Our friend Tom had four of us over for a little early Holiday get-together earlier this month, with a broad theme announced as Pinot Noir. Folks brought some great selections, we ordered some take-out food and then settled in to taste through the line-up.
2006 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru La Forest. This wine presents wet river rock, graphite, light lemon ball and some sort of green plant matter aromas that are quite youthful and focused but also plenty classy and refined. In the mouth, it has a nice creamy texture to it, but also a great gripping sensation and plenty of crunchy mineral undertones. Creamy citrus, pear and graphite flavors are quietly refined but driven along beautifully by the bracing yet classy acidity running underneath this the whole way through. It is clean as a whistle through the middle, and although the acidity never seems out of balance, it is strong enough toward the finish that it adheres to the enamel of the teeth. This is too young right now, but should be delightful in another 5+ years.
1999 Blain-Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru La Boudriotte. There were actually two bottles of this. Dana cracked open his case and noticed a lot of color variation across the bottles. He naturally became concerned about premature oxidation, so he picked the darkest and the lightest-colored bottles to bring as a bit of a test. The first (darker-colored) bottle was clearly and badly premoxed, stinking terribly of burnt walnuts and sherry and tasting even worse. Thankfully, the second bottle was considerably better. Still, it is a bit more golden in color than one might expect. Aromatically, it shows off scents like browned apples, dark peach pit, rich lemon ball and a hint of nuttiness that suggest it might also be a bit advanced, though still quite pleasant. In the mouth, it presents as full-bodied and rich, with a delightfully layered texture and plenty of depth of apple and pear flavors. Although it feels well-balanced and has quite good length on the finish, there is still a bit of oak showing through from time to time. If it weren’t for the premox concerns, I might suggest holding this another 3-5 years, but things being as they may, it seems prudent to drink up.
The Red Burgundies:
2000 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche. I poured this into a glass and set it aside for about an hour, only coming back to sniff from time to time and to notice that it really wasn’t budging much. I would describe this wine’s bouquet as rock solid and totally cohesive right from the get-go. It is richly red-fruited but also earthy and gently spiced. Aromas of fuzzy raspberries and other red fruits, whole cluster stemminess, hoisin sauce and mysterious and shifting earthy elements hold down the lower registers while airy bits of balsa wood and menthol ride along prettily on the high side. In the mouth, this is just seamlessly-textured and has a voluptuous and uninterrupted sense of flow and cohesion. In addition, it sports a big whack of exotic spices and a fine streak of acidity running right through it. The finish shows that there is a bit of classy wood still playing a factor, but the after-taste of the wine is extremely long and relentlessly persistent, especially the tickle of the spices. The wine also has a notably pretty inner mouth perfume of roses and red berries that I find quite appealing. Overall, I really love drinking this right now, but there is no doubting it will be even more special years down the line.
1999 Domaine A.-F. Gros Richebourg. The nose here is entirely different, leaning more toward high-toned, perhaps even volatile notes of creosote, candied cherries, bright black raspberry jam and dark leather. I find it to be a bit distracting, truthfully. In the mouth, the wine continues the theme of being bright and lively. It is actually a bit lean and acidic on the entry before finding better footing through the mid-palate. There is begins to show more of its fine glossy texture and sleek polished character. Ripe rich cherry fruit and an interesting rocky granite undertone combine nicely and have good lift and life. Overall, I want to like this more, but I just think the nose needs to clean up its act and the wine as a whole needs more time to come together and find greater complexity.
1999 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche. The nose here features aromas of dark caramel, black dirt, dark toast, mint and spiced blackberries that come across as rather serious but somehow also glossy and darkly seductive. Later glasses lean more toward the latter, with a more giving tone to the dark plum, earth and gentle spice aromas. It is lovely in the mouth, but also quite clearly young. There is a bit of a drying character on the entry and again on the moderately tannic finish, but in the broad middle this is really fleshy and giving. Sweet raspberry and sour cherry fruit combine beautifully with earthier elements in a full-bodied, fruity and juicy package that could definitely benefit from another 10 years in the cellar.
1999 Hubert Lignier Charmes-Chambertin. Oh boy, is this one exotic and sexy wine on the nose–featuring gorgeous aromas of mace, cedar, menthol, spice cake, black cherry, chocolate powder, fine earth, licorice rope, red flowers and soft suede. Together, it makes for a deep, complex and altogether lovely bouquet that I could simply sniff all night. In the mouth, it is once again a beauty–with a rich and savory profile that also pushes out plenty of seamless fine fruit. It is smooth and glossy as all hell, with great purity and class from start to finish. Nothing seems out of place, not even the fine tannins that sneak in on the finish. A second and third glass later in the evening are a bit more compact and youthful, but nearly equally engaging to my taste. This was my wine of the night by a hair over the ’00 La Tache.
2003 Gérard Raphet Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques Cuvee Unique. In contrast, this wine is not ready for its close-up right now. It is dark and a bit muddled on the nose, with aromas of funky leather, lava rocks, tomato plants, cracked black pepper and blackberry fruit. It seems quite young and over-exuberant on the palate, with fruit that seems somewhat over-ripe to me. It is also relatively monolithic and inexpressive compared to many of the wines on the table this evening. I would give this one some time and see if it comes around.
