Category Archives: Bordeaux

1989 Bordeaux Lunch

As many local San Francisco area wine drinkers are well aware, we are fortunate to have a world class butcher in close proximity. Flannery Beef arguably sells some of the best steak in the country. And to add to this well deserved distinction, some of the best Burgers too! For a tasting of 1989 Bordeaux we hosted, that is exactly what was served, world class hamburgers. The owner of Flannery Beef, Bryan is always helpful in coming up with the perfect blend, in this case 25% Prime Filet Tail, 25% Wagyu Short Ribs, 25% Prime Hanger Steak, and 25% Dry Aged Ends. It lent a near perfect compliment to the wines of the afternoon.

Ten of us were in attendance and all bottles pop and pour. Did not take notes at the time, but have some fond recollections the following day. Wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight. Brief Tasting observations follow:

White Starter Wines – The Roulot was top wine of a flight where all were quite enjoyable but stylistically different. Found it balanced, round, easy drinking and slightly fuller bodied than the others. In contrast, the Bouchard was tight, mineral, saline, and youthful. It will continue to age well. The crowd favorite was the Boillot, also young and very nice drinking. Finally, the Latour Corton Charlemagne, more toned down, little more yeasty and lighter bodied.

2004 Roulot Meix Chavaux
2008 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne
2005 Henri Boillot Clos de la Mouchere
2004 Latour Corton Charlemagne

House Wine – Opened from an imperial, a glass was dedicated to the wine and essentially bottomless as we got the opportunity to taste through the entire lunch. A gorgeous Mouton, showed textbook earth, dark fruit up front, red on the finish with the most delightful menthol quality intermixed in a seamless great drinking wine. Has all the great attributes of an exceptional wine, truly exceptional balance and complexity. It opened up quickly, and maintained a consistent style through the end of the bottle. A close tie with the Latour as wine of the afternoon.

1989 Mouton Rothschild

Starter Red – A great start before moving onto flights. Might add, it was a surprise. Was not expecting much prior to opening, but turned out to be big, lots of high end fruit, and showed on the youthful side. That said, would not hesitate to open a bottle and enjoy in the near term. A wine you want to open and enjoy over a long evening. The most full bodied of all wines opened.

1989 Leoville Barton

Flight 1 – 1989 Lynch Bages has always been a personal favorite wine of ours having tasted it many times over the years. Consider the 89, 90, and 00 Lynch Bages their best efforts in the past few decades. This bottle was particularly youthful and showed layer after layer of complexity. Subtle leather, tobacco and dark fruits. The Cos d’Estournel was lovely, but overshadowed by the Lynch Bages. More restrained, underbrush and closed. Suspect with more time in the glass, would put on weight.

1989 Lynch Bages
1989 Cos d’Estournel

Flight 2 – My least favorite flight of the afternoon, both did not show very complex. The mid palate was there, but did not have a standout nose or memorable finish. The wines probably suffered to some degree based on the quality of the previous wines. A fun curiosity none the less from two producers we have never tasted before. Both were open knit and could be opened and enjoyed in the near term.

1989 Chateau La Rose-Pourette
1989 Chateau de Fieusal

Flight 3 – Always excited to see a Chateau Latour on the table, this wine did not disappoint. The Latour and Mouton were our two favorite wines of the evening, Lynch Bages and Leoville Las Cases close seconds. The Latour was youthful and clearly needs more cellar age. Found it superior to the 1990 Latour tasted on other occasions. Perfect balance, complexity and structure, zero signs of decline. Another stunning wine, the Leoville Las Cases showed true to the producer style. Medium bodied, gritty, earth and nuanced. While you should continue to cellar age the Latour, the Leoville Las Cases was more approachable.

1989 Latour
1989 Leoville Las Cases

Finish Wines – The TBA was gorgeous, perfectly resolved, could not have asked for a better end of meal wine. Round, full bodied, honey, and a delightful freshness that made it appear far younger than 1971. Prior to the TBA, tasted a equally gorgeous Wittmann Riesling. The depth and complexity of this wine was outstanding. Sadly, Wittmann has limited availability in the US, and the country is missing one of the truly great producers of German Riesling.

1971 Ungsteiner Honigsackel Trockenbeerenauslese,
2009 Wittmann Morstein Riesling GG

Bordeaux from 1989 are in a good place generally speaking. Classically styled, was impressed with the wines overall. And cheers to no flawed bottles!

