Category Archives: Rhone

Champagne and Burgundy Wine Dinner

This past week, a small group of us got together for a wine dinner at Caffe Macaroni in San Francisco. Cannot say enough positively things about the quality of the food at Marcaroni, rich and well executed, a restaurant worth seeking out. We requested the chef basically serve a broad selection from their menu at his discretion, and he did a perfect job. The wine theme was Champagne, Burgundy and Rhone. With five of us in attendance, pour sizes were perfect allowed us to revisit the wines throughout the evening. Continue to strongly prefer wine dinners in the 6 person range for this reason.  All wines are sorted in order of personal preferene by flight.

Champagne Flight

1996 Billecart Salmon Nicolas Francois Billecart Brut – Crisp, high acidity, a highly age worthy Champagne. As it opened up through the evening, kept getting better and better, intense notes of fresh baked bread. While at first it was shutdown, in the end showed far superior to the delightful Bollinger RD.

1996 Bollinger RD – Have tasted this wine numerous times, and this was the best showing of the wine to date. Dusty, yeasty, fruit cake and baked bread. Showed its qualities upfront. It was beautiful for a little over an hour before tapering off and loosing some of the qualities that initially made it an exceptional wine. A really nice drinking wine overall, thought the Billecart the better of the two.

Corton Flight 

1990 Bertrand Ambroise Corton Rognet – Barnyard and dirty initally, cleaner with big blue and black fruits later. When the wine hit full stride, it was beautiful, but did not taste like a Corton, or anything remotely Burgundy. It did however go extremely well with the food, and showed very well overall.

1990 Marius Delarche Corton Renardes – A classic drinking Burgundy that actually tasted like a Corton. Raspberry, cranberry, leather, showed some initial plum ripeness that was not altogether appealing. As it sat in the glass, got leaner. Thought it was a good drinking wine, not great.

 Jadot Chambertin Flight

1993 Jadot Chapelle Chambertin – Initally very tight and closed down, got extremely interesting and elegant the more it sat in the glass. Game meats, clean pure fruit, and great structure in a highly balanced and complex wine. An awesome wine worth searching out. No rush to open, will age gracefully and improve for years.

1990 Jadot Mazis Chambertin – Another outstanding wine, very clean blue fruits, showed power, balance and complexity immediately, and for several hours. Another outstanding wine worth searching out. Together, thought the two Jadot combined to make for the flight of the night.

Rhone Flight

1998 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape – Clean dark broading fruits, exceptional balance, this wine kept giving back layer after layer of complexity and kept evolving over time. One of the best CdP we have tasted in a long time. The wine was nothing short of exceptional, and kept showing different nuances through the evening.

1994 Guigal La Mouline – When we think of Rhone, the benchmark wine producer that always comes to mind are those from Guigal. Some of our best drinking experiences have been from this producer. The 1994 was more candied red cherry fruits and smooth with notes of vanilla. A lovely well made wine, no question, thought the Vieux Telegraphe the superior wine in this flight.

Cheers to a delightful evening with a good group of local friends!

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

Castagna Wine Dinner

We recently got together with local friends for an informal wine dinner at Castagna in San Francisco. Have been to the restaurant a few times now, and everything served to date has been fantastic, highly recommended French cuisine! For this dinner, four of us got together on relatively short notice. Continue to find these smaller wine dinners are so much more enjoyable than larger ones. You really get to evaluate a wine over time and enjoy a single table conversation.

After a few back and forth e-mails, we decided on a simple theme, Chardonnay, Pinot, Cabernet and Rhone. As sometimes happens, the Cabernet never made it to the table. The 1974 Louis Martini Mountain Cabernet and 1974 BV Georges de Latour will have to wait for another occasion. Brief observations of the wines opened follow:

Chardonnay

2004 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne – An awesome Corton Charlemagne, the wine has not changed significantly from other times tasted over the past few years. Sulfur, flinty, lemon citrus, mineral, floral, and still very firm acidity. Could easily continue to age this gorgeous wine for many more years!

2006 Marcassin Three Sisters Chardonnay – Have had this wine several times recently and this was the best showing. Distinctly California Chardonnay in style, medium bodied, round, nice acidity early on, becoming more creamy in time. Noted pear and vanilla. Even though it was the best showing of the wine for us, overall just an ok experience.

