TN's from three different kinds of family wine dinners

Dinner #1: My Father-in-Law’s Birthday (a casual dinner with just a few of us)

N.V. Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley. Dark smoke, black bread, graphite and lemon peel aromas are a bit tighter, tauter and more formal than two other bottles of this wine earlier in the year. It is also more tightly under wraps on the palate, with some quinine, sharp pear, smoke and cherry skin flavors that are more rigid than luxuriant. It does manage to build up to more fruit notes over time, with some grapefruit and other citrus notes leading the way. Mostly, though, it stays masculine and introspective. Previous bottles have been more giving than this one.

2005 La Colombera Colli Tortonesi Timorasso. In appearance, this wine is dark yellow with a gold tint. It smells of crushed gravel powder, lime rind, fine smoke, cherry pits and Spring herbs. It grows and grows with air, evolving from crisp and sharp to a more nuanced and layered feel, pulling in nice notes of lemon oil, apple skins and something like mineral spirits. It is dry on the palate, with an interesting texture like fresh sliced apple flesh. It tastes of mealy spiced apple and pear, nectarine and grapefruit. It attacks the palate with a vibrant feel, but rolls up into a rounded ball of flavor through the middle. It finishes pretty long, turning a bit more bitter–with tangy grapefruit and minerals carrying it to its conclusion. It has a natural and balanced feel to it and overall represents a very good QPR, in my opinion.

1996 Louis Jadot Nuits St. Georges. This bottle opens with a bit of bretty band-aid funk and sweaty horse, but eventually settles down a bit to fold in more nuanced notes of old leather straps, persimmon, rust, faded red flower petals, hardwood flooring and dried black cherry fruit. It is rather resolved in the mouth, giving a nice little controlled burst of aged red berry fruit, earth and leather before fairly quickly receding into drying acidity. That acidity and overall profile are soft enough to let the gentle fruit continue to offer glimpses of stately old charm, but it stays light and generally under-fruited most of the way. However, once we began to eat the food (roast duck with Madeira reduction sauce), the wine seemed to get up off the mat and bring more to the party—giving a good final swan song to the last glass or two. Still, a bottle 2 years ago managed to show more freshness than this, so my suggestion would be to drink up.

Dinner #2: My Mother-in-Law’s Birthday (more of a cocktail party kind of thing with a bunch of family friends–had to have all white wines due to carpet staining fears. Ah, mothers-in-law…gotta love mine anyway!)

N.V. Gloria Ferrer Brut Blanc de Noir Methode Champenoise Sonoma County. There is not a whole lot going on aromatically with this bottle—showing only some hints of smoke, cocoa dust and lime. It just never really opens up beyond that. On the palate, it is rounded and relatively full, with a pleasing weight and overall mouthfeel. It may have a tiny bit of sweetness to it, with layered fruit and a sort of white chocolate note that is interesting. There is decent persistence of interesting flavors like grapefruit, ash, papaya and white currant. It finishes clean—not really crisp but hardly flabby, either. It comes across as nothing too special, but pretty solid.

2007 Cave de Saumur Saumur Blanc Les Pouches. It’s not giving up a lot on the nose right now, showing a bit of honeydew melon, chalk dust and yellow Chuckle candy. It is lively and crisp with acidity, but with a nice chalky fleshiness to the texture. Peach pit, kiwi and honeydew melon flavors are rounded but forcefully directed along the palate to the grapefruit and bitter smoke-tinged finish. It has a nice crisp edge all the way through and feels young and vibrant—drinking refreshingly if not particularly profoundly. Give it another 6-12 months, though, and see if it develops greater complexity.

2002 Tardieu-Laurent Cotes du Rhone Blanc Guy Louis. This wine offers a mineral-laden nose to go with aromas of botanical herbs, lemon peel and ocean brine. However, as it comes up to temperature, a strong vanilla oaken profile begins to grow, eventually becoming ponderous. Similarly on the palate, this is best when served cool—showing cool, crisp and minerally but perhaps a bit bitter and fruit-deficient. The oak again grows to unwelcome proportions and there is not enough fruit to stand up to it. It has plenty of body for a Cotes du Rhone Blanc, but the acidity is turning a bit shrill and the fruit is all but gone at this point.

2005 Coopers Creek Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough. This seems to have fallen off since the last few times I tasted it. The nose continues to feature plenty of gooseberry and green melon fruit, but is now showing some grass mulch and over-ripe fruit rinds in the background that detract a good deal from what should be a clean refreshing aromatic profile. It is still zesty in the mouth, but frankly a bit boring at this point—with some simple green apple, gooseberry and flat smoke flavors not showing much drive or penetration. Could just be over the hill.

