Author Archives: Nick Wittman

Buckeye Roadhouse Wine Dinner

This past week, we attended a dinner with a very saavy group of wine drinkers at Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley. The theme was flights of Chardonny, Pinot, Rhone, Cabernet and Dessert Wines all served double blind. Despite the very good planning to make it a challenge to identify specific wines, the group proved effective at accurately guessing nearly every region on all flights, and in a few cases, guessed the producer or vintage. It was a fun dinner and the vast majority of wines enjoyable. Brief observations follow. All wines were served pop and pour with a fresh glass provided after each flight. Wines are sorted in order of personal preference pre reveal.

Flight 1 – Chardonnay

2005 Henri Boillot Clos de la Mouchere – Wine of the flight and white wine of the night, the Boillot was easily identified as White Burgundy. Firm acidity, lemon/lime, some subtle oyster shell, perfect balance, a very well made and youthful wine.

2009 Rochioli Rachel’s Vineyard Chardonnay – Distinctly California Chardonnay, thought it had a young Peter Michael profile with clean candied fruit and some residual sugar apparent. Was surprised it was a Rochioli Rachels, which in our opinion is one of the best Chardonnay made in California. On reflection, think the wine was opened too young, and expect it to show significantly better in 3 to 5 plus years.

2006 Marcassin Three Sisters Chardonnay – Initally guessed the wine as anything but California Chardonnay or White Burgundy. Thought it had a toned down, if not muted style. As it sat in the glass, was somewhat dirty and funky, not a clean stony mineral quality I tend to get with Marcassin Chardonnay. The wine did not show well.

Flight 2 – Pinot Noir

2002 Chevillon Nuits St. Georges Saint Georges – Quickly identifed as Burgundy by all. It was earthy, mineral, gritty, with notable barnyard and animal notes. In time, more rugged and rustic. A very well made wine and standout among the three Pinot Noirs.

2004 Rhys Family Farms Pinot – With stemy blue fruits, initially thought it was a Burgundy, but after a little time in the glass, the wine lacked complexity, showing more simple dried cherry plum notes. Correctly guessed the wine as a Rhys! The wine had good weight, but overall was not a great showing.

2005 Marcassin Blue Slide Pinot – Ripe, raspberry, plums, prunes, sweet palate, dense but unresolved and spritzy, thought it might be a young Aubert Pinot. On reveal, was surprised it was a Marcassin Blue Slide. This wine needs to be aged for many more years before enjoying. The wine also did not show well.

Flight 3 – Rhone

2008 Sine Qua Non The Line Grenache – The red wine of the flight, and night, thought this was an outstanding wine. Nothing out of place, big red clean candied fruit, correctly guessed it as a Sine Qua Non Grenache! A touch lighter on its feet than the Atlantis Grenache, a great drinking wine! Would expect it to age gracefully for years.

2004 Greenock Creek Alices – Guessed this wine as a California Syrah, compact dark fruits, it showed very well, but quite different than the Grenache. Normally not a big fan of Austrailian Shiraz, but this wine was very enjoyable. Did not spend as much time with this wine over time as others who thought it less impressive.

2007 Usseglio Mon Aieul – Correct guested the wine as French, thought it was just ok. Not a lot going on in the wine. The group as a whole did not particularly find the wine appealing. It may have suffered being in a flight with two other big powerful wines!

Flight 4 – Cabernet

1998 Pavie Macquin – The wine of the flight, enjoyed the Pavie a great deal, it was easily identified as Bordeaux. Started out green and tannic, very similar to what I get with the 1998 Pavie, in time, this wine lost some of the greeness and became more red and black exotic fruits. Thought it was a gorgeous wine, more so than the overall group!

2001 Araujo Eisele Cabernet – Initially did not like this wine, had a good bit of vanilla which I generally dislike in California Cabernet, and a simple style. However, this was an example of a wine that improved considerably with time in the glass, full bodied, and held up well to the meat course.

2003 Noon Reserve Cabernet – A very ripe wine, minty, thought this might be either from California or Australia. It was a pretty good wine, but not particularly a standout. Was really enjoying the Pavie in this flight, and spend less time on the other wines as we approached the end of the evening.

Flight 5 – Dessert

1990 Raymond Lafon – The only wine I correctly guessed the exact vintage, the color immediately lent itself as a 15 to 25 year old bottle, and oddly reminded me of a 1990 Sauternes in my cellar. This was an excellent age worthy dessert wine.

1986 Climens – The Climens did not show as age worthy as the Raymond Lafon. A nice wine, but overshadowed by its peer. Neither of these wines came across as California. A nice wine to end the evening.

The Mill Valley tasting group is made up of some of the most delightly folks we have had the pleasure to drink with over the past few years. Sophisticated palates, no question, a friendly group where you always go away learning something new. A great time where we highly enjoyed the food, wine, and conversation!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Ceja Burgundy Dinner

Following the recent Las Madres Winemaker Lunch, we attended a followup dinner the next day with Las Madres Vineyard Manager and good friend Armando Ceja. Dinner at the Ceja’s is always a treat guaranteed to have good company, food and wine!

Armando generously shared several Ceja wines, as well as some very nice Burgundy. We brought along an old California Pinot Noir served blind, to see how well it was showing, and test our knowledgeable host! Surprisingly, Armando could not pick the grape, vintage or region! Our hostess Martha Ceja however accurately guessed a California wine from 1978! She mentioned the wine tasted like ones she drank with Armando a long time ago!