Nick Wittmann
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
https://www.santarosafinewine.com/

 

Premiere Napa Valley 2014

This past weekend we attended Premiere Napa Valley. It is an all trade wine event where wineries offer special auction lots showcasing some of the best the area has to offer. This year, the 2012 vintage was the focus from barrel. The vast majority of producers showed either their 2010 or 2011 in bottle. Our future purchases are highly influenced by PNV and similar trade tastings. Given small sample sizes and the number of wines tasted, observations have to be put into the right context, a quick impression based on an experienced wine palate. What follows are some of the events we attended and brief observations.

Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Tasting – A great opportunity to talk with winemakers and taste special lots of the 2012 vintage. It is an early preview of the upcoming vintage. For us, the top lot tasted was the exceptional 2012 Inglenook Cabernet. It is a modern wine made in an old school style. Balance, structure and complexity, this will be a great wine when it hits maturity. If this turns out to be the new house style of Inglenook, suspect the producer will rival the best you will find anywhere in the Napa Valley. While so many producers are have long since moved to a riper drink young style of wine, find it highly refreshing that Inglenook may be going back to its roots of age worth, highly complex and exciting wines. Will follow them with great interest. Our second favorite wine was the Volker Eisele. Also an age worthy complex wine, bigger fruit than I am use to with the producer, however, no question, an exceptional wine. While we tasted a lot more wines than those listed, the following is a list of the most memorable sorted in order of personal preference.

2012 Inglenook Cabernet
2012 Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet
2012 Favia Red Wine
2012 Freemark Abbey York Creek Cabernet
2012 Shafer Vineyards Sunspot Cabernet
2012 Scarecrow Toto’s Opium Dream
2012 Joseph Phelps Backus Cabernet
2012 Keever Cabernet
2012 Barbour Wines Cabernet
2012 Jones Family Cabernet
2012 Ovid Cabernet
2012 Nickel and Nickel John C. Sullenger Cabernet
2013 Grgich Hills Old Vine Carneros Chardonnay
2012 Robert Mondavi To Kalon Cabernet
2012 Madrigal Family Winery Cabernet
2012 Chappellet Vineyard Red Wine
2012 Duckhorn Three Palms Cabernet
2012 Beringer VIneyards Howell Cabernet
2012 Louis M Martini Cabernet
2012 Foley Johnson Cabernet
2012 Paraduxx Red Wine
2012 Clos du Val Stags Leap Cabernet

Multi-Vintage Perspective and Retrospective Tasting – A fantastic event where numerous 1984, 1994 and 2004 wines were tasted double blind. At the same location was another double blind tasting of the same producer from 2009, 2010, 2011. Before reveal, the 1984 Shafer Hillside Select showed better than any wine in the entire tasting. Thought it was a 1984 Caymus Estate Cabernet, very similar. In a perfect place right now. Second was a 1984 Schramsberg Vineyards Reserve Sparking Wine and third, a 1994 Beringer Private Reserve. Interesting enough, the best 2009, 2010, 2011 flight was the Shafer Hillside Select.

1984 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet
1984 Schramsberg Vineyards Reserve Sparking Wine
1994 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet
1994 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet
1984 Sterling Reserve Merlot

Atelier Melka Portfolio Tasting – A well put together tasting at Meadowood, found the wines collectively some of the most enjoyable ones of all the tastings. As in previous years, thought the 2011 Entre Nous came out as the top Cabernet. 2011 Melka Metisse was also a great drinking wine, followed by the 2010 Brand. Blended wines generally showed superior to 100% Cabernet, a theme that repeated itself through out other tastings. No disappointments among any of the wines tasted.

2011 Entre Nous Cabernet
2011 Melka Metisse
2010 Brand Cabernet

Stags Leap District House of Cab – Have attended the Stags Leap District tasting the past few years. Unfortunately, it was a shorter than normal stay due to a tight tasting schedule. Did not get a chance to try the majority of wines we had wanted. Notable wines by Stags Leap, Regusci and Cliff Lede.

2010 Stags Leap Fay Cabernet
2005 Stags Leap Cabernet
2011 Cliff Lede Poetry

 Cliff Lede Open that Bottle Night – Always a fun event, guests bring special bottles from their cellar to share with attendees. We brought a 1973 Joseph Swan Pinot, 1985 Groth Cabernet and 1985 Duckhorn Merlot, all of which showed very well. Food provided by Rosso, enjoyed along side some enjoyable Pizza! The 1988 Mouton was gorgeous and 1998 Mouton the bigger wine. The 1990 and 1987 both also showed very well.

