Category Archives: Burgundy

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

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

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

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/

Double Blind Bungalow 44 Wine Dinner

This past week, got together with friends at Bungalow 44 in Mill Valley for a Double Blind Wine Dinner. With the exception of the organizer, we knew it would be California and French wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Typically not a fan of blind or double blind dinners, this one turned out to be very well organized, interesting and educational. The discussion was fun, guessing the specific wines, years, and regions. In the course of the tasting, found it fascinating how different we each perceived the quality of one wine other another.

Brief notes follow of all wines opened. Within each flight, wines are sorted in order of personal preference, prior to reveal.

Flight 1 – Chardonnay

2005 Rochioli Rachael’s Vineyard – A lovely flinty, sulfur nose that immediately suggested it was a Burgundy A fat, full bodied, creamy sweet palate pointed to California. In the end, guessed it as a Burgundy. Rarely encounter this fantastic flinty nose on a California wine, and guessed our organizer might try to challenge us with a White Burg with California qualities. Thought it was a highly complex gorgeous wine.

2005 Remi Jobard Meursault Genevrieres – Leaner in style, lemon citrus, youthful and tart, a nice firm wine with a touch of cardboard and astringency, but improved considerably with time in the glass. It came across like a 2009 Ceritas Ritchie Chardonnay, a California producer wine made in a Burgundian style. Guessing from this point forward became far easier, went with original instincts!

Flight 2 – Pinot Noir

2003 Kistler Cuvee Catherine – Initially, it was very primary and youthful, it quickly came together. Dry raspberry fruit, in time becoming lightly candied, it kept putting on weight over time. The mouthfeel was full and coating, without being excessive. Overall, it was a highly age worthy and highly complex, the top wine of the flight.

1996 Maillard Corton Renards – At first, thought it was a rather simple wine with light blue fruits and not a lot else going on, with time in the glass however, made a complete turn around. Subtle sweet cake like and barnyard notes, intertwined with blue and black fruits made this highly interesting.

1997 Joseph Swan Trenton Estate Pentagon Reserve – Picked up more cherry fruit in this wine, more concentrated and ripe than the Corton Renards, also, more notable funk. This was a very interesting wine, and enjoyed it a great deal.

2003 Vincent Girardin Charmes Chambertin – Initially liked this wine, twigs and barnyard, easy drinking. In time, became funky, bretty, and vanilla, it seems to have lost the initial qualities that made it interesting. Do not think this one will age particularly well, my least favorite wine of the tasting.

Flight 3 – Cabernet Sauvignon

2000 Lynch Bages – Dusty, Pichon Lalande like, highly age worthy and complex. This was my top wine of the flight and tasting, a complete Bordeaux that had everything in place. Have had this wine at least 5 or 6 times now, and find it highly consistent.

1989 Montrose – Gamey, foxy, earthy, young, sweaty, animal and exotic. Similar to the Lynch Bages, had this wine numerous times, and this specific example showed more youthful than previous times tasted. A fantastic wine, the second best wine of the tasting.

2001 Bond Melbury – Cherry liquor, bright, thick and full bodied, initially thought it was a Shafer Hillside, but then it took on some vanilla qualities, which I never associated with the Hillside Select. Definitely a wine to drink with a big steak, it was huge!

1992 Ridge Monte Bello – Chalky, aged, mineral, sweet, a little simple at first, nuanced and complex later. Really enjoyed this wine, and was more inclined to think it was a younger French wine over an older California. This flight as a whole showed better than the previous two.

Bonus Wines

1991 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet – A wonderful end of meal wine, black fruits, compact, complex, and balanced, had everything that reminded me why I love 1991 California Cabernet.

2009 Oro Puro Vineyards Late Harvest – Thought this was the best Oro Puro I have ever tasted. Bright peach, clean, full bodied, mouth coating, with wonderful balance. Think this will turn out to be one of their most age worthy wines!

Overall, this was a fantastic dinner, and like all good dinners, it ended in planning the next one, tentatively scheduled to be Rhone! Cheers to a great evening!