2009 Ceja Sparkling Brut – A good starter wine, crisp, clean, a well made wine. Was impressed how well made this wine was as a highly affordable everyday drinker.

2007 Ceja Carneros Chardonnay – Fuller, creamier, rounder wine, pineapple on the nose, a wine that is very youthful at this point. Would improve with a little cellar aging.

2004 Jadot Corton Charlemagne – An excellent Jadot, mature without showing signs of oxidation, bread yeast, subtle minerality, and light sweet citrus. In a sweet spot right now, will not improve with cellar aging. My favorite white wine of the evening.

2005 Domaine Leflaive Clavoillon – More advanced than expected, but still drinking very well, did not have the powerful sulfur, black tar, I often get from the wine, it was buried in the background. Nose was a touch astringent, slightly reduced. Improved considerably with time in the glass. A very nice wine.

1978 Louis Martini Special Selection Pinot Noir – An awesome wine! Served this blind to the group, most thought it was a Burgundy. Game meats, exotic minerality, earth and redwood, clearly had age, but amazing structure. A complete lucious wine that I could still taste the following day, it was that good. Had a very good condition cork, and high fill level, but the cork was very short with a plastic capsule. Buy this wine with care.

2005 Louis Latour Corton Grancey – A good showing by the Corton. Light to medium body, strawberry fruit, resolved with no RS, sometimes apparent in other Corton Grancey tasted. Thought it was a good wine, expected a little more density prior to opening.

2009 Ceja Dulce Beso – Powerful peach and orange citrus, clean and also well made. A very nice end of meal wine.

A very nice evening, and to top it off, got to see the Ceja’s new very good looking and intelligent German Shepherd!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Las Madres Winemaker Lunch 2012

This past Wednesday, we were fortunate to attend the 2012 Las Madres Winemaker Lunch. The intent of the lunch is to get all winemakers using grapes from the Las Madres Vineyard together to discuss and taste barrel samples from the current vintage, in this case, 2011. We also had the opportunity to taste through previous vintages in bottle.

Las Madres is a beautiful vineyard located on the Sonoma side of Carneros. In our opinion, the cold climate Syrah that come from the property are some of the best examples you could find anywhere in California, and might add, at some of the most attractive prices. We highly recommend the wines to our customers. The 2011 wines all showed a relatively consistent, creamy, ripe and clean style.

2011 Las Madres Barrel Samples
2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah – Made by Robin Akhurst, the barrel sample just went through malolactic, as did all other samples. His wine made with once used french oak white wine barrels, equal parts clone 174 and 300. Thought it was a clean, very well made wine, not over the top, a wonderful expression of cold climate syrah.
2011 Vie Las Madres Syrah –  Bryan Kane’s wine used indigenous yeast to ferment, co fermented with about 3% Viognier. It was approximately 60% clone 174, 40% clone 300. Year after year, Vie has always showed well, and has a good grasp on this vineyard. Find their wines more compact and nuanced, tend to have a slightly darker fruit quality to them, yet well within the vineyard profile.
2011 Vanite Las Madres Syrah –  Brenda Martin’s wine used 100% new french oak, co-fermented with about 8% Viognier. A very good wine where the aromatics leap from the glass. Think it will be quite age worthy and one I hope to revisit in the future!  Was a distinct wine and showed uniqueness, primarily due to the Viognier.
2011 Myriad Cellars Las Madres Syrah –  Mike Smith’s Myriad and Quivet were our first introduction to Las Madres Syrah. 100% clone 174, no cold soak. This was a big, clean, pure, intense wine. Thought it was excellent, and highly curious to revisit with time in the bottle.
2011 Quivet Cellars Las Madres Syrah –  100% clone 300, Mike Smith’s other Syrah showed distinctly different. It does not have the intense round fruit of the Myriad, more reserved with a touch of oak that added a little spice and elegance to the wine. A fantastic effort that I thought showed slightly better than the Myriad.
2011 Eric Kent Cellars Las Madres Syrah – .  Kent Humphrey’s wine, approximately  60% clone 174 and 40% clone 300 with 60% whole cluster. A lovely standout for someone who likes a stemy quality to their wine. Thought it was exceptional and like where the wine is headed. Based on previous tastings of whole cluster inclusion, found it works very well with wines from the Las Madres Vineyard. Look forward to see how the wine evolves over the coming years in bottle.
2011 Lois Rae Cellars Las Madres Syrah –  Mark Finver’s 1st commercial vintage from the Las Madres Vineyard, the wine showed slightly less dense than the other wines, but highly approachable. Comparing Marks wine to last year, the wine making has matured considerably and he is on the right track to producing an enjoyable wine!
2011 Orin Swift Cellars – Dave Phinney and Kevin Fox’s wine was probably one of the most closed on the table. It did not want to come out of its shell and was one of the more challenging to see where it was headed. A wine that will have to be revisited in time. It was balanced, which should bode well for the future.
Las Madres Lunch Wines
2002 Las Madres Garagiste – Made by Armando Ceja and John Painter, 3rd leaf 50/50 clone 174 and 300. A very young wine, spritzy, a curious early effort!
2004 Nicholson Ranch Las Madres –  Made by Thomas Brown, a very hot Carneros summer, did not find this wine showed well. Plums, prunes and raisin notes.
2004 Nicholson Ranch Consentido Las Madres – A fantastic wine, thought it was well integrated, good fruit, complex, my favorite bottled wine with a lot of life ahead of it.
2005 Nicholson Ranch Las Madres –  Made by Thomas Brown and Mike Smith.  60% whole cluster. Second favorite bottle tasted, round, expressive Las Madres fruit, easy drinking, and yet, still very youthful. Could easily continue to age for some time.
2006 Myriad Las Madres Syrah –  The Myriad Syrah remained consistent to their style, clean, ripe, big fruit, nothing out a place. Year after year, a beautiful wine.
2008 Vie Las Madres Syrah –  As a producer, Vie has previously had a style more unique to the producer than the vintage, leaner toward darker fruits, slightly more restrained. Was a little surprised how ripe the fruit was in this wine! Very nice, however different than expectations.
Sadly, did not taste the 2010 Apsara Cellars Las Madres Syrah, 2010 Lois Rae Garagiste, or 2006 Eno Wines “In Your Own Time” Syrah while enjoying the wonder lunch offered by Las Madres Vineyard owners, John and Jean Painer.
This was a fantastic event! Great food, great company, and great wine! Our second time attending this tasting, cheers to joining the third!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

