EIFEL BEERENAUSLESE [ba] LATE HARVEST- honeyed pear, apple and citrus fruit is aided by butterscotch and spice accents; it had a chewy mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish; the perfect ending to an exceptional fine evening given the wide open theme for “interesting” reds.
My last comment on the wine above is an understatement. This group has folks who step up every time we convene. It`s rare for anyone to show up with just one bottle evidenced on this occasion where we had 11 people and 24 wines. Abundance of great wines is a good thing.