1988 Mouton
1998 Mouton
1990 Mouton
1987 Mouton
1989 Mouton
1977 Joseph Swan Pinot
1990 Rostaing Cote Rotie
1985 Groth Cabernet
1985 Duckhorn Merlot

First Taste Yountville – A smaller trade and attendee turnout than normal, found a few nice wines. Our top tasting wine was the 2009 Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet. Also memorable was the 2011 Dominus, Napanook and Casa Piena Cabernets.

2009 Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet
2011 Dominus
2011 Napanook
2010 Casa Piena Cabernet

Chateau Boswell Annual Premiere Party – First time attending this tasting, a very nice collection of good drinking wines. Across the board, Bevan Cellars had the more terrific wines, especially the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. Since tasting their 2007 Bevan Cellars Cabernet, have considered this a producer / winemaker to keep an eye on. True to form, they have consistently produced high quality wine since, and likely will long into the future. The second most memorable wine was the 2011 Hudson Chardonnay, nothing short of stunning.

2012 Bevan Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
2011 Hudson Chardonnay
2011 Barbour Cabernet
2011 Corra Cabernet

Shafer Tasting – Attended this tasting several times over the last few years, and it is a great opportunity to taste past and current release Shafer Hillside Select. One of our favorite California Cabernet Producers, in order of personal preference, enjoyed the 07, 04, 05, 10 and 06. Have tasted these wines many times (with the exception of 2010). All showed consistent. The only wine that continues to show itself in an awkward state is the 2006. Despite 2010 being a challenging year, the  2010 Shafer Hillside Select was exceptional.

2007 Shafer Hillside Select
2004 Shafer Hillside Select
2005 Shafer Hillside Select
2010 Shafer Hillside Select
2006 Shafer Hillside Select

Overall Impressions:

* The 2012 vintage is a big improvement over the more challenging 2011 and 2010 vintage. For Napa Valley California Cabernet, loosely rank vintage preference from best to least favorite: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2008, 2011, and 2006.

* 2012 appears to show a lot in common with the 2008 vintage. Generally the fruit was on the ripe and fresh side. Think they will generally be drink young wines, flashy in their youth, and have shorter than normal drinking windows.

* Among bottled wines, found blends consistently showing superior to straight 100% Cabernets. Of course, many 100% Cabernets were fine, but given tough growing conditions, the addition of Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot helped round out and balance wines.

* For those who appreciate old school age worthy Cabernet, our conversation and tasting of the Inglenook barrel sampling was an eye opener. One of the most unique and standout wines of the tastings. A producer that appears to be taking serious steps in a new direction to the delight of those that value what California once was. We are thrilled and excited to see how their wines develop over time.

Cheers to the Napa Valley Vintners Association and all the contributing Napa Valley Wineries for putting on a great event!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Old School Wine Lunch

This weekend we hosted a wine lunch for a good friend visiting from Germany. The theme was loosely defined as old school California, but as luck would have it, evolved into old school wine from several regions. Five of us were in attendance with ample time to revisit the wines over the afternoon and early evening. Impressions of the wines follow, captured the day after the tasting and sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Starter Flight

2009 Wittmann Westhoven Morstein Trocken Riesling GG – Highly nuanced, yet rich tropical fruit with a dry age worthy backbone. This stunning Reisling was exceptional. Focused and a worthy addition to any cellar.

2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut – A lovely dry starter wine as guests arrived. It was crip and clean. The low / no dosage sparkling wine was chalky in texture and precise. A good palate cleanser to start the lunch.

Pinot Noir Flight

1982 Chalone Pinot – Have had the pleasure of drinking this wine several times in the past, and this bottle did not disappoint. Showed far more youthful than the 90 Burgundy with good minerality and delightful blue and red fruits. Balanced and complex, preferred it strongly over the Burgundy.

1990 Domaine Lecheneaut Les Damodes – Found this wine ok, not particularly great. Was in tough company next to the Chalone. Picked up primarily wet saddle leather and stale plum qualities that did not show balanced or complex. A simple straight forward Burgundy.

 Older Wine Flight

1925 Marques de Murrieta Casilillo Ygay Logrono Reserva Especial – A surprise wine served blind by our generous guest. Caramel, some butterscotch, deep rich dark chocolate and no distracting oxidative notes. On reveal, turns out it was a Rioja! Was highly surprised how well this extremely old wine held up. It drank beautifully, a flashy wine with a lot of character.

1966 Louis Martini Mountain Cabernet – Second time tasting the 66 Martini in the past few years, found this wine as good as the first. Youthful, balanced and highly age worthy. It kept giving layer after layer of complexity the longer it sat in the glass. No rush to open, will improve with additional bottle aging.

