TN- Blind Chardonnay Shootout at Apiary (w/ pic)

Last night a bunch of miscreants gathered at Scott Bryant’s place in the East Village, Apiary, to taste some Chardonnay. The format was blind, and we each brought along 1-2 bottles, for a grand total of 17. Not bad for 10 people. It would be interesting to see if we could pick out the New World from the Old World styles. And away we went…

Creamy lemon, perfumy oak on the nose, but more citrus than wood. The body is fat, with some spicy oakiness to it that’s balanced and even lifted by some striking acidity. Everyone said Burgundy, I decided to be contrarian and say a 10-year old CA Chard. I was almost right! Woohoo!
1997 Calera Mt Harlan Chardonnay

Lemony butterscotch, some caramel, mushroomy with sweet oxydative notes on the nose. Ugh, sour lemony popcorn aspects on the palate, this was shot. Too bad, this could have been amazing. We all said mid-/late-1990s white Burg. Duh.
1996 Niellon Chassagne Montrachet Clos de la Truffiere

Ripe lemony popcorn wrapped in a layer of vanilla oak, the palate was sweet and somewhat fat with a spicy, buttery note to it that ended with a slightly bitter finish. Everyone voted CA.
2000 Pahlmeyere Jason

Ugh, caramelized apples and not much more anywhere, neither on the nose or palate. I wrote “Undrinkable”, and we all guessed another mid-1990s white Burg.
1995 Ramonet Batard-Montrachet Argh!

Right off the bat, this reminded me of those CostCo apple pies you see warming in the Bakery section. Not a bad thing, as it offers some nice apple compote and cinnamon aspects, with some hints of oxydation and orange marmalade notes. The palate was slightly fat, with nutty and lemony honey tastes, ending in a surprisingly sour finish. We were all over the map on this one, especially as the bottle shape made us think New World (most said CA, I decided to be a prick and say Australia). We were all wrong.
1991 Gravner Chardonnay

At first, this had some weird, but not unlikable minty/vegetal notes, which made me think Ramonet and white Burgundy. But the green started to dissipate, replaced by an almost petrolly smell, wrapping itself around a quartz and lemon core. In the mouth, this was medium-bodied and certainly tasted better than it smelled, with honeyed lemon, striking minerality and a nice, medium, well-balanced finish. We all said white Burg.
1992 Lafon Meursault Genevriere

Orange zest, petrol, nuts and hints of oxydation on the nose, with a spicy, medium-weight frame offering hints of tea, lemon, nuts and ending in a long finish. Another vote for white Burg.
2000 Maltroye Batard Montrachet

Right off the bat, we could see this was a lighter-bodied wine, as it didn’t pour as viscously as the others in the flight. It also smelled lighter, with fresh pineapple, steely lemon cream and light nuts (almonds?). The palate followed through with a similar (relatively) lighter feel, ending in a medium-length finish. Nice, but not in the same league as the others. Votes were all over the place, I said Chassagne Montrachet. Close but no go.
2002 Louis Latour Puligny Montrachet

Oooh, this smells nice, with minty lemons, almonds, hints of minerals like quartz on the nose. Its feel is nice too, with a medium, balanced body offering more minerals, lemony almonds, and a long, spicy finish. This HAS to be white Burgundy, and I voted as such. Whoops. Surprise of the night!
2005 Dierberg Santa Maria

The nose is full of fat, ripe lemony almonds, Granny Smith apples, and a certain, lovely musky note. On the palate, this is lovely, even if a bit fat, with lemon and spices and almonds all balanced out by a beautiful, fresh acidity. Another vote for white Burgundy. Again, whoops.
2002 Aubert Richie

2001 Lafon Meursault Charmes

2007 Seven Springs la Source (a Lafon project in OR I believe)

Whoa, this has GOT to be CA: dry almonds, minerals, perfumy oak, ripe lemons on the nose, with similar aspects carried through on the fat, ripe structure, but ending in a surprisingly short finish. Somewhat unbalanced, not to my liking, though I can see why others would enjoy it.
2001 Kistler Cathleen

Oxydated, nothing but burnt nuts and caramelized apples. Ugh.
2001 Peter Michael Pointe Rouge

Oooooh, this smells nice, what is it? Lovely herbal mint notes wrapped around a core of minerally lemons, carried through on a steely, elegant frame. The mouthfeel is just as lovely as the nose, with a laser-like precision that lifts flavors of spicy almonds, more fresh mint, and minerally lemons (think those crystallized lemons), with an understated power and elegance that is almost shockingly refreshing. The finish goes on and on and on and on. Quite nice, and we all said white Burgundy.
2001 Ramonet Chevalier Montrachet

Ripe, honeyed lemons and almonds wrapped themselves around some nice minerals on the nose of this one. In the mouth, it was medium-weighted, with some spicy notes to it and a relatively short finish. I think we all voted CA.
2003 Marcassin Estate

Very similar aspects to the previous wine, with similarly ripe and honeyed lemons and spices, though the palate was a tad fresher and had better lift from some more acidity and more minerality. I voted white Burg.
2003 Coche Dury Meursault Caillerets

-#18 (not blind) 1979 Chateau Latour
Yep, a red, and a Bordeaux at that, generously offered by a friend of Bob’s. Popped and poured, this really should have been decanted a bit, but it was rather nice and reminded me why I used to like Bordeaux so much. Notes of band-aid, funk, dark plums/cherries and soft wood aspects held your attention. The palate was light, with some sweet red fruit still fighting for survival (storage might have been an issue, we weren’t sure), herbs, and a nice, balanced finish. Not bad, and a welcome reprieve from all the whites.