Taste of Oakville 2012

This week, we attended one of our favorite wine events of the year, a Taste of Oakville. The Oakville Winegrowers put on the event which includes a Master Class, Lunch, and Grand Tasting. This year, the theme was Vintage and Vision, with wines primarily poured from 2009.

Master Class – The master class was moderated by Paul Roberts of Bond, and panel members Dirk Hampson of Far Niente, Patrick Sullivan of Rudd, and Andy Erickson of Dalla Valle. In keeping with the theme of vintage and vision, the Master Class focused on wines separated by some age, growing conditions, and challenges wine makers faced in particular years. The wines that followed were discussed.

1998 Far Niente Cabernet – A hot year, where nearly half the harvest was lost, noted black tea, cognac, cherry. Light bricking, a wine that tasted old school. A very good drinking wine from a historically challenging vintage.

2008 Far Niente Cabernet – A small harvest, grapes were on the vine much longer than usual. Made in a more modern style, the wine was bright, yet had a dense and clean mouthfeel. A great drinking wine.

2000 Bond Vecina – A vintage that was not particularly hot or cold, no frost, no major climate challenges. Noted a vanilla quality immediately, soft tannins, with a more notable finish than mid palate. Beginning to show its age, showed better as it sat in the glass.

2005 Bond Vecina – A classic vintage, again noted some vanilla, clean, and like the 2000, got a lot better as it sat in the glass. A powerful wine, did not pickup any heat, and thought it had more notable oak than the previous wine. An excellent wine.

2002 Rudd Oakville Cabernet – A leaner, more tannic wine, thought it was more balanced and age worthy than the previous wines tasted. Subtle mint on the nose was appealing. One of the better 2002 California Cabernets tasted in some time.

2008 Rudd Oakville Cabernet – Initally, thought the wine was more one dimension, big ripe vanilla fruit, with a touch of funk. With time in the glass, got cleaner with a nice chalky finish. With firm acidity, and dry tannin, thought it was just an ok wine.

1991 Dalla Valle Cabernet – Grassy, tea, forest floor, exotic game, minerality, thought this was a great Cabernet. Tannin is still quite firm, with darker fruits. One of our favorite producers, the wine was excellent, and made in a more old school style.

2009 Dalla Valle Cabernet – Distinctly modern in style, ripe, big blue fruits, some vanilla creaminess. Not entirely sure this wine is built for the long term. Came across as a wine that would be best opened young. A good wine to revisit.

Grand Tasting – The Grand Tasting was a walk around tasting of current release wines from various Oakville member producers. Pours were relatively small, so no effort is made to capture detailed tasting notes. Wines did leave an impression, and a brief list follows. If a wine is not listed, either we did not taste it or did not show well. Wines are not sorted in any particular order.

Top Wines

2009 Futo Estate Red Wine
2008 Groth Reserve Cabernet
2008 Harlan Maiden
2009 Maybach Materium
2010 O’ Shaughnessy Chardonnay
2008 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet
2009 Screaming Eagle

Very Good Wines

2009 Ghost Block Estate Cabernet
2009 Harbison Estate
1993 Harlan Estate
2009 Miner Family Oakville Cabernet
2008 Opus One
2005 Paradigm Winery Cabernet

Wines to Revisit

2001 Bond Vecina
2006 Cosentino Oakville Cabernet
2009 Far Niente Estate Cabernet
2008 Kelleher Family Cabernet
2009 Nickel and Nickel John C Sullenger Cabernet
2008 Saddleback Cellars Cabernet
2005 Swanson Alexis Cabernet
2003 Tierra Roja Cabernet
2009 Vine Cliff Oakville Cabernet

Of the last three Napa Valley vintages and based on the wines we have sampled at this tasting and numberous others, have a preference toward the 2007, 2009, and 2008 vintage in that order. Think the 2007 and 2009 vintage wines tend to offer more structure and age worthiness, whereas, the 2008 wines are more big and ripe, ones that we think will tend to drink best on the younger side.