1974 Mayacamas Cabernet – Did not spent a lot of time with the Mayacamas, it was opened the previous day so just a small sample. Given it showed so well on day two with no signs of oxidation and balanced fruit, suspect it was exceptional on day one.

1987 California Flight

1987 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet – Have tasted this wine easily a dozen plus times over the years, and this was one of the best examples tasted to date! It remains a youthful, mind blowing wine. Pure fruit, highly structured, subtle menthol finish, textbook old school California Cabernet. Have long considered this one of the top California Cabernet made in the exceptional 1987 vintage.

1987 Philip Togni Cabernet – First time tasting the 1987 Togni, found it interesting. A very good wine that showed slightly on the leaner side, with a slight green streak. The wine did not show the depth of other 1987 vintage California Cabernet, went away thinking it was best to drink this particular wine sooner rather than later. Knowing the Togni style of wine, it is entirely possible the wine was simply shut down.

Finishing Wine

1958 Pontet Canet – An amazing old Bordeaux to end the evening. Not oxidized, fuller bodied than the two Cabernet, with an intoxicating mix of exotic spices, earth, game, and dark fruits. Noted light bricking, this well stored bottle was nothing short of delightful.

What was particularly notworthy about the evening was that none of the bottles were flawed! Given their age, might expect one or two off bottles. All showed at, or exceeded expectations for a well stored bottle. A delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon, good food, wine and company!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Wine Check In

Santa Rosa Fine Wine often attends smaller trade related tastings where we sample wine prior to purchase. It gives us a good sense of provenance and storage of private collections prior to potential purchase. In this particular tasting, we tried everything early in the evening, and toward the end, revisited the ones that made the strongest impression. Detailed notes are not taken, just a quick check in of wines that caught our attention. Top wine of the tasting was easily the 1993 Jadot Estournelles St Jacques. A stunning, if not perfect wine! Highly noteworthy was the 1987 Diamond Creek Volcanic. Have tasted lessor examples of this wine, this particular bottle was very well stored!

Exceptional wines:

1975 Heitz Martha
1987 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill
1987 Chateau Montelena Cabernet
1993 Jadot Estournelles St Jacques
2003 Abreu Thorevilos
2007 Brocard Les Clos

Very good wines:

1978 Leoville Las Cases
1987 Heitz Martha
1988 Leroy Pommard Les Vignots
1993 AF Gros Le Grand Maupertuis Clos Vougeot
1997 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet
2000 Dujac Morey St Denis
2001 Morey Puligny Montrachet Pucelles
2004 Quilceda Creek Cabernet
2006 Sine Qua Non Raven Grenache
2007 Sine Qua Non Labels Syrah
2007 Sine Qua Non Body and Soul

Some ok wines included 1981 Dunn Howell and 2009 Littorai Savoy Pinot and disappointments in 1978 Ducru Beaucaillou, 2003 Chapoutier Ermitage Les Greffieux, 2005 Janasse CdP Vieilles Vignes, and 1990 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti. Numerous California Pinot showed ripe and not particularly complex, more every day drinkers not listed.

For more detailed notes of wines we sample, generally over the span of hours, visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/santarosafinewine.

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

 

Premiere Napa Valley 2013

Premiere Napa Valley is a trade only wine auction scheduled in February each year. Local producers pour special auction lots of their unique blends and best barrels. It is a great opportunity to taste an early preview of the upcoming Napa Valley vintage. In this case, 2011. Several of the events we attended follow.

For Santa Rosa Fine Wine, the tastings are invaluable and give us a very strong sense what we will purchase in the coming years and advise to our customers. As with other tastings of this nature, pours are small and we are tasting a lot of wine, identifying top wines should be put into the proper context. That said, all wines listed below are the top 5 tasted at each event. They left the strongest positive impression, listed best to very good. We tasted a lot of great wine not listed!

First Taste of Yountville – Held at the Historic Barrel Room in Yountville, and put on by the Yountville Appellation Association, it was the first event we attended. One of the appellations we regularly track, top wines are listed. A special note should be made concerning Casa Piena. It is the third year we tasted their wine, and considered them outstanding! This is a producer we regard and give high praise for properly hitting an excellent balance of fruit, structure, complexity and age worthiness.

2009 Casa Piena Cabernet
2008 Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet
2010 Dominus
2009 Charles Krug X Clone
2009 Gemstone Estate Cabernet

St Helena Appellation Tasting – Hosted at Charles Krug Winery, another tasting we attend nearly every year. It was a pleasure to run into Ted Edwards of Freemark Abbey, a long time wine maker we respect for consistency and quality at all levels. His talents are evident in one of their newer labels, Josephine!