2005 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Quarzit. This Riesling features bright notes of peach, kiwi, quartz and faint kerosene on the nose. On the palate, it is a bit sweeter than I expected, but it pumps out the flavors of apricot, peach, tangerine and pink grapefruit pretty effortlessly in an easy-flowing and medium-bodied package. It shows a bit grainy-textured at times, but otherwise offers good bright fruit to go along with a crowd-pleasing amount of body.

Dinner #3: Dinner at my wife’s Uncle’s (a foodie-fest, wherein my only contribution was to eat and to bring several of the wines)

N.V. Janisson Baradon & Fils Champagne Tradition Brut. We started off with this sparkler that was OK but nothing special. On the nose, it opens with a lot of graphite and pulls in some peach, apple and bread dough over the course of an hour or so. In the mouth, it is easy-drinking and not especially taxing on the palate or the mind. It is fine for sipping, but does not have much complexity or character.

2006 Foxen Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley. The nose of this lighter-styled Pinot Noir offers up a lot of nuanced surface pleasure with very bright and pure strawberry and light raspberry fruit and soft wood aromas. It is similar in the mouth, with lighter body, fresh acidity and tingly red berry fruit that can be a bit mouth-puckering. It is a bit rough-edged in its youth at times, but otherwise pure, fruity and fresh. It is not deep, complex or mysterious—just vibrant and fun.

2006 Wild Horse Pinot Noir Central Coast. Aromas of tart young blueberries, brown sugar and toasted oak are not especially engaging or flattering. It is polished and smoothed out on the palate, without a lot of acidic cut or much in the way of tannins. It is medium-bodied, with flavors again of tart blueberries to go along with lime zest and a lot of coarsely toasted oak staves—giving it a feeling of inelegance on the finish, especially after the polished entry. Otherwise, it is pretty simple and seemingly made for easy drinking. It is just not very interesting.

2006 Bergstrom Pinot Noir Cumberland Reserve Willamette Valley. The nose here is decidedly more earthy, with some darker fruits, mushroom and forest undergrowth notes. It is somewhat closed and brooding on the palate, with dark fruit and full body, but again with the woodsy qualities. It has a rounded feel to it and displays fine balance, but needs some time to unfold and show its full character.

2006 MacPhail Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast. Of the four Pinots tasted at this meal, this one was by far my favorite. It is a very nice wine indeed, exhibiting loads of exotic Oriental spices and a puree of crushed strawberry and maraschino cherry fruit aromas. It is very silky and oh-so-smooth in texture, providing an elegant but forcefully-fruited feeling to it. Zippy spices and fine-pitched acidity carry it along, as it just slips down the throat with ease. My WOTN.

2005 Sbragia Family Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Rosso Vineyard Sonoma County. This Cabernet is very plummy on the nose, with lots of soft oak spices and tons of cedar dust and mint right up in your grill. The oak is definitely on display. In the mouth, this is again rather plummy, with dark but rather soft and rounded fruit throughout. It is a bit primary, but is not showing much in the way of tannin or structure. It is actually drinking pretty much straight-forward in a large-boned, rounded and up-front fruity sort of fashion. It is not a fruit bomb by any stretch, but it sure is open-knit and easy-drinking for such a young Cabernet. I think more structure or framing would help give it some focus and better overall drive, which it lacks for the most part at this stage of its evolution.

2005 Sbragia Family Cabernet Sauvignon Rancho del Oso Howell Mountain. Now, for something completely different. This is all about mountain fruit, with tons of briery mixed berries on the nose, to go along with stem, green fern and moss aromas. It manages its oak spices much better and has a forthright cool berry character to it. In the mouth, it has a lot of tight structure, solid acidity and abundant tannic bite. It is brambly but tight, tannic and brutish—needing a good deal of time to come around. Really, something in between the two extremes of these Cabernets would be quite nice!

2004 Beringer Vineyards Nightingale Napa Valley. Served from 375 ml bottle. 70% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc. I had never had Nightingale before, and this particular bottle was a disappointment. Initially, it offers aromas of creamsicle, spice, lime peel, apricots and an odd off-putting sort of over-ripe mango note. In the mouth, it is surprisingly sharp and direct, with a crisp tensile edging that feels stand-offish. Lifted flavors of meyer lemon, key lime pie and yellow tropical fruits are simply not elegant, refined or particularly fleshy. I mean the flavors themselves are nice, but they just feel pushy and maybe unmelded. I am going to give this the benefit of the doubt and say it is just perhaps too young, but I am not confident.



Have faith in the nightingale. I have had some older ones that have been stunning and in particular the 99. I think they need a few years to come together and integrate. I just tried an 01 a few weeks ago that is just starting to get good.

Thanks, Tyler. Sheesh, I spend a day traveling and my posting drops all the way to page 2 like a stone! Lots of TN’s hitting these shores recently, I must say!!


Great notes as always Michael!

Thanks, Jud! I am slowly catching up. Only about 100 or so notes in the backlog now…