A few non-Chenin wines I’ve had over the past eight or so weeks that I actually wrote down.
1995 Trimbach- Riesling “Cuvée Frédéric Émile” (from magnum)
Laser-like and pure with lime, flint and hints of stone fruit flavors and aromas. Showing infinitely fresher than 750’s I’ve had recently, some of which have shown premox. Quite young with a big acidic backbone. Just a hint of petrol notes. More please. A-.
1983 Beringer- Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Reserve, Napa Valley
Here’s a bit of a blast from the past. When I was just getting into wine in the early/mid-'90’s, top wines for me were wines such as the Mondavi and Beringer Private Reserves. It’s been a while since I’ve had a Beringer PR, let alone one with some age on it and it didn’t disappoint. It was like settling into a well-worn, comfortable leather couch with its sweet, softened and slightly faded character. There’s cherry, cedar, leather, spice, herb and licorice showing nicely and fully integrated with a touch of grey. Drink up and enjoy. A-/B+.
1994 Ridge- Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc.
Draper’s American oak perfume wafts from the glass with tell-tale coconut and mint aromas along with sweet black fruit and balsam notes. Still could use some more time in the cellar to smooth out a few rough edges and gain more secondary development, but it’s a lot of fun to drink right now. There’s certainly oak present, but the fruit is sweet and rich enough to balance it out and should eventually fully absorb it. Shows a bit of VA and the finish is a touch short, but this is quite enjoyable and a fine pairing with my ribeye. A-.
1995 Ridge- Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc.
Quite different in character than the '94. This one is much more serious and less generous, with higher acid and tannin levels. The fruit is redder, there’s some barnyard, earth and brown root spices/sassafras flavors and aromas. A touch drying on the finish. Definitely more cerebral. I would think more time would do it well, but with the finish drying out a little, I’d be a tiny bit concerned, though would want to try another bottle before drawing any conclusions. Fwiw, I preferred the '95 to the '94 on release and in its first few years. A-/B+.
2005 Ridge- Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Stands in stark contrast to the 2006. This really needs to sort itself out as the oak is just way too dominate and the tannins really persnickety. There’s some nice boysenberry fruit underneath it all, but right now the wine seems to be fighting with both itself and those drinking it. B+, though I’d like to try another bottle.
2006 Ridge- Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc.
A far cry from the '05 as the oak is much better contained in this wine. Sweet and pure with cassis, boysenberry, chocolate a touch of spice and oak char on the nose and palate. Certainly primary, but it shows a pretty elegance to it that the '06 lacks and it should absorb its oak nicely. Solid A-.
1987 Spring Mountain- Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Hadn’t tried this beauty in about six or so years and it was great to get reacquainted. This wine doesn’t seem to have moved much in the ensuing years as the fruit levels are still wonderful. Cassis dominates the fruit profile and is supported by cedar, spice, herb, and tobacco notes. Tannins have integrated nicely and there’s a certain joie de vivre to the wine which weighs in at a mere 13.2% Imagine that, a ripe Napa cab that weighs in under 13.5% Wish that style was still in vogue today. Quite Bordeauxesque in character and a delight to drink. Solid A-.
1970 La Rioja Alta- Rioja Gran Reserva, 904
Textbook old school Rioja. There’s sweet, slightly faded cherry fruit, worn wood, coconut, spice and leather on the nose and palate. It’s very perfumed on the nose and on the palate it picks up some orange citrus on the finish. Juicy acidity and mid-weight. It has persistence in that elegant Rioja way. Drinking very nicely now and I don’t see any benefit to holding them any longer. Low A-.
1971 Leoville-Barton- St. Julien, Bordeaux
Shows quite an odd nose that’s dominated by a dirt smell, though not in a pleasant way, with cherry, sweet spices and a pine note. On the palate, lean and mean with that dirt character dominating. Big hole in the middle and quite shrill. Not for me. D+/C-.
1989 Olga Raffault- Chinon "Les Picasses"
Beautiful nose. Nice and funky, showing meatiness, sweet black cherry, herb and cedar. It’s a little leaner on the palate than the fruit on the nose would suggest with a similar flavor profile, but with more of an herbal component. Precise and crunchy. Quite nice, though I prefer the '90 version with its riper fruit and slightly lower acid levels. A-/B+.
1999 Ponsot- Clos de La Roche, Vieilles Vignes
Now why can’t my friends bring more Burgundy bottles like these to dinner if they want me to enjoy Burgundy instead of the shrill swill I’m normally subjected to? What a beautiful nose! Black and Maraschino cherry heaven! The wine is plush with lovely upfront cherry fruit, some spice and sous bois with just a hint of stemminess. The fruit makes this a lot of fun and the fact that there’s nice depth and layering to it is gravy. Solid A-.
1995 Bernard Faurie- Hermitage "Le Meal"
Love the nose of this wine. It’s so full of Syrah goodness. Plenty of black fruit, black olives, garrigue and a bit of bloody meat. There’s some nice mid-palate sweetness, with pretty black fruit and a lot of black olive flavors, but there are some seriously hard tannins here. Kindah chunky and coarse and the finish is a bit short. B+.
1995 Rayas- Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Much heralded as the last great Rayas made by Jacques Renaud, unfortunately this bottle did not live up to the hype. In fact, it was disappointingly ho-hum. There was hope at the onset as it had a beautiful nose of black and red raspberry, spices, black pepper tar and violets. However, while those flavors did carry through somewhat on the palate, they were muted and lackluster. The wine was feminine and elegant texturally, but the acidity was sticking out too much and made the finish a bit too sharp. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what it should have been, which made the experience disappointing. Solid B+.
1998 Domaine de la Mordorée- Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Cuvée de la Rein des Bois"
Rich and exuberant aromatically with loads of strawberry jam, pixie stix candy and some baker’s spices. On the palate, completely spoofulated and a shadow of what it was on release. It tastes artificially sweet with disjointed oak dominating. With air the fruit disappeared and all that remained was the wood. Now, I guess I knew what I was getting into when I got this bottle on release. After having tried it back then I liked it for its sheer hedonistic quality and brash fruit, even if it wasn’t what I look for in Châteauneuf. I figured with a gaudy score from RP to go along with it, why not? I could always flip it. Well, after it was universally panned at the table, I guess I’ll have a couple of open spots soon in the Eurocave. C-.
2001 Rieussec- Sauternes
Always nice when a wine lives up to its hype and there was plenty of it with this one. This was simply stunning. Extremely aromatic and intense on the palate with decadent levels of stone and tropical fruits, honey, crème brulée and botrytis. While massive, it moves deftly across the palate thanks to nicely proportioned acidity, especially for a Sauternes, which, to me, can generally use a little more zip than they usually show. The flavors linger around endlessly on the finish. Really a wow wine and certainly the best Rieussec I’ve ever had and may well tie with the '88 Yquem, another Sauternes with amazing balance, for my favorite Sauternes. A+.