2009 Freemark Abbey Josephine
2009 Revana Cabernet
2010 Ehlers Estate 1886 Cabernet
2009 Vineyard 29
2009 Trinchero Central Park West Cabernet

Open that Bottle Night – Hosted by Cliff Lede Winery, it is a BYOB Party where the generous host sets a high bar! This year, they opened Magnums of First Growth Bordeaux. The night is centered around attendees bringing a nice bottle from their cellar to share with others. The event is catered by Rosso in Santa Rosa, outstanding Pizza! Our palate is decidedly French, so not a surprise to see an all French Top 5.

1993 Rousseau Chambertin
1991 Ponsot Latricieres Chambertin
1988 Chateau Latour
2001 Chateau Latour
2001 Chateau Mouton

Rudd Center Retrospective Tasting – First time attending this event, it was a multi-vintage tasting of the same wine from 2008, 2009 and 2010 blind in Cabernet and 2009, 2010 and 2011 in Chardonnay. We rated all the wines and at the end, were given a key to analyse. In terms of Cabernet, our palate overall leaned toward enjoying 2009 best, followed by 2010 and 2008. In terms of Chardonnay, it went 2009, 2010 and 2011. Chardonnays were poured on the cold side, a little more challenging to evaluate.

Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay
Pine Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay
Stanton Vineyard Cabernet
Titus Family Estate Reserve Cabernet
Truchard Vineyard Chardonnay

Atelier Melka Portfolio Tasting – The second year for us attending this tasting, was impressed with the overall high quality of wine. Similar to the Casa Piena, think the wines by Kristine Ashe Vineyards (Entre Nous) were outstanding, significant standout wines. It is a producer relatively new to us, but strongly think they are worth keeping an eye on based on the last two years, highly recommended!

2010 Entre Nous Cabernet
2009 Cliff Lede Poetry
2009 Metisse Jumping Goat Cabernet
2009 Brand Cabernet
2010 Gandona Estate Cabernet

House of Cab Stags Leap District – The final event of the pre auction tastings, Pine Ridge Vineyards hosts a fun event. In a lounge type environment, you enjoyed good food, wine, music and conversation! It was a pleasure to meet with winery principles including the delightful winemaker of Clos du Val, Kristy Melton. A relatively new talent to the Clos du Val team, look forward to her future releases!

2010 Silverado Cellars SOLO Cabernet
2009 Cliff Lede Poetry
2005 Chimney Rock Cabernet
2001 Stags Leap Winery Cabernet
1993 Clos du Val Cabernet

We went away from the event still of the view, the more structured 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet was showing better than the more fruit forward 2008. Furthermore, that 2010 in general showed better than 2011. And for a few new friends, 1997 better than 1998!

Congratulations to the organizers of PNV 2013, a fantastic well put together event!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Southern Marin Wine Dinner

Recently we got together with good friends in Marin for an end of year wine dinner. As always, the food and company were enjoyable, combined with an interesting mix of wine. With the exception of the Italian Flight, all wines were served double blind. This tasting was particularly challanging in that, with nine of us in attendance, pour sizes were very small not allowing to revisit the wine over time. All wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Champagne Starter

1996 Dom Perignon – Remember drinking this wine numerous times when young, and it was very apparent it would be long lived. The wine showed far more mature now, and in a good place. Noted honey, almond, and orange citrus fruit. An elegant and subtle wine.

Chardonnay Flight

2005 Pernot Bienvenues Batard Montrachet – Mature, almost lightly oxidized, some citrus deeply buried in the wine. Correctly guessed it as a Burgundy, but thought it had more age on it than a 2005. An ok wine, not sure it is going to hold up well in time.

2006 Rhys Alpine Chardonnay – Bright, young, almost Aubert like fruit, on the sweet side and a little one dimensional. Thought it might be a 2006 to 2008 Rochioli Chardonnay. Generally like Rhys Chardonnay, thought this one just ok.

Pinot Flight

1996 Arnoux Echezeaux – Light body, elegent red and black cherry fruits, good minerality, and plenty of structure to easily carry the wine into future. Thought the wine representative of Echezeaux in style, and a delightful wine to drink. No rush to open, will continue to age well.

2005 Rochioli West Block Pinot – Big ripe wine, was easy to guess as California. Bright strawberry and cranberry notes, thought it might be from the Russian River. Thought the wine was not particularly complex, more one dimensional, and was surprised on reveal is was a single vineyard designate Rochioli.