Pinot

2001 Hospices de Beaune Mazis Chambertin Henri Boillot Cuvee Madeleine Collignon – A nice drinking wine, in perhaps five to ten plus years! It was very young, tightly wound, plenty of dark fruits, and very tannic. Everything was in place, but just highly reduced. Suggest letting the wine age considerably longer before opening.

2006 Rhys Alpine Pinot Noir – A disappointing wine. The more Rhys we taste, the more disappointed we have become in their Pinot Noir. Barrel sample like with plum, raisin, some blue fruits, but overall disjointed and simple. Like the Marcassin, distinctly Californian in style. Revisited a few times during the evening, and found nothing particularly appealing.

Rhone

1990 Les Cailloux (Lucien et Andre Brunel) CdP Cuvee Centenaire – Have never tasted a better Southern Rhone than this wine! A seductive coffee, red raspberry nose led into a dense palate of layered rich licorice, chocolate and earthy black fruits. Excellent balance, nuanced, it kept improving over the span of the bottle. Unlike many Southern Rhones tasted, no over ripe raisin and prune notes. This wine showed extemely well, and suspect it will continue to show well for a decade plus!

1983 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage la Chapelle – In very tough company next to the Andre Brunel, far leaner and grassy. Slight oily like consistency, some oak, and earth, do not think the wine will improve with continued cellar aging. Fully mature right now with no signs of oxidation, should plan to drink over the next few years. An ok experience.

A very fun evening, especially one with an eye opening Southern Rhone!

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

 

Rhone Dinner at Pera

Recently, we participated in a wine tasting with friends in San Francisco. The theme was Rhone wines and the dinner held at Pera Restaurant. While the company was enjoyable, overall the tasting was disappointing.

As we planned the dinner, highly anticipated a four bottle flight of Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle, a Chateau Rayas, and an aged Beaucastel. It had the markings for an excellent lineup of wine. In practice however, we had a few oxidized and corked bottles, the wines were unfortunately poured in a loosely younger to older format, and sadly, flights were rushed. Very brief notes were taken during the dinner and wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight:

White Rhone Flight – The wine of the flight was the Charbonniere, crisp, almost White Burg like with a subtle appealing sweetness. Sadly, the Beaucastel initially came across as corked and oxidized, it made a surprising turn around and got better, but in the end, thought it was at a minimum, lightly corked. The Georges Vernay Condrieu was ok, light, some loamy lemon citrus, but became off putting in time. Sadly, the Faury Blanc was oxidized.

2009 Domaine de la Charbonniere Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc
1998 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc Cuvee Vieilles Vignes
2009 Georges Vernay Condrieu Les Terrasses de l’Empire
2006 Domaine Faury St. Joseph Blanc

Rhone Flight 1 – Not a very enjoyable flight, the Janasse showed coffee, dark chocolate and heavy toast, which normally, might be a good thing, but the wine never quite came together. The Saint Damien was more extracted, youthful and plummy. In contrast, the Pierre Usseglio was funky, burnt, and had notable acidity. No standouts in this flight unfortunately.

1995 Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
2007 Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas Les Souteyrades
2005 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve des Deux Freres

Rhone Flight 2 – The Rayas was the most complete wine of the flight in the short amount of time tasted. Noted excellent balance, complexity and mostly black fruits. The most interesting wine of the dinner was the 1952 Plantin Brusquieres. Noted cognac, caramel, dark coffee, tasted like a fortified madeira. Unfortunately the fruit vanished quickly. In contrast to the first wines, the Beaucastel was animal, some interesting funk, however lacked a nose. The least enjoyable wine was the Vieux Telegraphe. Had some citrus, notable acidity, and a barrel sample like quality, interesting enough, it was enjoyed far more by others in the group.

1992 Chateau Rayas Châteauneuf du Pape Reserve
1952 H. Plantin Brusquieres Chateauneuf du Pape
1985 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape
1990 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape La Crau

Rhone Flight 3 – The 1989 should have easily been top wine in the flight, sadly, our bottle was corked! The top wine of the flight turned out to be the 1996, a pleasant wine with nice length, earth and game. Styllistically different, enjoyed the 2003 as well, far riper, fatter, more clean and pure than the 1996 and 1998. The 1998 was nice and had more in common with the 1996, not a bad wine, not a great wine.