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

Wine and Spirits Top 100 Tasting

This past week, we attended the eighth annual Wine and Spirits Top 100 Tasting at City View at Metreon in San Francisco. It is the first time we have attended this particular tasting. The location was excellent for a wine event. Champagne, Sparkling Wines and whites were served on the outside patio, red wines on the inside. The tasting had the feel of a fun cocktail party with nice small bites from local restaurants circulating the room. It was a delightful, well executed event that was a lot of fun to attend.

No tasting notes were taken during the event, only some brief obversations. Wines are sorted in order of personal preference by group. If a wine is not listed, we either did not taste it, or did not find it particularing appealing to our personal palate.

Champagnes / Sparking Wines – The Bollinger Rose was arguably the best wine of the tasting, absolutely beautiful, well balanced and complex, it outshined all other wines tasted within this group. Notable, but not listed were the NV wines, in particular the Bollinger Brut Special Cuvee and Louis Roederer Brut Premier, both enjoyable. Find that the NV Louis Roederer Champagnes often show better than Cristal, which it did in this case. The 2002 Dom Perignon showed very young, would cellar for years before opening.

2002 Bollinger La Grande Annee Rose
2002 Dom Perignon
1997 Iron Horse Green Valley Blanc de Blancs Joy
1998 Gramona Brut Cellar Batile
2006 Gramona Brut Imperial Gran Reserva
2004 Louis Roederer Cristal

White Wines -The Domaine Leflaive was easily our favorite white wine, lovely reductive flinty quality consistent with the wine, and producer! New to Philippe Colin, was highly impressed with both their wines, plenty of mineral, earth, and citrus. They were delicate wines with subtle qualities that were just delightful. Several other producers were new to us, will track over the next few years to see how consistent they are over time.

2008 Domaine Leflaive Pucelles
2009 Philippe Colin Chevalier Montrachet
2008 Tardieu-Laurent CdP Blanc
2009 Robert Weil Kiedrich Grafenberg Auslese
2009 Guigal Condrieu La Doriane
2008 Tardieu-Laurent Saint Peray
2004 La Castellada Collio Sauvignon
2006 La Castellada Ribolla Gialla
2009 Bouchard Meursault Genevrieres
2009 Jadot Puligny Montrachet Les Combettes
2009 Bouchard Chevalier Montrachet La Cabotte
2009 Philippe Colin Chassagne Montrachet Les Chaumes
2008 JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett
2009 C. von Schubert Grunhauser Trocken

Red Wines – Our top wine of this group was easily the Jadot Chapelle Chambertin. The opposite of a fruit bomb, it was restrained, elegant, yet quite approachable given its youth. Stylistically different, also enjoyed the Bond Pluribus. Typically lean toward the Vecina in the Bond lineup, in this case, found the Pluribus superior. It was a big wine, but in no way one dimensional. 2007 Napa Cabernets continue to show very well.

2006 Jadot Chapelle Chambertin
2007 Bond Pluribus
2007 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace
2007 Bond Vecina
2007 Diamond Creek Volcanic
2009 Ant Hill Farms Campbell Ranch Pinot
2008 Cristom Sommers Reserve Pinot
2009 Bergstrom Dundee Hills Bergstrom Pinot
2008 WillaKenzie Estate Yamhill Carlton Pierre Leon Pinot
2008 Cristom Mt Jefferson Pinot
2006 Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili
2005 Ceretto Barolo Brunate
2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards South Block Pinot

Were the wines tasted the Top 100 in the world? Of course not! Were there plenty of very good drinking wines? Absolutely! Cheers to a very good tasting put on by Wine & Spirits!

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

Fifth Floor Burg Dinner

Being part of a really good wine tasting group has to be one of the great joys of a fine wine collector! You enjoy numerous nice meals, share a variety of interesting wines, and enjoy the company of folks with a similar passion! We got together recently with just such a group. It initiated in Santa Rosa, and has since moved the majority of its tastings to San Francisco. The tasting group is made up of an experienced, sauvy group of well tasted individuals, thoughtful and generous with both their wine and knowledge. The group held its most recent tasting at a fantastic restaurant called the Fifth Floor at the Hotel Palomar. The meal has to rank among one of the best ones we have had this year!

