Katahdin Wines - Corton Charlie, Hermitage, Domaine Eden, Palmer, Yquem &

A month late, but better than never. No notes were written at the time and memories fade, but some impressions remain vivid.

At my home the night before:
2002 Rapet Corton Charlemagne – Can you say ‘premox’ about a 12 year old wine? Yes, when the last bottle about two years ago was young, fresh and glorious and this one was alive but old and dull. Rated about 80. One more in the basement, will get consumed in the next 30 days with crossed fingers.

On the mountain: These wines were decanted the night before into full plastic bottles, then driven 4 hours to the trailhead and carried for 2 – 3 hours up the hill. The first two from my basement, the next two provided by Chris Bublitz, who always brings spectaculars.

2008 Matrot Meursault Blagny 1er Cru – This showed more age than I would have hoped or expected, but was still vigorous, with a streak of conifer, a hint of lime and a powerful mineral component. In fear of premox, I would say to drink it now. If it doesn’t age quickly from here, it could develop some subtlety and more of the tiny hint of hazelnut it showed on the finish. Rated about 90.

2010 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains – Whether from some bottle age or the decanting and trip this is beginning to show some secondary character. This is neither better nor worse than it was a year or two ago, with some of the fresh immediacy replaced by some secondary notes of very ripe black cherry and intricate, earthy aromas different from but equal to very fine Burgundy. Rated about 94 – 95.

2002 Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Clos St Jacques’ – This was terrific, with fully ripe aromas and flavors (red cherries, black plums) backed by the hallmark acidity of this beautifully balanced vintage. This probably gained some from the decanting and trip, but if I owned any I would let it sit another 2 – 5 years to lose some acidity and gain some polish. Rated 92+, up to 3 points of improvement likely.

2005 Chapoutier Hermitage ‘Meal’ – Probably the WOTnights on the hill and the one that benefitted most from decanting and trip. This is a powerhouse yet a wine of great subtlety. Blackberry, blueberry and black pepper are in the forefront, a tiny hint of oak in the background, just beginning to show some secondary character, I would leave this alone for another 5 – 10 years. Rated 95 on the hill, up to 3 points of improvement probable.

2007 Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape ‘Cuvee da Capo’ - I am the importer, so no note.

For the first time, one of my associates at Hand Picked Selections made the hike, Sunil Khanna with his wife Anya. Before he came to HPS, Sunil worked for a South African importer and contributed two eye-opening bottles he had cellared from those days:

2003 Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve – IIRC this is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with other Bordeaux varietals. The aromas show the currants of Cab Sauv with a leafy component reminiscent of Cab Franc. The palate is pleasant and refined, with tannins fully resolved, plenty of mostly red fruit and just a touch of oak. I have virtually no experience with South African Cabernet-based wines. If given this blind, I would have taken it for a very good, nicely mature wine from Washington State; without the density of great Bordeaux, yet less new-world in character than most California offerings, this is a textbook example of subtlety in a Cabernet. Rated about 92 – 93, ready to drink.

2003 Vergelegen Flagship Red – Again mostly Cab Sauv, this is a much younger and more powerful offering, featuring black plum (maybe a good dollop of Merlot here?) along with the black and red currants. It is lavishly oaked, but the oak tannins are well integrated into the powerful but very fine grape tannins. The impression is much closer to Bordeaux than the previous; if presented blind to me as Bordeaux I wouldn’t pick up that it wasn’t, would probably guess St Julien. This was a pure pleasure. Rated about 94 – 95, a point or two of improvement possible over the next 3 – 5 years.

1986 Chateau d’Yquem – Another contribution from Chris Bublitz, this was magnificent, with lots of botrytis, apricots, hazelnuts, vanillin, floral notes, everything you could want. Not as oily, opulent or powerful as some vintages I have had, it is as beautiful as Yquem gets, and that is saying more than a lot. Rated 99, ready to drink, this probably attained its peak with dcanting and travel. I would not be afraid to hold it another 10 years with good provenance and storage.

And as usual, Chris again brought a bottle for Sally:

1999 Chateau Palmer – I pulled the cork and poured a taste for me and Sally about a week after the hike. The wine was monumentally pissed off at having been disturbed in sullen adolescence, so all but an ounce was poured back into the bottle and the cork stuck back in.
The next night, the wine had lost its attitude and was open for our drinking pleasure. The aromas featured currants and violets, the palate was powerful, with plums now added to the mix, plenty of new oak framing the fruit and perfectly integrated into a truly harmonious wine. In light of the disjointed opening, I would hold this another 5 – 10 years. Rated about 80 on opening, about 93 – 94 the second night, should improve to the upper 90s by about 2020.