1996 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle
2003 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle
1998 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle
1989 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle

Certainly, this was no where near one of the best wine dinners we have attended, the lack of thrilling wines was fortunately made up by enjoyable company!

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

San Francisco Trade Tasting

Attended a trade tasting in San Francisco recently where several nice wines were poured. Having tasted many of them in the past, was a good opportunity to revisit how the wines were aging. In a few cases, was surprised by a high quality wine we have never had before. In particular, referring to an awesome 1989 Vega Sicilia Unico and 1989 Penfolds Grange!

Pours at this particular tasting were relatively small, and only revisited a few of the wines later in the tasting. As a result, no attempt is made at detailed notes, nor ranking the wines in order of personal preference. Nearly all wines showed well, with special mention to the 1995 Krug, 1990 Latour, 1989 Penfolds Grange, and 1989 Vega Sicilia Unico! Brief observations follow.
Champagne

1995 Krug– Crisp, nutty, butterscotch and hazelnut, this was a gorgeous complex and youthful Krug that should be exceptional with a decade or more age.

White Wines

1991 Chapoutier Ermitage Cuvee de l’Oree – Some diesel notes, a flat mouthfeel, and relatively fat on the palate. A fully mature good drinking wine.
2002 Leroy Meursault – Light bodied, some pleasant sweetness, little bit of flint, thought the wine was just ok, expected a little more from this solid producer.
2004 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay – Silky, intense citrus, moving toward a more creamy texture in time. A powerful and well put together Chardonnay.
Red Wines
1990 Chateau Latour – Initially orange rind, sweet, well rounded fruits, revisited later, and shutdown, showed far more tannin. A wine that will continue to improve with age.
1996 Chateau Margaux – More open knit and approachable than the Latour, black cherry fruit, floral, put on weight later in the tasting.
2005 Clos de Papes Chateauneuf de Pape – A very nice wine, big concentrated raspberry fruit, was drinking very well. Far more enjoyable than the Pagau.
2003 Pegau Chateauneuf de Pape Reserve – Have had this wine at least three or four times, have never found it enjoyable. Ripe concentrated plum and prune.
1997 Lisini Brunello di Montelcino Ugolaia – A disappointing wine, grassy, not a lot going on. Did not leave a positive impression.
1989 Vega Sicilia Unico – A young perfectly balanced wine, did not revisit later but suspect it could have easily rivaled any other wine in the tasting in time.
1990 Dominus – Soft, resolved, slightly green, but focused with pleasant mineral and dark fruits. A highly enjoyable well made wine.
1990 Opus One – Have had this wine 5 or 6 times, and this was one of the best showings, thick, ripe, cherry and raspberry fruits, showed far more open than on previous ocassions.
1998 Shafer Hillside Select – Huge wine, mint, black cherry, excellent balance, nice structure and continuing to age beautifully.
2000 Joseph Phelps Insignia – Big wine, similar to the Shafer Hillside, though not as complex. A nice wine with a strong mid palate presence.
1989 Penfolds Grange – Interesting transition on this wine, initially grassy, wheat, cherry and mint, not a thrilling wine, in time, big blue fruits and became exceptional.
2004 Sine Qua Non Covert Fingers – Candied bright red fruits, concentrated, thick full bodied Pinot, showed better on this occasion than other times tasted.
Sauternes
1990 Chateau d’Yquem – Peach, orange, and honey, this sweet, but nuanced wine showed very well, better than the 1986 in the same tasting, but not quite up to the 1988.
1986 Chateau d’Yquem – Orange rind, concentrated and age worthy, the 1986 tasted far younger than the 1990. Continue to age this wine.
Cheers to a very nice wine lineup!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

Rhone Rangers 2011 in SF

This past Sunday, we attended the 14th annual Rhone Rangers tasting in SF at the Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason. It is a great opportunity to try several hundred California Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and a few other Rhone varietals under one roof!

In a tasting where so many wines are poured, we are not typically looking to capture specific tasting notes, but more so, wines that showed well in the very short time span given each wine. That said, the following are wines that immediately came off as excellent, very good, and worth a revisit. If a particular wine or producer is not listed, either we did not taste the wine, or did not find it particularly note worthy.