Thank you to the Oakville Winegrowers and Robert Mondavi Winery for hosting an outstanding event. Special thank you to Dirk Hampson who sat at our table at lunch offering numerous insights into wine making and sharing his rich history and experience in the wine industry!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Double Blind Burgundy Dinner

Recently, we organized a Double Blind Burgundy Dinner with California ringers at the Fifth Floor Restaurant in San Francisco. While we do not typically enjoy blind or double blind tastings, as organizer, it was fascinating to observe the table discussion and what drove folks to think a wine was Burgundy vs California, not to mention discussions around personal preference.

As a result of the dinner, a few observations. First, despite notes from professional reviewers that say a California wine is made in a Burgundian style, nearly everyone pegged all ringers as distinctly California! The most challenging ringer was the 1998 Stony Hill Chardonnay. Second, some of the wines that expected to show best did not, and those with lower expectations showed surprising well. The double blind format removed any hint of label bias. Finally, the biggest surprise, given 15 bottles of wine among 7 people, two folks started the dinner with a beer and martini!

None of the wines were decanted, and given the number of folks attending the dinner, pours were good sized to allow a full evaluation of the wine over time. Before reveal at each flight, we guessed California vs. Burgundy, and ranked the wines in order of personal preference. Wines are sorted in the order of my personal preference.

Top White Wine:
1998 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet

Top Red Wine:
1990 Jadot Bonnes Mares

Flight 1

2010 St Francis Intatto Chardonnay – Lemon, cream, round, a nice wine that should be opened young. This was a highly afforable unoaked Chardonnay that I enjoyed more than the group as a whole. Half the group thought it Burgundy, half California.

2004 Fevre Clos – Moderate browning in color and heavily oxidized. Have tasted this wine 3+ times in the past year or so, and nothing remotely similar to this bottle. Expected tight acidity, this bottle was completely flawed. Very surprised how poorly it showed.

Flight 2

1998 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet – Easily the top wine of the flight for everyone. Young in color and style, highly reduced, flinty, tar, this was a gorgeous wine that did not move from opening through the next three hours. More masculine than the 1998 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet previously tasted. Nearly everyone guessed it blind as Leflaive.

1998 Stony Hill Chardonnay – Light browning, but surprisingly firm acidity. Chablis like in style, combined with a floral quality, thought it was very nice. Several folks thought it was oxidized. While certainly mature, thought it showed to expectations. A good mature California Chardonnay.

1998 Remoissenet Montrachet – Butterscotch, hint of acidity, tea, more browning than the Stony Hill, and more advanced. It was drinking less than expectations. Having tasted the wine three plus times, this bottle showed just ok.

Flight 3

1999 Jadot Clos St. Jacques – Game, leather, excellent balance and complexity. A beautiful wine with nothing out of place. Very good drinking wine right now, not minding a wine on the younger side, could easily age for many years.

2003 Kistler Vineyard Pinot – Bright candied red fruits, front and mid palate strength, not much on the finish. It was a good wine from a great California Pinot vintage, easily identified as California by nearly everyone.

1999 Jadot Estournelles St. Jacques – Corked. The underlying material appears to be very nice. Reminiscent of the 1999 Jadot Clos St. Jacques but more earthy and coarse.

Flight 4

1999 Rousseau Charmes Chambertin – A nice ripe wine, cherry liquor, first impression was it had no finish. Initially thought it was just an ok wine, with time in the glass, improved considerably. The vast majority thought this was the wine of the flight.

1996 Ponsot Chapelle Chambertin – Game meats, sweaty leather, nice balance. Initially thought this was the wine of the flight, but in time, came to think the Rousseau showed better. The Ponsot and Rousseau both rated in the 85 point range by Burghound, they were both appreciated more than the 93 and 92 rated wines that follow.

2000 Dugat Py Charmes Chambertin – Youthful, somewhat barrel sample like, but with a highly distracting bandaid brett. Expected this to easily be the top wine of the flight, turned out to be a disappointment. Highly anticipated tasting this wine, unfortunately it did not show well.

2006 Rhys Alpine Hillside Pinot – Quickly identified by everyone as distinctly California Pinot Noir, it was not a strong showing. Youthful and barrel sample like, clean and bright fruit, did not find anything particularly appealing about the wine, nor did the rest of the group. It did not show well.

Flight 5

1990 Jadot Bonnes Mares – Fantastic! This was a great wine! Thought it very young with rich ripe fruit, excellent structure and bold in style. If there was a Burgundy that showed more California like, this was the wine. Still a good bit of upside to further cellaring. Wine of the night!

2006 Marcassin Blue Slide Pinot – Blue fruits, barrel sample like, too young and unresolved. Difficult to tell where this wine is going in the long term, not particularly expressive or dense right now, a good wine to revisit with age.

1999 Joblot Givry 1st Cru Cellier Aux Moines – Gamey, light body, not a long going on, but all together not unpleasant either.

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Premiere Napa Valley 2012

For the past several years, we have attended numerous winery tastings, some of the best ones are around Premiere Napa Valley. The all trade Auction was held this past week, the vast majority of winery tastings on Thursday and Friday. This years auction centered around the 2010 vintage. It is one of the best early opportunities to taste some of the finest examples of Napa Valley wines from the upcoming vintage.

Hundreds of wines were tasted this weekend. Pour sizes were minimal, and there was a limited opportunity to revisit each wine. No attempt is make to take serious detailed notes. To do so would be an injustice to the producer and reader. That said, as a taster, you do go away with impressions and educated guesses that are note worthy, a reference point to revisit in the future. What follows are the events we attended and some brief observations of wines that have potential for future enjoyment.

