Ameztoi, Laurent and some other nice wines tasted blind

Some wine geek friends and I got together over the Fourth of July weekend for blind tasting and grilled food.

The food my friends brought included some amazing shrimp marinated in pernod and olive oil and wrapped in prosciutto that was grilled; five kinds of sausage; a four-bean salad; an heirloom tomato salad; a variety of vegetables that were cut up, put on skewers and grilled; chicken seasoned with two types of Asian Indian spices; a freshly made sorbet; and a homemade cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
I brought chips and Safeway’s best Hummus.

All in all a good showing for the wines, most of which were served blind. I stunned a few by correctly guessing the chenin blanc.
The 2008 Ameztoi Rubentis was good but still a disappointment. It doesn’t measure up to the 2007. I’ve heard others say the 2007 was a step down from the 2006. I fretted that there was declining quality and wondered if Ameztoi was being less selective in grape selection in order to fill the need for the growing popularity of its wine. Eric LeVine says the 2007 and 2006 are the same quality. And maybe I got a bad bottle of the 2008.

  • 2008 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis - Spain, País Vasco, Getariako Txakolina (7/5/2009)
    Let me start out by saying I liked this wine. It just didn’t stand up to any of the 2007s I’ve had, and I loved all of those. This is just a good wine, not an exceptional wine. The first difference I noticed is that they turned the fizz on the 2008 up to 11. It’s almost like an extra dry rose Champagne. I just can’t imagine all of that fizz isn’t affecting the taste in some manner. Otherwise, it’s the 2007 Rubentis lite. Less focus. Less acidity. Overall less intensity. Yes, there’s Chablis-like minerality. And zingy acidity. But it’s a Phoenix Coyotes zing, not a Camden Yards zing. I’d say the 2007 Dubois Burgundy rose I’ve had is better than the 2008 version of this wine and almost half the price. I hope the 2009 is better, because I like this wine. Maybe I got an off bottle. A De Maison Selections import.
  • 1996 Dominique Laurent Pommard 1er Cru Les Charmots - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard 1er Cru (7/5/2009)
    Served blind. I guessed late 1990s Burgundy. Nice forest floor and mushrooms on the nose. Bright red cherry dominates the palate, with other flavors. A touch of spice that might be more prominent as it ages. Good finish. ATTENTION LAURENT BASHERS: No oak issues. The oak is well integrated. Tannins have resolved as well. Still has several years to go. I loves the Burgundy.
  • 2005 Chalone Vineyard Pinot Blanc Estate Grown - USA, California, Central Coast, Chalone (7/5/2009)
    Served blind. I got slight oxidation and oiliness so I incorrectly guessed a white Rhone. There’s also some nuttiness on the nose. Framed with oak, I suspect that will integrate with a few more years bottle age. Also apple and white fruit on the palate. I’ve never had this wine before and I wonder if supposed to be this oxidized at four years. It was still a nice wine. Very food friendly.
  • 2006 Miraflores Black Muscat - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County (7/5/2009)
    Alcohol overwhelms the nose. I got nothing else. The palate was nice, both with flavors and a creamy texture. The flavors were dark bing cherries and dark fruit. Nice finish. Complemented dessert.
  • 2004 Goisot Saint-Bris - France, Burgundy, Côtes d’Auxerre, Saint-Bris (7/5/2009)
    Waited a year too long to drink this. It’s on the downhill side. Drink 'em if you’ve got 'em. I brought this to taste blind to see if the creamy texture (from Burgundy wood) would throw anyone off. The grassiness gave it away easily as sauvignon blanc. But the flavors are fading. Not much there. A little bit of minerality. A K&L Wines direct import. It does make me want to try De Moor’s St.-Bris, since it’s one of the few sauvignon blancs I like.
  • 2007 Novy Family Wines Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley (7/5/2009)
    I brought this to serve blind and that’s pretty cruel. Although it’s made from pinot noir by a quality producer, there’s nothing on the palate or or nose that says pinot noir. I ended up trying to give everyone a hint by telling them to ignore the flavor and focus on the texture, which is the closest thing to pinot noir. Lana got white pepper and wondered if it was gruner veltliner. I didn’t get white pepper but got more of a generic spice. Several of us got citrus flavors. A little bit of oak on the attack. Towards the end of the evening Glenn said he started to pick up red fruits but I didn’t get any. An interesting wine. I’ve got a bottle left that I’d like to try again in a year or two. I don’t see this being a medium-term ager.
  • 2008 Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc VIO Wilson Oakville - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (7/5/2009)
    Tasted blind. It was a nice curveball. The viognier dominates the nose, but on the palate I got all stony flavors. So I correctly guessed chenin blanc. But I thought it was from South Africa. The nose, though, is quite floral, maybe with some pears. A nice wine, especially for summer.
  • 2006 Holly’s Hill Syrah Reserve Wylie-Fenaughty - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County (7/5/2009)
    Served blind. I guessed barbera or some Italian varietal because of the sharp dose of acid on the attack. I got red fruits but no bacon fat, blue fruits or olive oil. No tannins. A sprinkle of black pepper. Just a pinch too much oak but I’m guessing that will be gone in a year as the oak integrates. I’d like to try this again in a couple of years.

Steve, nice notes, thanks.

I don’t think you got a bad bottle of the Ameztoi. Melissa and I have had several bottles of the '08 and heartily concur that it’s a spritzy, minerally wine with heaps of acidity. We discovered the wine last year ('07) and I would further agree that we liked the '07 somewhat more than the '08. I think your criticisms of the wine are valid (although I’d put the bubbles at maybe a 9 or so…). That said, I still like this wine a lot, provided it’s served with food. On its own, I find it’s almost too austere and angular, but with some creamy cheese, olives, and bread it’s a great summertime quaffer.

So Steve, you haven’t had the 2006, I take it?

We haven’t had the 2006, no. We discovered the '07 last year at a local restaurant and were captivated by its utter pinkness and minerality. We immediately went in search of it afterward and scrounged a few bottles. This year, Michael Alberty at Storyteller Wine had some available, so we bought some (a half case, if I remember correctly) from him. While the '08 may not be as good as the past couple of years, I think it still represents a good value in an interesting, fun, relatively inexpensive pink wine, and we’ll certainly line up to try the '09 next year.

One point of disagreement: I agree that the '08 is amped up compared to the '07, but I also found the '08’s acidity amped up compared to the '07’s. So much so that it needs food to come into balance.

Steve, thanks for the great notes all around, but hallelujah on the '96 Laurent Pommard Les Charmots. I didn’t think anybody but me had any of this in their cellar–I think CT shows like 2 bottles in stock. I bought it with a wedding gift certificate back in 2000 and have been reading crappy Laurent notes ever since. However, my personal experiene over the past 18 months has been 3 excellent Laurent bottles, 1 ok bottle and 1 brutally oaky bottle across different vintages and crus. A small sampling, to be sure, but it had given me some hope that this one would prove to be among those that I would find excellent. So, you made my day with this. So, as a follow-up, you say it has several years to go and you seem to suggest you think it has some upward development still (as do a lot of '96’s at this point)–when do you estimate might be peak time to open one? Thanks!


Yikes, I don’t hiave the experience with Burgundy to say when it’s going to peak. All I can say is it’s doing fine right now. A vibrant wine. Nice to drink.
I still keep waiting to get hit by that Laurent oak and in most the wines I’ve tried it’s not there. Of course, most have been aged as well.

I don’t think the acidity has been amped up. I think other aspects of the wine, except the fizz, have been dialed back, maybe.

Steve, that’s cool, thanks!