Highly Recommended

  • 2009 Arnot-Roberts Hudson Vineyard Syrah
  • 2009 Arnot-Roberts Griffins Lair Vineyard Syrah
  • 2007 Bella Lily Hill Syrah
  • 2006 Cabot Kimberly’s Syrah
  • 2006 Cabot Aria’s Syrah
  • 2007 Cabot Klamath Cuvee Red Blend
  • 2008 Jemrose Cardiac Hill Syrah
  • 2008 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem Blend
  • 2009 Pax Mahle Orra Blend
  • 2008 Pax Mahle Rana Blend
  • 2009 Pride Mountain Viognier
  • 2008 Pride Mountain Syrah
  • 2009 Ridge Buchignani Carignon
  • 2006 Ridge Lytton Syrah
  • 2007 Stolpman Angeli
  • 2009 Stolpman Originals Syrah
  • 2008 Stolpman High Density Syrah
  • 2008 Truchard Carneros Syrah

Recommended

  • 2007 Anglim Mourvedre Hastings Ranch Vineyard
  • 2009 Arnot-Roberts Alder Springs Syrah
  • 2006 Arrowood Red Blend Cote de Lune Rouge
  • 2006 Arrowood Syrah
  • 2008 Bella Lily Hill Grenache
  • 2008 Bella Big River Petite Sirah
  • 2007 Cabot Humbold County Syrah
  • 2009 Jemrose Viognier Egret Pond
  • 2008 Jemrose Foggy Knoll Grenache
  • 2007 Lagier Meredith Mount Veeder Syrah
  • 2008 Lagier Meredith Mount Veeder Syrah
  • 2009 Landmark Espirit du Rhone Grenache
  • 2007 Martinelli Lolita Syrah
  • 2007 Montemaggiore Reserve
  • 2006 Montemaggiore Paolo’s Syrah
  • 2009 Outpost Howell Mountain Grenache
  • 2008 Pax Mahle Sonoma Coast Syrah
  • 2009 Pax Mahle Griffins Lair Syrah
  • 2006 Ridge Syrah/Grenache Blend
  • 2005 Ridge Lytton Grenache
  • 2008 Stage Left The ExPat Red Blend
  • 2008 Stolpman Originals Syrah
  • 2008 Stolpman Roussanne
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel
  • 2009 Truchard Carneros Roussanne

Revisit

  • 2009 Arnot-Roberts North Coast Syrah
  • 2008 JC Cellars Stagecoach Marsanne
  • 2007 JC Cellars Rockpile Syrah
  • 2009 Landmark Steel Plow Syrah
  • 2008 Morgan Double L Syrah
  • 2004 Outpost Petite Sirah
  • 2009 Ridge Lytton Petite Sirah
  • 2009 Stolpman Syrah
  • 2008 Tercero Camp 4 Mouvedre
  • 2007 Tercero Camp 4 Grenache

Some of our top producers: Arnot-Roberts, Cabot Vineyards, Jemrose Vineyards, Pax Mahle Wines, Pride Vineyards and Stolpman Vineyards. One of the top wines tasted among all these excellent producers and wines, a 2007 Stolpman Angeli.

The biggest take away from this tasting was a perceived movement in style towards more age worthy, structured, and restrained wines. Expected to taste quite a few full bodied, candied, high alcohol fruit bombs, but was pleasantly surprised. Generally find cleaner, elegant, balanced wines more appealing, those that will slowly develop and improve over time, and that is what we got for the most part at this tasting!

Cheers to a great event and a quick snapshot of some quality California Producers!

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

Sunday Rhone and Bordeaux

This past Sunday, got together with friends in Napa Valley to enjoy a few special bottles of wine. The theme was great Rhone and Bordeaux. What was particularly interesting about this dinner however was an excellent California wine opened at the end of the evening, a 1969 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon!

At 40+ years old, 12.5% ABV, this wine was simply outstanding! The reference to Medoc and St. Emilion on the pictured back wine label was priceless! In the case of this dinner, did not take notes at the time, but brief observations follow. All the wines were so enjoyable, no attempt is made to identify a wine of the night.

1982 Pichon Lalande – The first time having had this wine, immediately found it a delightful, delicate and elegant wine. Tasted strawberry and sweet raspberry fruit, dry wheat, and some fresh cut grass on the palate. Took a few hours on a pop and pour for the wine to open up and show its full potential. This was an exceptional Pichon Lalande that will continue to age and improve for years.