Yountville First Taste – An impressive tasting overall, the wines listed left the strongest impression. The top two wines at this tasting interesting enough both came from Grgich Hills, the 2011 Grgich Hills Paris Chardonnay and 2007 Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon! Both were special wines. Blankiet, Dominus, Gemstone and Charles Krug all showed well across the board. Have tasted Casa Piena the last few years. It shows a consistent style, balanced, age worthy, and simply delightful. Several other producers were tasted, they did not show the balance, nuance or complexity expected.

2009 Blankiet Estate Rive Droite
2009 Blankiet Estate Proprietary Red
2009 Blankiet Estate Prince of Hearts Red
2008 Casa Piena Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Casa Piena Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Charles Krug X Clones Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Dominus
2009 Gemstone Estate Red Wine
2007 Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Grgich Hills Paris Chardonnay

Cliff Lede Open that Bottle Night – One of our favorite events associated with Premiere Napa Valley, it is basically a wide open, bring a special bottle from your cellar event. Lots of nice wine was opened, and no notes were taken. The host, Cliff Lede opened their current releases, all excellent, and offered a generous 5 liter bottle of 1990 Chateau d’Yquem. Sadly, tasted a very disappointing wines. One of them was a 2006 Shafer Hillside Select 1.5L, just not developing well in the bottle. Then there was a 1983 Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon and 1983 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, both in 3 liter format, past maturity. Some very nice wines tasted follow.

1973 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
1990 Chateau d’Yquem
1990 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon
1994 Dominus
1995 Peter Michael Les Pavot
2005 Pride Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo
2008 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay

Atelier Melka Portfolio Tasting – First time attending this particular event, was highly impressed with nearly all wines poured. Most of the 2010’s were auction lots, while the 2009’s were in bottle. In general, find barrel samples a hard taste, challenging to predict where they will go in the future. The diversity of style among the various wines was more apparent at this tasting than others. Appreciated the style of the wines as a whole, striking balance and structure. Lot of powerful fruit driven wines, higher alcohol levels, but many showed an element of age worthiness that left a positive impression. Met Philippe Melka for the first time, and thought he was a thoughtful, talented, and intelligent person who will hopefully continue to contribute to the success of Napa Valley wines for many years to come.

2009 Brand Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Cliff Lede Dream Hill
2010 Dana Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Gemstone Yountville Appelation Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Entre Nous Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Metisse
2010 Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Vineyard 29 St Helena Special

St Helena Appellation Tasting – We spent a very short period of time at the St Helena Appellation tasting, and only tasted a handful of the wines at the event. Both Revana wines were the most memorable of the tasting, power without weight, at the same time floral and feminine. The host winery, Charles Krug did a wonderful job hosting the event, though sadly, they displayed an empty bottle of 1966 Charles Krug Cabernet, opened the night before, not sharing it with their good friends at Santa Rosa Fine Wine!

2009 Flora Springs Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Revana Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Revana Family Vineyard Premiere Cuvee Cabernet
2010 Raymond Vineyards Evolution Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Shafer Tasting – Shafer is arguably one of the better wineries in Napa Valley, they have a consistent track record of age worthy Cabernet over the span of several decades. It is always a pleasure to visit them at Premiere Napa Valley to see how older vintages are holding up. The 2001 was the best wine in the lineup, medium bodied, good structure, will easily last another decade plus. Both the 2005 and 2002 Shafer Hillside Select were riper, not as age worthy as the 2001. The 2005 was full bodied, however not heavy, and the 2002, a similar taste profile, but far more concentrated. Like 2001, the 2003 continues to age very well. Find 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet generally disappointing, however Shafer did a great job that year. Like the 2006 Shafer Hillside Select, unfortunately thought the 2008 Shafer Hillside Select was not to expectations. Did not find the wine particularly appealing, age worthy or characteristic of the Shafer Hillside Select style. Hopefully the wine will improve with more time in the bottle, right now, it did not show well.

2001 Shafer Hillside Select
2005 Shafer Hillside Select
2002 Shafer Hillside Select
2003 Shafer Hillside Select
2008 Shafer Hillside Select

Stags Leap District  Winegrowers Tasting – The last event we attended on Friday, tasted wines focused around the Stags Leap District. No notes were taken, but thought the following note worthy. The 2010 Shafer Sunspot Block Cabernet Sauvignon was the top wine, and a pleasure to revisit the 1997 SLV, which I fondly remember tasting on release. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars still makes wine in a more age worthy structured style that will hopefully continue long into the future.

2010 Shafer Sunspot Block Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars SLV Cabernet Sauvignon
1997 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars SLV Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Silverado Vineyards SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon

It is of tremendous value to the trade to get an early preview of the upcoming Napa Valley Vintage. Cheers to Premiere Napa Valley for putting on another fantastic event!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Fringale Burgundy Wine Dinner

A few weeks ago, we had dinner with friends at a local San Francisco French Restaurant called Fringale. What made this dinner particularly nice was a smaller group size, five of us to be exact! Given a 750ml bottle of wine per person, you get a more than ample pour. Unlike larger dinners where at best you get a single snapshot of a wine, could seriously evaluate a given bottle over the span of a long evening.   

The theme was loosely defined as a nice Burgundy you would like to share. The generosity of the group is such, we usually share 2 bottles or more a person, in this instance, restraint was used, one bottle a person, which worked great on a weekday! As with previous tastings, wine are sorted in order of personal preference by flight. None of the wines were decanted.