Non Blind Italian Flight

1997 La Spinetta Barbaresco Vigneto Gallina – Both of the Italian wines showed qualities we find incredibly off putting. The Barbaresco had a ripe plum prune quality we have never found appealing, in addition to an astringent almost paint thinner nose. A highly disappointing wine.

1997 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo – Similarly disappointing and also showing a quality we find distracting and unpleasant, a high degree of bandaid brett. It was so distracting to make the wine undrinkable. Others at the table were not as sensative to brett, and found the wine enjoyable, though recognized it might not be fully to expectations.

Cabernet Flight

1996 Leoville Las Cases – Easily wine of the night, thought this was a beautiful and highly elegant drinking wine. Dry dusty dark fruits, game meats, menthol, it showed everything we enjoy in an exceptional Bordeaux. 1986 has long been our favorite Leoville Las Case, wonder if the 1996 will hit that same level in another 10 years!

1996 Peter Michael Les Pavot – Another wine we have tasting many times. The interesting thing about the 1996 Les Pavot is how different the fruit intensity has been from bottle to bottle. Most of the time, the fruit is very big and powerful. This bottle showed more shut down this time. A good drinking wine, though not entirely to expectations.

Finisher

1990 Zind Humbrecht Tokay Pinot Gris – Predominately tangerine, and pretty much to expectations. Full bodied, notable sweetness, it is a well made wine and a good way to end the meal. For us, it is a wine to drink in very small amounts.

Interesting to note, in each flight, the French wine was preferred over the California wine by the majority of us in attendance. Cheers to France!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafine.com

 

Small Wine Tasting

It might be said that numerous blog posts are written for an audience of one, the writer! In the case of this post, it is true, a record of wines we tasted for future reference. We recently attended a small sampling of wine in San Francisco. It was a tasting where nice wine was poured, however pour sizes were very small. In this type of tasting, you get a quick sense of the cellar provenance before purchase, and a snapshot view of the wine quality itself. In this particular instance, tasted each wine when first opened, and revisited the majority later in the evening. For Santa Rosa Fine Wine, it is invaluable to taste samples from a private cellar prior to purchase.

Excellent Drinking wines:

1959 Doudet Naudin Volnay
1970 Chateau Pichon Lalande
1978 Mongeard Mugneret Echezeaux
1978 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet
1982 Clos Rene
1984 Dominus
1986 Cos d’Estournel
1995 Harlan Estate
2000 Dalla Valle Maya
2005 Chateau Certan de May

Very Good Drinking Wines:

1975 Leoville Las Cases
1983 Ducru
1989 Hospices de Nuits Les Fleurieres
1993 Calera Jensen
1995 Lynch Bages
1997 Pio Cesare Barolo
2006 Aubert Ritchie Chardonnay

Beyond these, some wines showed just ok: 1978 Jaffelin Chambolle Musigny, 1978 Lynch Bages, 1980 Heitz Martha and 1999 Gemstone Red. Sadly, some bottles did not show well: 1971 Jadot Gevrey Chambertin, 1976 Jordan Cabernet, 1983 Pierre Bouree Corton, 1991 Moraga Bel Air Cabernet, 1995 Chateau Gloria, 1997 Galante Blackjack Pasture Cabernet, 2002 Jones Family Cabernet, 2005 Chateau La Gomerie and 2007 Hartwell Reserve Cabernet. The not so great wines showed various degrees of oxidization, drying out, past maturity, or simply out of balance.

As a general rule, we value balance, age worthiness, structure, and complexity. We do not value, brett (bandaid on any level, barnyard when excessive), obvious flaws (corked, VA, ethyl acetate, etc.), one dimenional wines, as well as those that are past maturity, oxidized, or overly ripe with a plum, prune, raisin quality. Very small samples pose an evaluation challenge, but in the context of writing for yourself, it is certainly helpful!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Super Second Bordeaux Dinner

This past month, got together with a few friends to enjoy a night of Super Second Bordeaux. As luck would have it, there were numerous very nice wines, including a 1950 Pichon Baron. The final wine of a series of 1950’s tasted over the past year from one of our good friends, thought it better than the 1950 Margaux and 1950 Palmer previously tasted. The group was small, and pours large. Brief observations follow, sorted in order of personal preference:

Champagne Starter

Pol Roger Pure – A no dosage Champagne, thought it was an excellent wine. Bone dry, crisp, nice acidity, need to search this out for future tastings.

White Wine Starter

2001 Margaux Pavillon Blanc – Corked! Some folks thought it was not corked, but in our opinion had that tell tale wet cardboard nose and sapped palate. Disappointing.