1982 Ducru Beaucaillou – Another excellent wine, the Ducru was an interesting contrast to the Pichon Lalande. More rustic and old school Bordeaux, the palate was strikingly upfront with stewed baked red fruits and an appealing almost tomato sauce like palate. Immediately reminded of a young 1993 Philip Togni Cabernet. Like the Pichon Lalande, the Ducru will age gracefully for many more years. A beautiful wine!

1989 Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage – The two Bordeaux were both excellent, but stylistically different. Such was the case with both Rhones. The Jaboulet was gorgeous, exotic dark fruits, plum, barnyard, asian spice and game meat, had so many dimensions to the wine, it hit the palate in different ways with every taste. An excellent Rhone that is drinking very well now, but could easily continue to age.

1994 Chave Hermitage – Almost polar opposite to the Jaboulet in style, the Chave was pure and clean, with lush bright red fruit, yet restrained and subdued with a rich menthol finish. Aromatically, the wine had an appealing tropical citrus nose that was highly enjoyable. The youngest wine in the group with notable tannin, could easily age this wine for a significant amount of time, and it will continue to improve.

1969 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon – The final wine of the evening, this was a gorgeous old school California Cabernet! Almost a hypothetical blend of a good year BV Georges de Latour, with mushroom, spice and earthiness, with the structure, depth, and darker clean fruits of a well aged Chateau Montelena. The wine showed no signs of oxidation, yet was fully mature and highly enjoyable. Cannot say enough positive things about the quality of this wine!

Cheers to a small but highly enjoyable evening with good food, friends and wine!

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

Jemrose and Agharta Wine Dinner

This past Friday, had dinner with a few local friends at Estate Restaurant in Sonoma. Estate’s executive chef, Chris Jones did an exceptional job creating a special six course meal to pair with our wines. Estate is located just off the Sonoma Square and is a highly recommended restaurant in the Northern California Wine Country.

For this dinner, we were joined by two special guests. First was Jim and Glora Mack of Jemrose. Have had the pleasure of tasting their lineup the last few years, and always impressed with the high quality of their wines. Second was Dan and Gloria Schaefer of Audelssa / Agharta. This was the first opportunity I have had to taste their wines, and after the dinner, was equally impressed with their wine.

In terms of the wine, the last one listed in each flight was served blind. It was a more informal dinner, so detailed notes were not taken at the time, however some brief observations follow:

White Wine of the Night:
2003 Rochioli Rachael’s Chardonnay

Red Wine of the Night:
1989 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle

Starter Wine – The first wine of the evening was a wonderful 2007 Viognier from Jemrose Wines. One of the best Viogniers I have tasted in California, it was medium bodied, floral, and creamy with good acidity and exceptional balance.

2007 Jemrose Egret Pond Viognier

Chardonnay – An awesome flight, each Chardonnay was quite distinct from the others. The white wine of the flight, and night was an awesome 2003 Rochioli Rachael’s Chardonnay. Had more balance, complexity and nuanced components than the other wines. One of the few wines revisited, it remained consistent over the span of the evening. In contrast, the 2003 Aubert Quarry was more creme brulee, paraffin in style, with very firm acidity. Suggest aging this wine a few years before opening. The 2004 Walter Hansel had a petrol, flinty nose, and could have easily been mistaken for a White Burgundy, a very interesting wine.

2003 Rochioli Rachael’s Chardonnay
2003 Aubert Quarry Chardonnay
2004 Walter Hansel Chardonnay

Aged Cabernet – The 1981 Joseph Phelps Insignia and 1986 Groth Reserve were surprisingly similar. Both lean and light, menthol and a green, but appealing nonetheless with a little spice and earthiness. In contrast, the 1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour, was a big full bodied ripe Cabernet. Youthful in appearance, noted stewed raspberry fruit in a gorgeous drinking leathery and smoky wine. Considered the 1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour the wine of the flight.