My thanks to Chris Bublitz and his wife Marjorie, and to Sunil Khanna and his wife Anya for making the trip and for bringing such beautiful wines.

Dan Kravitz

Great notes, thanks. If you get a chance, post some details of how you make a four hour climb with fine wines. Acrylic cups? Empty soda bottles with stick it notes labels? You must have also brought some fine hiking cuisine. Please post a photo of the spread if you took one.

I want to go hiking with Dan…


We decanted into empty 720ml Poland Springs water bottles the night before, filled to the absolute brim; maybe 1mm of air space, so the air they got was from the decanting. We just put them in our backpacks and hauled them up. Chimney Pond is cool (not really cold at that time of year), we float the whites to cool them down. Ambient air temp in late July at ~6:00 PM is usually upper 60’s, the reds are ready to go.
We all bring our own food. Fires are not permitted at Chimney Pond. Some years we’ve had people bring backpack stoves, most years we eat at air temp. Food is usually top class bread, cheese and charcuterie. Most years I cook and bring a classic bolognese enhanced by top quality country ham (prosciutto and/or Serrano/Iberico and/or Virginia). Carb loading and salt all in one relatively compact package. I also bring my unpatented sandwiches, sourdough topped with sun-dried tomatos, smoked salmon and country ham. When somebody brings a stove we have had venison, scallops, elk &c.
I drink out of Vin Go reusable plastic glasses, which IMO are pretty good all-purpose wine glasses. There are also plastic glasses with stems that screw apart to fit compactly in backpacks. Some people have brought wine in their original (glass) bottles; also packed glasses made of glass. I don’t want the weight or the possibility of broken glass.


I apologize. You should have been invited. For the four years prior I posted the invite on the off-line planner, but somehow didn’t do so this year. I will next year.

FYI, here is the basic invite from this year that I neglected to post on Berserkers. It will be posted next year and except for dates, I do not expect it to change much:

100 point wine in a 110 point place.

Save the date if you’re a hiker.

The event (it is not a tasting, we just bring and drink really good wine) is at Chimney Pond Campground on Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Millinocket, Maine. Attendees sleep in lean-tos. I have 2 lean-tos reserved that hold a maximum of 4 people each. Total number of people who can attend is 8. This year we are reserved for two nights and I will be spending both nights on the mountain. As of this time we have 5 confirmed and 1 possible for both nights. There are two, possibly three places open, one or two nights.

It is not quick or easy to get to (neither trailhead nor venue), but it’s one of the world’s most beautiful places.

Details: We meet at 1:00 PM Friday 27 July in Millinocket, Maine to caravan to the trailhead. Millinocket is a 3¼ hour drive from Portland, ME or 1¼ hours from Bangor. From Millinocket, it is a ¾ hour drive to Roaring Brook Campground, the trailhead. There will be a dinner at my home the night before.

The hike to Chimney Pond is 3¼ miles, a steady 10° uphill. Elevation gain is 1500 feet (1450 to 2950). It is not difficult and completely safe for anybody in reasonable condition. I regularly get passed by families with 8 year olds on this trail.

Baxter State Park is pack-in, pack-out. You carry everything you need with you (we will have a water filter, so water can be replenished at Chimney Pond) and leave nothing behind.
You should carry at least:
food (and a small stove if you want to cook - no fires allowed)
sleeping bag good to 32° or below.
air mattress or foam pad (unless you can sleep without one on a wood floor)
first aid kit
knife (optional but usually useful)
clothes, layers, comfortable to 32°
plastic bags for refuse

The wine is usually decanted into empty 720ml Poland Spring water bottles before we hit the trail or the night before at my house. I do not carry glass to Chimney Pond. Others have, including both bottles and wine glasses.

Any kind of wine is welcome. We have found that aged Bordeaux does not seem to tolerate the hike well. We have never had Champagne. Anything else, including, surprisingly, aged California Cabernet seems to be fine. I bring Pegau da Capo, which seems to enjoy the hike.

The next two days there are a number of options, depending on your physical condition and inclination. If just getting to Chimney Pond is enough for you, simply walk back down the next morning, or just walk around this truly beautiful area, stay the second night and walk down.

However many who attend want to hike Baxter Peak. This is the summit of Mount Katahdin, the terminus of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine.

The Saddle Trail is the longest, easiest trail to Baxter Peak from Chimney Pond Campground. It is 2¼ miles with an elevation gain of ~2300 feet (2950 to 5280). There is a ½ mile section, the Saddle Slide, that goes up ~1200 feet, in other words almost 45°. Depending on your condition, the hike up can take anywhere from <2 (you’re young, an experienced hiker in excellent condition) to well over 3 hours (me).