White Burgundy Flight

2002 Leroy Meursault Blagny 1er – An absolutely stunning wine, nice minerality, subtle citrus, and stone, the pear like fruit was well in proportion with all other components. Over the evening, it kept improving in the glass, highly balanced and complex. With no signs of oxidation, could easily continue to age the wine, but suggest opening it now. A near perfect Meursault, in a sweet spot!   

2002 Niellon Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Clos St. Jean – Initially thought the acidity on this wine was pretty high and a little astringent. Tight, not very charming, it did open up in time and improved considerably. The wine paired very well with the seafood course, and had it been blind, would have called it out as a Chablis. Overall, thought it was a good wine, and one that should be cellared for many years.  

Red Burgundy Flight

1990 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche – The wine of the flight, and tied as wine of the night with the Leroy, another stunning wine! A riper style Clos de la Roche than expected, dense, structured, full bodied, raspberry fruits, was a near perfect wine! The finish was never ending. Struggling to think of a better Clos de la Roche ever tasted? From opening to finish, maintained a consistent style. Could easily continue to age the wine effortlessly for years. 

2002 Pierre Amiot Clos de la Roche – A nice easy drinking wine, however in very tough company next to the Hubert Lignier. Some minerality, dusty, rustic fruits, but lacked depth, balance and complexity. An okay drinking experience that on its own was pleasant, but just not to Grand Cru expectations. Like the Lignier, maintained a consistent style throughout the evening, however do not think the wine will improve considerably with additional cellar aging.
 
Sadly, we opened a corked bottle of 1995 Robert Groffier Bonnes Mares, and a little dinner time science experiment, plastic wrap in a glass of the wine did not help. Cheers to a fun dinner with good friends!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Burgundy Dinner with Friends

What better way to kickoff 2012 than with a Burgundy Wine Dinner with good friends. Make it pot luck, add a bottle of 2004 Pierre Peters and 1969 Moet & Chandon Champagne to start, and you have the makings of what should be a fun evening!

2010 was filled with a lot of great wine, and quite a few exceptional Burgundy. Some of the best ones that come to mind: 1969 Leroy Echezeaux, 1985 Joseph Voillot Volnay Champans, 1990 DRC Grands Echezeaux, 1990 Jean Gros Richebourg, 1991 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes, 1998 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet, 2001 Coche Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrieres and a 2004 Domaine Blain Gagnard Le Montrachet. With a little luck, 2012 will rival so many nice wines opened in 2011.

The Inaugural 2012 wine dinner turned out to be a lot of fun. With ten of us in attendance, unfortunately pours were relatively small and there was a limited opportunity to revisit the wines over time. That said, brief impressions follow, and sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Champagne Starter – Both Champagnes were lovely. The Pierre Peters was sweet, a touch of saline, with a refreshing, refined smooth palate, a gorgeous wine. In contrast the Moet & Chandon was lively, fuller in style, and pleasant drinking. It was a bit oxidized, but well within expectations for a 40+ year old Champagne. This was the oldest Champagne I have ever tasted, and was pleasantly surprised.

2004 Pierre Peters Les Chetillons
1969 Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial

White Burgundy – The Corton Charlemagne flight was very good. The Boillot was the biggest most powerful wine of the group, with excellent balance, citrus, toast, and lightly reduced, a highly age worthy wine. Both the Bouchard and Bonneau Martray had much in common, mature, creamy wines, both enjoyable. Sadly, the Louis Latour sulfur was intense, so much so, it grossly took away from wine. Both the Colin Deleger Montrachet and Ramonet Batard Montrachet were oxidized and sadly not very enjoyable.

2005 H. Boillot Corton Charlemagne
2002 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne
2001 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne
2001 Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne
2001 Colin Deleger Montrachet
1995 Ramonet Batard Montrachet

Red Burgundy – Easily the wine of the flight, and wine of the night, the Ponnelle Musigy was beautiful. Mint, leather, youthful clean fruit, with tannin well in proportion to the wines other components. The Echezeaux flight was the best overall flight of the night. Mongeard Mugneret was peppermint, spice, blue fruits, Maniere Noirot youthful, tight, dark fruits, and both Jayer Gilles, vanilla, stemy and approachable. Thought the Drouhin Musigny should be aged longer, has not yet fully come together, it showed an interesting cognac quality on the palate.

1961 Ponnelle Musigny
1989 Maniere Noirot Echezeaux
1998 Mongeard Mugneret Echezeaux Vieille Vigne
1996 Drouhin Laroze Musigny
1998 Jayer Gilles Echezeaux
2001 Jayer Gilles Echezeaux

Mystery Wine -Immediately thought this was a California Pinot Noir. Bright clean fruit, surprising lack of tannin, was mature, round, full bodied, but in no way on the decline. It lacked a certain earth, mineral, spice, and tannic quality you might expect from a blind Burgundy knowingly about a decade old. It all became crystal clear once Bonnes Mares was correctly guessed, it was well in line with numerous other bottles tasted from the vineyard and producer. A very nice wine.

2001 Lucien le Moine Bonnes Mares

Barolo Flight – This was a disappointing flight, not so much from the perspective of the wines absolute quality, more so from personal preference. No notes were taken at the time, just did not find anything particularly appealing. The older wines were all decanted, and could not help but be struck by the appearance of the 1950. It looks like milky, muddy water. Have never seen a more unappealing wine, and the taste was equally disappointing. Projecting forward, a strong candidate for worst wine of the year!