1981 Joseph Phelps Insignia
1986 Groth Reserve
1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour

Cabernet/Blends – The 2006 Agharta Exhibit B was an amazing wine of the flight! A full bodied wine, that was highly complex and balanced. Noted dark fruits, chocolate, coffee and cigar. The 2006 Audelssa Reserve Cabernet was a nice drinking wine, clean and pure, but in difficult company next to the Exhibit B. In contrast, the 2005 Chateau d’Angludet Margaux was impossibly shut down. Initially the lightest wine in the group, slowly put on weight over time. While at first, the french wine was the least favorite wine in the flight, after some air, thought it second best.

2006 Audelssa Reserve Cabernet
2006 Agharta Exhibit B
2005 Chateau d’Angludet Margaux

Syrah/Grenache – The 1989 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle was wine of the flight. It was more nuanced and subtle than the powerful 2004 Agharta Syrah and 2006 Jemrose Cardiac Hill Syrah. The 1989 Hermitage showed more minerality and earthiness, while the 2004 Agharta and 2006 Jemrose had huge, ripe, soaring fruit! All three wines showed very well, no question, the only difference being stylistic preference.

2004 Agharta Syrah
2006 Jemrose Cardiac Hill Syrah
1989 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle

Dessert Wine – Similar to the Syrah and Cabernet flight, there was a distinct difference between the California and French wines. The Jemrose was a gorgeous wine, huge peach and citrus fruits, likewise, pure and clean. In contrast, the Doisy Vedrines was more mineral, subtle fruit, good acidity and balance that will carry the wine for many more years of aging. While enjoying both wines for very different reasons, slightly preferred the 2001 Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauternes.

2008 Jemrose Egret Pond Late Harvest Viognier
2001 Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauternes

Websites:

Jemrose – http://www.jemrosewines.com/
Audelssa – http://www.audelssa.com/
Agharta – http://www.aghartawines.com/
Estate – http://www.estate-sonoma.com/

Cheers to our good friends at Jemrose, Audelssa, and Agharta! Cannot say enough good things about the quality of their wine, and highly recommend them to our customers!

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

Small Burgundy Tasting

This past Friday, attended a small Burgundy Tasting in Sonoma. It does not happen often, but the White Burgundy out shined the red! The 2007 Blain Gagnard Batard Montrachets were both outstanding, and hopefully representative of what should prove to be an excellent vintage for White Burgundy.

As with other local Burgundy tastings in Sonoma, it is basically no format, bring what you would like to share, open and enjoy. Wines are rarely if ever decanted, and slowly enjoyed over a long evening. Sometimes curiosity wines are thrown into the mix. On this occasion, they were interesting, but none particularly inspiring. As with previous tastings, wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

White Wine of the Night:
2007 Blain Gagnard Batard Montrachet

Red Wine of the Night:
2001 Denis Mugneret Clos de Vougeot

White Flight

2007 Blain Gagnard Batard Montrachet – Initially, noted acidity and hard to discern fruit in a very young wine. In time, the nose became more floral and yeasty and the body, creme brulee and full bodied with awesome balance and length. A precise wine that should show extremely well with a few years of bottle aging.

2007 Blain Gagnard Croits Batard Montrachet – The bottle was pulled from the refrigerator of our always generous host, after being opened two days. Showed more citrus, asian spice, and firm acidity in a well balanced, excellent drinking wine than the other Batard Montrachet.

2004 M. Chapoutier Chante Alouette – The Chapoutier started out showing promise with sweet, honey, lemon oil notes. Overall was a fat wine with a predominate butterscotch component and smooth texture. Over time, thought it quickly lost what originally made it interesting. Did not care for this wine.

Red Flight

2001 Denis Mugneret Clos de Vougeot – The best wine of the flight, thought the Clos Vougeot was interesting, blue fruits and game meats, in time, picked up a touch of forest floor and spice. It was a clean and pure drinking wine, very enjoyable. Held a glass over to the next day, and it showed even better!

1999 Lucien le Moine Clos St Denis – Interesting nose that was reminiscent of Brandy and fresh cut grass. The wine was rich, balanced and enjoyable. Thought it was just slightly under the 2001 Denis Mugneret Clos de Vougeot as wine of the fight. Went back and forth between this wine and the Clos Vougeot as to personal preference.

1995 Georges Lignier Clos St Denis – Light, lean, some mineral and spice though thought the acidity was a little disjointed in relation to the rest of the wine. Had moments of being brighter and younger than the other wines, but out of balance overall. Not a great showing for the wine.