An alternate trail to the summit is the Cathedral Trail. This is about 1¾ miles and involves some hand and foot climbing. It is not much more difficult than the Saddle Trail.

The summit is much harder than the hike to Chimney Pond. It is also potentially dangerous, although not if you are sensible.
Most of the Saddle Trail (and all other summit trails) is above tree line. Snow is possible on Baxter Peak 365. Winds of 30mph gusting to 60 are not uncommon, with 100 possible. The wind can go from 0 - 60 as fast as a car. Rain and fog are common. The weather can change in a flash. If the weather breaks bad and you are above tree line, turn around or just stop where you are until it gets better. People die on Katahdin, almost always from stupidity.

Once at the summit, you can go back down to Chimney Pond on the Saddle Trail. The alternative, for very strong hikers, is the Knife Edge trail from Baxter to Pamola Peak. This is a 1.1 mile trail that varies from 3 - 12 feet wide. As the name implies, there is a very steep dropoff on both sides. This trail is very difficult and can be dangerous even in good weather. From Pamola, you can go down Dudley Trail (very steep) back to Chimney Pond, or take the Helon Taylor Trail back to the parking lot at Roaring Brook. If you plan to do the latter, you take everything with you when you leave Chimney Pond (or maybe somebody heading down will volunteer to take some things you won’t need).

There is no cost for this OL except for the time and expense of getting there. We traditionally bring great wine with us. I usually bring Pegau da Capo and will do so again this year.

If interested, please e-mail me. First come, first served. Hope to see you there.

Dan Kravitz

I reckon you can Dan. I have had two bottles of the 1973 recently that were sublime. 2002 is a very good white Burgundy vintage and without the premox phenomena you would expect a Corton-Charlemagne from a good producer to last a couple of decades.

Sounds like a great trip. And awesome “you should carry at least” list. Item #1: Wine. Perfect.

Another great Dan Kravitz Katahdin adventure. Chimney Pond is a truly beautiful spot and well worth the effort to get there. Marjorie and I had a great time. Thanks, Dan.

All the wines showed very well (and by that I mean quite outstanding) at Chimney Pond. Really quite amazing considering the wines were decanted at 10 on Friday morning, transported about 200 miles by car, back packed 3.3 miles on rough trails up from Roaring Brook and consumed on Friday and Saturday evenings. Great collection of salami, cheeses, breads, antipasti, chocolates and Dan’s famous prosciutto, smoked salmon and sun dried tomato pesto sandwiches.

Big surprise for me was how much I liked the two South African wines. Kind of split the difference between Bordeaux and Cal Cab Bordeaux blends. I had a slight preference for fresh mature fruitiness of the 2003 Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve though the 2003 Vergelegen Flagship Red was quite impressive and perhaps more age-worthy.

Another great showing by the 2007 Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape ‘Cuvee da Capo’ - powerful, complex, richly flavored and so nicely balanced - not the least bit heavy or over the top.

In other circumstances I think the 2005 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal would have been far too young to consider opening now but consumed on Saturday evening about 32 hours after it was decanted, it clearly benefitted from the extended decanting. The Méal was fabulously concentrated and complex - wonderful stuff, truly outstanding wine.

The two pinot noir wines both showed well though I think I had a slight preference for the fresh and fruity 2010 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains. Of course, the
2002 Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Clos St Jacques’ was very, very good but kind of got lost (at least for me) among all the other great wines.

A great showing by the 1986 Chateau d’Yquem, especially on Friday night. By the second night, it was starting to suffer a bit from the rough treatment - it had been opened 34 hours by the time we drank the last half of the bottle.

My thanks again to Chris Bublitz for his contributions and his fidelity to this trip.

My notes do not disagree with his except to quibble: The '02 Jadot Clos St Jacques was not remotely lost for me, it was a glory. Also, I liked the Vergelegen better than the Groot, as noted. But we are on the same page as to what is worth carrying up the hill, and we’ve learned how to handle the wines.

Dan Kravitz

Dan and Chris, some great wines as usual, sorry I couldn’t make it. Did anyone summit? I’m planning on being there next summer.

Thanks for the notes Dan (and Chris). I look forward to reading them every year

Sunil and Anya went to the top by way of Dudley and across the Knife Edge. I tried to coax Marjorie up to the top but she turned around at the Saddle Slide. I continued up the the Saddle Trail and met Sunil and Anya at the summit. We all returned to Chimney Pond on the Saddle Trail. A great time was had by all. Hope to see you there next year.