Super Second Bordeaux Flight

1950 Pichon Baron – Opened early in the evening, the fruit was huge on this wine. Figured this wine would be either dry or perhaps oxidized with a top shoulder fill, was completely surprised how beautiful it was, big fruit, good firm tannin and acidity. Furthermore, it continued to hold up well over the span of the evening, never declining. An excellent wine.

1983 Pichon Lalande – Cannot recall ever tasted a better Pichon Lalande than this bottle of 1983, and that includes that 1982 vintage! No green or grassy quality we so often get from the producer, the wine was clean, elegent, balanced, dark fruit, simply beautiful!

1981 La Mission Haut Brion – Another excellent Bordeaux, refined and elegant, noted eucalyptus, earth, and leather. This was a beautiful wine, layered and subtle, kept giving more the longer it sat in the glass. Highly enjoyable and worth seeking out.

1970 Montrose – A nice wine with good underlying material, jammy, red fruit, thought it showed well initially. As it sat in the glass however, it slowly declined, never showing a great deal of complexity. After some table discussion, think the wine may have experienced a little heat.

1996 Leoville Poyferre – Another dark berry wine, it was in very tough company, overshadowed by all the other wines. Had had this wine before, and it was consistent in style, game meats and earth. A little more lean and higher acidity than expected.

A highly enjoyable evening with good food, friends, and wine!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Heitz Martha Lunch

This weekend, we hosted a group of friends for an afternoon of wine focused around a vertical of Heitz Martha. With a long history of tasting Heitz Martha, there are few vintages we have not tried. The 1974 and 1985 have been two of our favorites to date, and as luck would have it, would be our first time tasting one of the wines, a 1967 Heitz Martha. For this tasting, it was a smaller group so pour sizes were generous and allowed us the opportunity to revisit over the afternoon. A bottle was opened from every decade Heitz has made wine from Martha’s Vineyard. All wines were served pop and pour, and none of them were flawed. Brief observations of all bottles opened follow:

Champagne Starter

Jacques Selosse Initiale (disgorged Oct 2006) – Served in Riedel Chablis glasses, a smooth easy drinking Champagne. Notable roasted walnuts up front, with yeast and earthy qualities in the background. A mature, balanced, complex wine that drank more like a still white wine than a Champagne. With no signs of oxidation, thought it was absolutely gorgeous, in a sweet spot right now.

Chablis Starter

2002 Jean Marc Brocard Valmur – Fully mature, at first thought this was going to be a very good Chablis. Had a nice crisp oyster shell palate, though pretty light bodied. Did not pickup any sweetness, sometimes apparent with the producer. Revisiting the wine after about 15 minutes on, it began a relative quick decline. Did not enjoy the wine as much as others at the table.

Heitz Martha Flight

1967 Heitz Martha – An excellent, elegant, highly age worthy wine! Heitz Martha is noted for its tell tale eucalyptus nose, and this wine had it, though subtle. Amazing fruit, tannin and acid balance with a mix of herbs, spice, meat and earth. A lighter to medium bodied wine, noted no signs of oxidation. There is no rush to open this wine, several hours after first opening, the wine maintained its profile. It has a long future ahead of it. Overall, thought it was an outstanding wine and wine of the flight.

1977 Heitz Martha – A close second for wine of the flight. Enjoyed it for very different reasons. The wine had a more liquor quality to it, yet with a rustic backbone that became baked fruits in time. A big nose, more powerful fruit in contrast to the 1967, wondered if this wine could be the 1967 with another 10 years of age? Like the 1967, no signs of oxidation, and plenty of potential for continued aging. An excellent drinking wine.

1980 Heitz Martha – Some mint, tight, lean, some background spice, it picked up steam the more it sat in the glass, but never quite achieved the level of complexity or greatness like that from the 1967 and 1977. This was just an ok wine, more one dimensional, it had all the tell tale characteristics of Heitz Martha, just toned down on every front. There would be no additional benefit to continue aging this wine. Overall, just ok.

1990 Heitz Martha – Far riper than the previous three bottles tasted, thought it third best wine of the flight. It had clean, deeper red fruit, some chocolate, and more perceivable eucalyptus than the other wines opened. Maintained a consistent style through the bottle. About a glass remained, and revisited the next day. Still a very big style of Heitz Martha, showed better on day two. The wine will benefit significantly with additional cellar aging.

2005 Heitz Martha – A far different style than any of the wines tasted, more blue fruits than red, big, sweet, almost barrel sample like. Made in a more modern California Cabernet style. Overall, thought it was disappointing from a vintage we have tasted so many nice wines. Perhaps with additional cellar aging, it will come around. A wine worth revisiting in the future.