1997 Virginia Ferrero Barolo
1982 Borgogno Barolo
1964 Borgogno Barolo
1971 Borgogno Barolo
1950 Franco Fiorina Barolo

Cheese Plate Wine – Second favorite wine of the night, this was a generous surprise bottle pulled from our hosts cellar. Had it been served blind, would have guessed it as something a few years old, not a wine over 40 years old! It was gorgeous, bone dry, tight, grapefruit, saline with firm acidity. An exceptional wine!

1971 Clos de la Coulee de Serrant Savennieres

Dessert Wines – Found both dessert wines just ok. Have very much enjoyed 1995 stickies, and fondly remember a gorgeous 1995 d’Yquem. The two Ch Tirecul La Graviere Monbazillac were pleasant, sweet, full bodied, mouth coating, but somewhat one dimensional. Found them good, not great.

1995 Ch Tirecul La Graviere Monbazillac Cuvee Madame
1995 Ch Tirecul La Graviere Monbazillac

Cheers to a fun dinner with good friends!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

High End Burgundy Dinner

This past week, attended a very special Burgundy Dinner with friends at Fifth Floor Restaurant in San Francisco. Part birthday dinner, part end of the year tasting that marked a year of enjoyable wine dinners, we all dug a little deeper than normal into our respective cellars for this special evening. Pictured are two examples, a gorgeous 1969 Leroy Echezeaux and 1969 Henry Lamarche La Grand Rue.

What was remarkable about this dinner, no flawed bottles! All were excellent drinking, profound wines that in and of themselves could have easily been the centerpiece of any fine wine dinner. Given the overall high quality, the preference of one wine over another is minimal at best. Wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight. Brief observations of all wines opened follow.

Champagne Flight

1996 Krug – Youthful, very youthful! Crisp green apple, mild yeast, and sweet honey in time. Acidity was firm and present the full duration. The more it sat in the glass, the more it improved, never peaking. Have had this wine 4 or 5 times now, highly consistent, and really a wine that should be aged many more years before enjoying.

1996 Bollinger La Grande Annee – Sweeter than the Krug, bread dough, some acidity lurking underneath, and creamier. Picked up a hint of what I perceived to be oxidation, but it was subtle and perhaps had more to do with the Bollinger style than anything. The wine improved greatly as it sat in the glass, and paired well with the food. Normally not a big fan of Bollinger, this was a nice bottle.

Montrachet Flight

2004 Domaine Blain Gagnard Le Montrachet – Lemon cake, complex, tight, steely, and slow to open up. In time, picked up an interesting and appealing floral, mint quality. A stunning, exceptional wine that was incredibly slow to open up over the span of the evening. This is one of the wines I kept thinking about for a few days after the dinner, if offered up so much quality.

2004 Jadot Montrachet – Strikingly similar to the Gagnard initially, advanced quickly and became more full bodied and rounder. It was creamier with hints of vanilla and lime. This was likewise an excellent wine, though a far more mature Montrachet that will not likely improve with additional cellar aging. Enjoyed the wine a great deal, and it was fun to taste next to the Blaine Gagnard.

Burgundy Flight # 1

1969 Leroy Echezeaux – Game, earth, asian spice, barnyard, balanced, and excellent structure, this was another outstanding wine. The bottle was in near pristine condition. Interesting enough, had this wine last year, and it showed quite different. This years bottle did not show the brighter blue fruit, and thick dark color of last years, showed more elegant secondary characteristics that made for an extraordinary wine. My top wine of the evening, could taste it for days.

1969 Domaine Henry Lamarche La Grande Rue – Leather, dry, sweaty, earth and meat, was a lighter bodied elegant wine that initially had a funky nose, but blew off in time. Acidity was present, and subdued, did not pickup any signs of oxidation. Tasting this wine reminded me of a lesson learned many times over with burgs, don’t judge them too quickly, give them time in the glass and see where they go. In this case, a funky nose blew off and the result was a lovely aged delightful Burgundy!

Burgundy Flight # 2

1991 Vogue Bonnes Mares – Firm acidity, clean dark fruits, and very youthful. This was a big wine, that would benefit by years of additional cellar aging. Thought the Bonnes Mares showed a little more subtle characteristics right now over the Musigny.

1991 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes – Jammy raspberry fruit, firm acid backbone, tart, and also youthful. Another wine that would be wise to cellar for years before enjoying. Of the two Vogue, the more age worthy, and in the long run, suspect the better made wine.

Burgundy Flight # 3

1990 DRC Grands Echezeaux – Ripe sweet cherry fruit, clean and pure, flashy, candied, menthol, thought it was a fantastic wine. Along with the 1969 Leroy Echezeaux, one of the top two wines of the evening. Was interesting to taste this after the 1991 flight and served as a distinct contrast, age worthy 91 vs ready to go 90.

1990 Jean Gros Richebourg -Dense, dark fruits, brooding, reminded me of the 1991 DRC Richebourg opened last year, but more powerful and concentrated. In time, noted some subtle components, barnyard, menthol, it became more open knit in time. A fantastic wine that will age very well, no rush to open.

Burgundy Flight # 4

1999 DRC Vosne Romanee Cuvee Duvault Blochet 1er – Red fruits, clean, ripe and easy drinking medium bodied wine. First time I have ever tasted a Premier Cru DRC, found it a very nice enjoyable wine. Would continue to age this as well, has a long way to go before it hits maturity.

