TN: 3 Bruts Arnot Roberts WS PN Solaia Quilceda Grahams

Notes from a blind tasting lunch

Being Christmas time, we had a larger than usual share of bubbly. They were served with a really, really good French onion soup.

2002 Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Rare – huge effervescence on opening, fresh nose with both lemon and toasted cashew notes, well balanced on palate with a long crisp finish. I think this is at a really good place now – I held it in the glass and it never faded, just continued to open up.

2004 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut – wow – another superb bubble. More apple/lemon than the Piper, and not so much lemon, although the citrus was present in the nose. A leaner but very classy wine with a clean long finish ad some interesting stone fruit notes that developed in the nose with time.

H. Billiot Fils Champagne Grand Cru Brut Reserve – this non-vintage Brut showed some nice toast in the nose along with apple, and a classic elegant presence on palate, with a very dry finish.
Next up was a seafood salad (scallops, mussels and prawns)

2014 Arnot-Roberts Chardonnay Watson Ranch – mid colour, nose of lemon/apple with a light toast, well made and with a melon note coming on board as it warmed a bit. Decent length.

Main course was a mixed grill that included ham, lamb chop, rare steak, roasted mushroom, marrow bones – all sorts of good things.

2008 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Vista Verde Vineyard – medium dark Pinot colour and a very nice cherry and raspberry nose, somewhat sweet and without excessive oak, smooth on palate, drank well and on the sweet side.

1991 Antinori Solaia IGT – this is in a way the flip side of Tignanello, which is primarily Sangiovese with added cabernet, as it is about 75% cab (usually both cab sauv and cab franc in varying proportions depending on the vintage) plus sangiovese added. I have finished off my 88, 89 and most of my 1990, but this was the first bottle of the 91 I’ve opened. The other earlier vintages struck me as overly oaked American style wines, not bad but not a patch on my favourite IGT, Sassicaia. This one, however, struck me as a mellow wine with cassis and somewhat herbal nose, still fairly dark and with soft tannins and a nice long finish and good weight. Made me wish I had bought more than I had (the wine sells for $400+ in Canada so I stopped buying some time ago but still have half a dozen vintages, mostly untouched yet). Probably at leak now and coasting.

2000 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – this wine following mine accentuated the difference in style between new and old world cabs. Dark wine with some blackberry and currant that followed through on palate. The nose was controversial as some thought it lightly corked, but others (myself included) didn’t classify what we smelled as TCA but as an edge that wasn’t a flaw. Sweet finish. Well made wine, though not as much my style as the Solaia, which came across much more Bordeaux-like.

1991 Grahams Porto – what a fine way to end a lunch like this! The wine didn’t show the usual RS levels that are a quick tip-off to me of the house style. It was medium coloured with slightly browning edges and there were very soft tannins and some nice chocolate and raisin notes on palate and sweet fruit and toasted hazelnuts in the nose as well as some floral content that showed up with time… Nice to get a tip off on progress – I have a half case in the cellar that I haven’t touched yet.