1985 Seigneurie de Posanges Bourgogne. I slipped this one in blind just to see what kind of reaction it might get. Like the time I slipped a bottle of the 1978 into a Burgundy tasting a few years ago, I think it really surprised people by just how good or at least interesting this is. Of course, we all know that there’s a good likelihood the wine is not 100% legit pinot noir, but who really cares at this point? It is just a lot of fun to try. In any event, the color is definitely browning on this, but it still seems healthy and dark at the core. It smells of old hard leather, tobacco shed, hard scrabble dirt and some light airy black cherry fruit, with funkier, sweatier notes folding in over time, as well. In the mouth, I have to say this is pretty darned tasty. It still has a freshness and lively character to it, with a cool acidity carrying along a solid dose of dark cherry fruit. It is actually fairly giving and even seems to have some soft tannins hanging around on the end. It has plenty of length and persistence and probably too much body for what its label suggests is in the bottle. It slowly turns a bit more leathery in texture later in the night and reports on its progress the next evening were not too complimentary, but for a while this had nothing to apologize for in the pleasure and intrigue departments.
The California Pinots:
1999 Capiaux Cellars Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands. I like the nose of this wine a lot–with its ripe red berry fruit, brown spices, pepper and forest fern aromas framed nicely by fine oak accents. It is quite similar in the mouth, with abundant and fleshy red fruit, tons of brown spices and rather freshening acidity. It is large-framed but contained and has a lot going on underneath its umbrella of structure. It has good sweetness to the raspberry and rhubarb fruit and a nice long finish. My only complaint would be the tickle of alcohol one occasionally runs into along the way. Otherwise, this is a very good SLH Pinot.
2000 Adrian Fog Pinot Noir Hawkeye Vineyard Anderson Valley. Houston, we have a problem. Something has gone terribly wrong here and if one looks at the small number of notes on CellarTracker, this bottle does not appear to be unusual in terms of its failures. For starters, the color is totally faded and rather cloudy in appearance. If one holds the glass up to the light, it is almost as if the solids in the wine have separated from the liquids. On the nose, it is quite fuzzy and disjointed with over-ripe fruits, balsa wood and soft earth aromas seemingly all over the place. In the mouth, it is totally crab-apple sour and makes the face squinch up in response. Plainly stated, this is just awful and totally undrinkable.
2007 Copain Pinot Noir “En Bas” Kiser Anderson Valley. There are really nice aromatics associated with this wine, with notes of strawberries and raspberries, soft leather and cigar ash coming across as youthful but interesting and understated in an appealing fashion. In the mouth, it is not overly-structured nor particularly cut by acidity, but it is softly welcoming with its smooth taste of blue and black fruits, sweet earth and smoky embers. It finishes on the dry side and maybe a bit short right now due to its youth, but it is readily apparent that it is a well-made and even-handed treatment. On day two, it is a bit more serious in tone, but also more fleshed out and full—suggesting that it will likely repay some mid-term cellaring.
2007 Copain Pinot Noir “En Haut” Kiser Anderson Valley. In comparison, the nose here is much blacker in tone and much more distinctly earthy. At the same time, I find it to be considerably more flamboyant and overt than the “En Bas”. On the palate, it is darker-fruited, richer, larger-boned and more obvious than its stable-mate. It is also much more tannic and chewy and seems clearly less ready to be drunk in my opinion. It will probably be the longer-lived wine, but right now and probably even in the longer-term my preference is for the En Bas.
2006 Morlet Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Joli Coeur Sonoma Coast. This is young and tight but has nicely perfumed notes of red flower petals, pasty red fruits, ginger and birch beer on the nose. It is very brambly on the palate with a good deal of stemminess and lots of briery berry flavors. It is clearly young, but does have some layering of extracted red fruit beginning to show. For me, though, there is a bit too much in the way of cola syrup and stem spices in the profile. It finishes dry and a bit pinched and would seem a candidate to benefit from a good rest in the cellar. There is a lot of stuffing here, so some patience will likely be required.
2003 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast. After the La Tache and the Lignier Charmes, this had to be my favorite wine to smell on this night, even though it is completely different in just about every way. The aromatics here just jump out of the glass in an effusive display of fuzzy raspberries, juniper berries, black cherries, soft balsa wood and effusive barrel spices that is just lovely. Over the course of the evening, it shows no let up and if anything becomes even more fleshed-out and appealing. It seems a good deal younger on the palate, where luscious flavors of sweet brambly berries, cranberries, brown spices, fine earth and brown stems show very good length and breadth but also a fair bit of bombast at times. I think this has aged well to this point and could actually benefit from even more time. Still, I’d have to rank it as my third-favorite wine of the night for drinking right now.
2001 Henry’s Drive Shiraz Reserve Padthaway. I have no idea how, when or why this bottle was opened, but at the end of the night there it was just sitting in front of me. Oh, and here is an empty glass, so why not give it a try! Well, OK, this just seems massive at this point in the evening. The nose gives off huge aromas of eucalyptus, cedar wood and peppermint to go along with sweet black and blue berry fruit and lots of wood spices, green coffee beans and a bit of mocha dust. In the mouth, it tastes ridiculously young and is relatively hard to drink after a dozen bottles of Pinot Noir. It has huge body, super-rich blue fruit and dry extract seemingly out the wazoo. It also shows a lot of wood and barrel spice influence and tannins that clamp down hard. Take this note with a grain of salt, but my assessment is that this shouldn’t be touched for a good while.
My thanks to all the guys for a great Tuesday evening.