As with previous times tasting with the group, we had a highly interesting selection of wines focused on Burgundy varietals. Very brief notes were taken, and wines sorted in order of personal preference by flight:

Flight 1 – Two champagnes completely new to us, thought the Selosse the superior of the two wines. Awesome balance, nutty, crisp, floral and fragrant. Tasted over the span of an hour plus, kept improving in the glass. The Collin was very nice, a lighter, smooth, easy drinking Champagne. Both proved to be an awesome start to the meal.

Jacques Selosse Initial
Ulysse Collin Extra Brut

Flight 2 – Very excited to see this flight. A previous tasting of the 2000 Dauvissat was one of the best Chablis experiences we have had in a few years, an awesome wine. Unfortunately, this particular bottle showed mature, and in time, took on an oxidative note. Sadly, it did not show well. In contrast, the Raveneau showed extremely well. Lemon and lime citrus, smoke, oak, with a saline quality that made it an outstanding wine!

2000 Raveneau Foret
2000 Dauvissat La Forest

Flight 3 – First time having had a Ponsot Monts Luisants, was impressed by the youth and flintiness of the 1988 in contrast to the young orange citrus and exotic tropical fruits of the 2006. Both wines were outstanding. The 1979 was dry, parafin, and smokey. Showing no signs of oxidation. The separation of which wine showed best in this flight was so close as to be a tossup.

1988 Ponsot Monts Luisants
2006 Ponsot Monts Luisants
1979 Union des Cooperatives Vinicoles de Bourgogne Pouilly Fuisse

Flight 4 – The Corton Charlemagne was a standout in this flight of mostly California. Steely, tight, youthful, nice minerality and a slight reductive quality. Uncharacteristic to its style, was a very nice 2007 Kongsgaard Judge. Tight, slightly sweet and well balanced, slowly put on weight as it sat in the glass. The Peter Michael was true to its style, sweet, floral, cotton candy, powerful with no signs of oxidation. Was disappointed in the Scholium Project, funky, butterscotch, beginning signs of oxidation, it did not show well.

2004 Alex Gambal Corton Charlemagne
2007 Kongsgaard Judge
2001 Peter Michael Point Rouge
2002 Scholium Project

Flight 5 – Moving on to the reds, we started with a lovely bottle of aged Richebourg, sweaty, gamey, nice balance and complexity in a mature ready to go wine. The Clos du Roi was floral and tart, and the Bressandes, raspberry, stems, animal, and slightly oxidized. Just an ok flight overall, had higher expectations.

1979 Laboure Roi Richebourg
1988 Merode Corton Clos du Roi
1982 Merode Corton Bressandes

Flight 6 – The Santenots was a beautiful wine, expresso, mint, clean dark fruits, the top wine of the flight. Interesting, the Lafarge was sweaty saddle leather and somewhat oxidized. Finally, the Clos des Ducs was young and tight. During the tasting, the acid came across as disproportionately high in this wine, to the point of it being a flaw. There was some mixed reaction concerning the acidity on this specific wine.

1988 Jacques Thevenot Machal Volnay Santenots
1998 Michel Lafarge Volnay Clos des Chenes
1998 d’Angerville Volnay Clos des Ducs

Flight 7 – The final flight of the evening and 17 wines later, did not take notes on the final 4 wines. Or at least, did not take legible notes! Recollect however that the aged California Pinot showed far better than the more modern Pinots. Recall a more old school style in both of the aged wines. Having had the 2002 Marcassin Estate Pinot in the past, and highly impressed with the quality, was completely surprised how poorly it showed. The provenance would have been excellent knowing the source, however it showed disjointed and highly disappointing.

1991 Joseph Swan Pinot Noir
1993 Mount Eden Pinot Noir
2002 Rochioli Pinot Noir, Little Hill
2002 Marcassin Estate Pinot Noir

Cheers to a wonderful meal at Fifth Floor with a delightful group of local wine friends!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/