TNs: 85 Salon, 87 La Mouline, 97 Bonneau CdP, 03 Montrose

I was very pleased a while back to join Alex, Angelo, Steve and Jeff for a very fun dinner and an outstanding blind tasting at Les Zygomates.

1985 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs. In the glass, this is a dark, toasty golden-colored sparkler, and the nose exhibits similar aromas of dark ginger ale, praline, chopped nuts, dark citrus and baked apples. It is contemplative and interesting, but definitely showing a fair bit of aged character. However, in the mouth, this is absolutely loaded with energy, drive and volume despite the nutty, ginger and praline flavor core. The citrus overtones are really fun and add a great counter-balance and cut to the plusher-bodied center. It all works together well and makes for a fine example of aged Champagne.

1987 E. Guigal Cote-Rotie La Mouline. This wine has a wonderfully expressive bouquet that leaps from the glass with delightful Old World aromas of worn leather, rawhide, funky dried sweat, graham cracker, pot pourri, lavender and beautiful dried red fruit. It is sweet, funky and savory all at the same time and comes across as just genuine and complete. In the mouth, it is a bit cleaner-fruited, with a brighter, tangier and more berry-driven agenda. Over time, it takes on a nice exotic spice character I like a lot. The texture is absolutely smooth and silky, with resolved tannins and fantastic length on the finish. It is absolutely open for business and in the zone right now. It is a true delight to drink. WOTN.

2002 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Precious Mountain Vineyard Sonoma Coast. This is obviously a much more New World-styled wine and most guesses quickly settled on Pinot Noir. The aromas of sassafras, purple berries, limestone, cola and powdered cherry seem bright and twangy, but there’s also a little sliver of alcohol in the mix that kind of mars it a bit for me. In the mouth, it is smooth and slippery, yet densely packed with red berry fruit and some brambly overtones. The acidity and a little citric underpinning are nice and help to offset the surprisingly plush texture. A fair dose of tannins and alcohol sort of take over the finish later in the evening, too. While this is hardly my favorite showing for a W-S wine, there does seem to be plenty of fruit stuffing here if one is willing to try and wait it out a few more years.

2008 Sojourn Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast. On the nose, this comes across as a racier, more lifted pinot bouquet that features fine aromas of cherries, currants, citrus peel and limestone. In the mouth, it is full of brambly wild berry fruit flavors, with a zesty acidity to match. It is young and exuberant and full of life. Although it is a tad rough-hewn around the edges on the finish, this is drinking pretty well and should hold easily, too.

1997 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Marie Beurrier. Oh man, this is one delightful bouquet—showing all kinds of very appealing aromas ranging from herbs de provence, chalk, violets, dried sweat, tobacco leaf and pounded leather to cherry roll-ups and beautiful crème de cassis. I really dig it. In the mouth, I love the way it leads with a transparent purity of red fruit (currants, cassis, cherry) in a medium-weighted style before pulling in flowery and earthier supporting notes. It is gently chewy in texture and could probably use a bit more time in that regard, but the flavors are so elegant, refined and pure despite their robustness that it is an easy quibble to overlook. The structure here is nicely evident, as well, even though tannins don’t really show up on the radar at all. All in all, it is simply a wonderful wine–bested on this night only by the ’87 La Mouline.

2003 Chateau Montrose St. Estephe. According to my notes, this wine was double-decanted early in the morning, so saw a good deal of air before we got to it at this point in the evening. Even with that extended aeration, I think this wine is far from being ready to go. First of all, it is extremely dark, dense and opaque-looking in the glass. I do like a lot of the aromatic qualities it is showing right now, including the notes of deep plum, tomato plant, dusty earth, black currant, black cherry, clay, tobacco and cracked leather. However, on the palate, this is a bruiser—showing dense, extremely concentrated, dry and very tannic around its flavors of dark chocolate, toasted herbs, dark soil and black currant fruit. The somewhat sour acidity is also out in force, making the wine just seem very young and very primary in a generally brooding fashion. I am pretty confident this has the stuffing for the long run, but best to wait, in my opinion.

2004 Merus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. This is very big and youthful on the nose, with aromas of oak, blackberry, eucalyptus, toasted herbs and an annoying streak of burnt rubber that I find distracting. In the mouth, it is loaded with intense, rich, warm and slutty dark fruit and sweet mocha flavors. It envelops the tongue and coats the mouth. Looking back at old notes, it appears I hated the 2005 and also generally disliked the 2003 (neither wine was tasted blind), so take this blind tasting note with a grain of salt that I probably just don’t like the style of this producer.

2003 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes. This is very flamboyant on the nose, with lots of dried pineapple cube, sugar cage, eggnog, crème brulee, toasted marshmallow, lime zest and botrytis spice aromas encircling the senses. In the mouth, it is smooth, creamy and unctuous in its tropical fruit, baking spice and meringue flavors that are wildly fun and deliciously sweet. It has a lot of life and occasionally shows a serious underbelly, too. It is a great way to finish any meal.