Curiosity Wines

1995 Beaucastel – Initially a light wine, noted wheat, and became more chewy and stewed rhubarb, barnyard, and other exotic components in time. Not sure anyone was particularly thrilled with the wine, an end of evening curiosity.

1963 Beaulieu Vineyard Beaumont Pinot Noir – A blind mystery wine, the group guessed it as 70’s / 80’s California, and one Burgundy. The wine was very light, and bricking in color. Initially mushroom, smokey, meaty, dry carmel, sherry and nice acidity. It very rapidly declined. Of note was one of the shortest corks I have seen in awhile, about an inch at best. A curiosity more than anything.

2001 Pride Cabernet – Normally, a big fan of Pride, this wine was one of the least favoriate showings I have had from the producer. Had boat loads of Vanilla that reminded me of a Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet. Not an exciting wine at all, and like the other two wines, opened at the end of the evening more as a curiosity.

Cheers to another interesting, however small tasting!

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

>Rhone Dinner at Lupa

> This past week, a group of us got together at Lupa Trattoria in San Francisco for a Rhone Tasting. Some of our best tasting experiences have been with Rhone Wines, particularly those from Guigal: La Mouline, La Landonne, and La Turque. While Guigal was not represented in this dinner, some other solid producers were, among them: Beaucastel, Chapoutier, and Chave!

The dinner was relatively informal and no wines were decanted. Given eleven folks attended, pours were relatively small, allowing a limited opportunity to revisit the wines later in the evening. The following are brief observations of the wines opened.

White WOTN: 2007 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Meal
Red WOTN: 1985 Chateau de Beaucastel

Flight 1:

2000 J.L. Chave Hermitage Blanc – A clean drinking wine, the Chave was a little astringent at first. Once it opened up, noted some honey, raisin and plum. A good wine.

2002 Chapoutier Ermitage Cuvee De L’Oree Blanc – Similar to the Chave, noted some raisin, but not as strong. Got better in time with an appealing orange peel note.

2004 Chapoutier Chante Alouette Blanc – Very light bodied wine, that was a little floral and had distinct sherry notes. Least favorite white wine in the flight.

2007 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Meal – An awesome ripe wine with notes of banana and citrus as well as some sweetness. This full mouthfeel wine is ready to enjoy young!

Flight 2:

1985 Chateau de Beaucastel – Clean, cool, gamey, barnyard and wheat field, dried herb notes in an awesome seductive wine. By far, the best wine of the night.

1998 Chateau de Beaucastel – Rich, thick, cool and clean with leather and concentrated dark fruits, becoming cinnamon and plumy in time. Second best wine of the night.

1989 Chateau de la Font du Loup – Light body, yet pure and clean. This was a pretty grassy wine! Not a lot of complexity and overall, just ok.

Flight 3:

1995 Pegau Laurence – An elegant wine with notes of caramel and cassis. The mouthfeel was flat. Noted some greeness as well, but worked on this particular wine.

2001 Pegau Laurence – A flawed bottle. Some discussion occurred as to whether the wine was corked or heat damaged? Wet blanket, sappy and oxidized, it was terrible!

1999 Pegau Reserve – The wine of the flight, it was dense and gamey with firm acidity and an appealing menthol component. It drank young and hot, but everything in balance.

2004 Pegau Reserve – A close second for wine of the flight, it had brighter fruit and a little more spice than the other wines, yet remained a pure clean drinking wine.

Flight 4:

1999 Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie – Blueberry fruit dominated this wine, initially light, put on considerable weight. Had a very appealing menthol component to it, the wine of the flight.

1999 Gaec Gallet Cote Rotie – Another very nice wine, it was much more foxy and gamey than the others with underlying mint. A very solid showing.

1996 Allemand Cornas Reynard – A flawed bottle, it was musty and similar to the 01 Pegau Lawerence, was sapped of nearly all qualities that make for an enjoyable wine.

2006 Allemand Cornas Reynard – Tasted more like a California Zinfandel than a Rhone. Strong notes of white pepper and spice, plum and prunes. Did not enjoy the wine.

Whenever opening Rhones, always concerned about the presence of Brett (the new bandaid variant in particular). Have noted it many times over in various Rhones tasted to date. Being sensitive to it, pick it up in very small amounts. Was very fortunate to note none in any of the wines tasted!

Cheers to a very good time!

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