Because 17 bottles of white and 1 bottle of red weren’t enough, Chris Wilford and his lovely lady Meredith joined me for a stumble through the East Village to one of my favorite haunts, Pata Negra. Since we apparently hadn’t eaten enough, either, we ordered a plate of the legendary Pata Negra ham, and while that melted on our tongues, we drank a Rose Txakoli.

-2008 Rose Txakoli (name forgotten in the mists of hangover)
Gorgeous color, with flower red berry notes, and just a hint of spritz to tickle your nose. Very light-bodied, this perked up the palate with lively acidity and fresh berries and flowers on the tongue. A great way to end the night, I might add, as the fruit was just ever-so-slightly sweet.

Conclusions: We thought it would be easier to pick out the New World from the Old World, but it turned out to be harder than anticipated. I might add, however, that while we did have the best of the best of CA, we didn’t really have the best of the best of Burgundy. No Montrachet, only one Chevalier, and the Batards were undrinkably oxydized. WOTN for most was the Aubert, followed closely by the Ramonet Chevy.

Still, it was a fun evening, and a big thanks to all who made it and donated so generously from their cellars.
Cheers! [cheers.gif]

Nice tasting. I have a couple 02 Auberts left and did drink up all my 01 Peter Michael’s. I noticed about two years ago they just weren’t holding up very well so we finished them off.

The Dierberg sounds interesting…how did others view it?

Folks LOVED the Dierberg, in fact a few placed orders right there at the restaurant from the phones. I have to say it was quite good.

BTW, I can’t believe I didn’t mention this, but the food was FANTASTIC. I will definitely be taking advantage of their BYO-Monday deal from now on.

Loved the 2002 Aubert Ritchie that I had last year. Incredible bottle of white.

Michel, any sage advice on the Rose Txakolis? Been looking to source some for a French/Spanish Rose tasting.

Bummer on the premox and corkage, but the lineup was quite impressive!

Great tasting and notes! I would have loved to attend. The Seven Springs is from the Evening Land Winery - Lafon is the consulting winemaker. The Gravner is from a period before he changed his style. I have very high hopes for Chardonnay in California especially after tasting the new Wind Gap wines - unfined, unfiltered, fermented in steel and concrete and aged in old or neutral oak. The White Helix wine from the James Berry Vineyard in Paso is also an amazing wine with tons of minerality. Both of these wines are around $40 so significantly below comparable Burgs. Since you didn’t have a Kongsgaard Judge you also didn’t have the best from Cali.

Very interesting.

I’ve been to 2 dinners where the white flights consisted of some bottles from Marcassin alongside some bottles from Coche Dury (served blind both times). I and my regular wine buddies, the Doc and Stockbroker, easily picked out the Cali from the Burgs at both dinners.

I’m not saying I’ll always be able to do it, but, in all honesty, it was very easy. The first dinner, we didn’t even have to taste. From the respective scents, we were able to differentiate.


Good to see you over here.

I agree, there’s some interesting work being done in CA now that they’re moving away from the buttery popcorn model. The Gravner was interesting but not great, and it’s too bad that Seven Springs was corked as it would have been nice thing to try. As for Kongsgaard, I’ve tasted a bunch in the past and never been a fan, though truth be told it’s been 1-2 years since I’ve had one.


I think the reason we had hard time was that the Coche was 2003 so very ripe and very CA-like.
Cheers! [cheers.gif]

True, that vintage could tend to change things a bit. I’ve not had a 2003 Coche, but of the 2003 white Burgs I’ve tried, I can imagine that could add some confusion.


Michel;Thanks for the great notes and data points. I have virtually given up on white burgs with the exception of Chablis. It is a bit surprising that no one actually brought a bottle of Chablis…was that by design? The Aubert, my personal favorite continues to show brilliantly. You said you didn’t have the “best of the best” but your California choices were certainly top-notch!
Thanks again!
Marshall [cheers.gif]

Great little lineup Michel
Good showing for that Dierberg.

That Dierberg was delicious and quite a surprise in its Burg-like precision.

I too was surprised that no Chablis made its way into the line-up, but oh well. Next time. :wink:

Nice notes. My impression of the Dierberg was pretty much the same as yours. I like interesting characteristics in a wine and this was a nice surprise.

Look at the Dierberg against the white burg hitters. Dig that. I am not that close to the pricing say on the Batard M or Chevalier M but what would those price out as compared to the Dierberg…3X or 4X? Am I close?

As to Robert’s point on the Wind Gap chardonnay, I wonder how that wine would have showed blind in the line up above? The WG Brosseau is very, very good.

Michel, thanks for the TNs and the report–always appreciate seeing the humility and candidness that a blind event provides. I am attending one tonight coincidentally and I plan to have some notes up here tomorrow or Monday.

My brother-in-law was at Apiary on Thursday and was telling me about your event. I take it Apiary is a good place for group offlines.

Thanks for this one in particular Michel.
Great notes. The 2001 Ramonet’s are spectacular.
I have never had a 1995 Ramonet Batard that hasn’t been shot.
Probably had it 4 times.
I will have to check out that Dierberg.