Bordeaux Finisher

1985 Cos d’ Estournel – Wine the day, thought this was an exceptional wine. Had everything that makes for a great Bordeaux, tremendous balance and complexity! Thought it was a darker fruit based wine than the Heitz, also noted some coffee, dark chocolate, and exotic grainy spice. Another outstanding 1985 Bordeaux!

Last year tasted a vertical of Louis Martini Cabernet (50’s through 80’s), this year Heitz Martha Cabernet (60’s through 00’s), what should we do next year?

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Fine Wine Dinner at Cafe Castagna

This week, got together with a few friends at Cafe Castagna in SF to open up some wine with the goal of pulling something rare or exceptional from our respective cellars. What was particularly interesting about this dinner was that we opened quite possibly the best California wine I have ever tasted, a 1974 Joseph Phelps Insignia. I have had this bottle in my cellar for a few years now waiting for a special occasion to open, and this was the night.Four of us attended the dinner allowing for very generous pours, and the opportunity to fully explore how the wine developed in the glass over time. All wines were served pop and pour. Wine tasting notes follow from this highly memorable dinner, sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Grand Cru Chablis

2001 Raveneau Valmur – An awesome wine, immediately showed very tight and youthful. Acidity was prevalent, however well in check with the fruit. Some notable lemon citrus and subtle oyster shell, found the wine deep and complex. Over time, it very slowly opened up, and revisited the wine frequently over the approximately 4 to 5 hours tasted. One of the most reduced Raveneau I have tasted, could easily continue to age this wine for a significant period of time.

2001 Raveneau Blanchot – Floral, pretty, feminine nose, yet restrained on the palate initially. Had a highly interesting nutty quality to the wine, but not from oxidiation. After a little time in the glass, thought it mature, but hours into the tasting, kept giving up more power and complexity. When the wine hit its peak, noted a pleasant saline quality and custard like mouthfeel. Overall, the Blanchot was rounder, and perhaps flashier, but appreciated more the restrained power of the Valmur.

Rare California Cabernet

1974 Phelps Insignia – The best California Cabernet we have ever tasted! The color was deep, dark and youthful without any signs of bricking. On the nose and palate, a Bordeaux like quality of intense, silky, big dark fruits, mint and lightly floral. Clean and layered on the palate, had power without being overdone, and a stagging finish that was both seductive and structured. From first pour, through the end of the bottle, maintained a consistent style, yet gave layer after layer of complexity. A youthful wine that could be easily aged for decades. Wine of the night, and the most memorable California Cabernet experience I have ever had. A stellar absolutely perfect wine!

1978 Diamond Creek Volcanic – Similar to the Insignia, a very rare wine. Also like the Insignia, showed very Bordeaux like, though dryer and slightly more mature in contrast. It was served a touch warm which took away from the wine, but could still appreciate the underlying material. Also a dark fruit wine, more tart, and showed some bandaid brett, which was distracting to me, not as pronounced to others. Balance, structure and overall density of the wine was excellent. A very good wine!

Bordeaux from the 80’s

1986 Rausan Segla – Another gorgeous wine, showed far more gamey, barnyard and full bodied, with red raspberry fruit and a tomato paste like texture, without being vegital. Distinctly Bordeaux, had a consistent style throughout the bottle. No rush to open this wine, however if done, shows well immediately on opening. Enjoyed this wine slightly more than the Diamond Creek, but not as much as the Insignia.

1982 Lynch Bages – Expected a great deal more from the Lynch Bages. Relatively light bodied, with dry saddle leather, mineral, earth, and very firm acidity. The acidity seem to outweight the fruit, and did not come together in the time we drank through the bottle. The wine may have suffered being next to the Rausan Segla, as it was the most toned down wine of the evening. Based on this tasting, suspect the wine should not be opened for many more years to give it time to come together.

Mystery French Red

1986 Gruaud Larose – Served blind, clear it was a great Bordeaux. The Gruaud Larose had more in common styllistically with the Rausan Segla than the Lynch Bages. After the 1974 Insignia, the second most enjoyable bottle of the night. It was stunning, pencil lead, clean, yet big bold fruit, and forest floor, the wine was balanced, had plenty of depth and the complexity was exceptional. This was a youthful wine that opened up slowly in the glass, could easily age or enjoy in the near term.

This was both a fun and memorable wine dinner. Had everything we enjoy, a small group allowing ample pours, special wines you don’t drink or see everyday, excellent food, and of course, great company!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com