2002 DRC Vosne Romanee Cuvee Duvault Blochet 1er – Barrel sample like initially, took a long time in the glass to open up, and when it did, noted some spice, cherry, and pomegranate. Best to age this wine for many years. Should have opened this flight prior to the Vogue to give it plenty of time to breathe.

Blind Bordeaux Flight

1989 Lynch Bages – Black tar, asphalt, smoke, black berry, a youthful and compelling wine. Have had this wine numerous times and it was beautiful. This wine was served double blind for the group, where it was easy to identify as Bordeaux, but tough to identify the year, it showed young. One of my personal favorite Lynch Bages.

1989 Montrose – Earthy, green and notable brett. Having had this bottle several times, and not perceiving any brett, was surprised to pick it up on this go around. Showed uncharacteristic in style from bottles tasted in the past. Like the Lynch Bages, was served double blind.

Guigal LaLa Flight

1994 Guigal La Landonne – Rich dark fruits, toasty, and meaty, had excellent balance and complexity. Thought this was the best wine of the flight, a lovely Guigal. It was at this flight I started to feel the effects of having no flawed bottles, and limited use of dump buckets.

1994 Guigal La Mouline – Elegant, clean, and earthy wine, picked up coffee, bitter chocolate and black cherry. Also, a very nice wine. Was still thinking about how fortunate we were to have no flawed bottles and wondered what was the ideal number of bottles a person at a wine dinner. We had 18 great bottles among 8 people.

1994 Guigal La Turque – Unapproachable, so youthful, could pickup almost nothing from this wine. Swirled and swirled the wine to no effect. Was a little surprised how barrel sample like this bottle tasted. Sadly, don’t think any amount of time was going to bring out the true qualities of the wine, it simply needs to rest in the cellar for a decade.

Massandra Ending

1932 Massandra Red Port – After all the wine we went through this evening, did not take notes on the Massandra. Recollect a fortified quality to the wine, medium body, palate coating. Was not disappointed. Have to admit a strong personal preference for a very aged Massandra to end a special dinner over nearly any other wine!

Cheers to my good friends from San Francisco for what was easily my wine dinner of the year. It combined all that makes for a fantastic evening, good food, good wine, and good friends!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Lupa Pinot Noir Dinner

Recently got together with friends to enjoy Pinot Noir at Lupa in San Francisco. It was a very informal get together. While most of our palates lean toward Burgundy, looked forward to visiting some California Pinot Noir. The star of the night was Calera, where the top two wines of the evening came from this exceptional producer. What made this dinner stand out more than others unfortunately was the unusually high number of flawed bottles!

All wines were served pop and pour, no decanting. Brief notes follow and are sorted by flight in order of personal preference.

White Flight – While the wine theme was basically Pinot Noir, it is rare for us not to start with a few white wines. The 2007 Sheldon was a pleasant, easy drinking Chardonnay. It leaned more toward a candied, sweet, butter style Chardonnay, not crisp and can easily be enjoyed young. Sadly, the 2006 Marcassin Three Sisters Chardonnay was badly corked.

2007 Sheldon Chardonnay
2006 Marcassin Three Sisters Chardonnay

Aged Pinot Noir Starter – The 1987 Calera Pinot was easily my wine of the night. A perfectly aged, perfectly balanced wine. Nuanced raspberry and underbrush, it showed surprisingly youthful. Have had numerous Calera Jensen over the years, and the style is highly consistent. Had this been served blind, would never have guessed 1987!

1987 Calera Jensen Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir Flight 1 -Prior to the dinner, had a little fun with this flight. Noticed a Robert Parker note on two of them, that the 2000 Peter Michael Moulin Rouge “. . . reveals a La Tache-like perfume of . . . ” and the 2000 Kistler Vineyard Pinot “. . . is a Comte de Vogue Musigny-like effort . . . ” At the tasting, they were no where near a La Tache or Vogue Musigny! The Peter Michael had a high alcohol, ethyl acetate nose, clipped finish, nothing really thrilling going on and the Kistler, our second corked wine! To make matters worse, the Swan was disjointed, with notable VA. That left the clear top wine of the flight, a 2000 Calera Reed. Stemy, blue fruits, and wonderful balance, thought it the second best wine of the night.

2000 Calera Reed Pinot Noir
2000 Swan Trenton Pinot Noir
2000 Peter Michael Moulin Rouge Pinot Noir
2000 Kistler Vineyard Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir Flight 2 – Both the Williams Seylem Westside and Rochioli showed well in this flight, the William Seylem, more chewy and sweet, the Rochioli brighter cherry with very good balance. Each was enjoyable and aging well, no rush to open. Sadly, the Williams Seylem Allen was another flawed wine, ethyl acetate.

2003 Williams Seylem Westside Pinot Noir
2002 Rochioli West Block Pinot Noir
2003 Williams Seylem Allen Pinot Noir

Have never attended a dinner, where near the end of the evening, 50% of the wines opened were flawed for one reason or another! Fortunate for us, our good friend Eric Lundblad of Ladd Cellars joined us with two delightful Pinots to the end the evening, a 2008 Ladd Cellars Abigail Pinot Noir and 2008 Ladd Cellars Russian River Pinot Noir. Hopefully the track record of flawed wines this night, does not repeat itself in the future!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/