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OTBN 2019 – What a Night!

February 27, 2019 10 comments

Open That Bottle Night (OTBN for short) is my favorite “wine holiday”. Of course, the absolute majority of celebrations in our lives – holidays (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving…), birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, promotions – include wine, but strictly in the supporting role. All the “grape days” are about wine, yes – but typically restricted to a specific grape. OTBN is a special day when the wine is a front and center of our celebration – OTBN is all about showing respect to those special bottles which all need the special, perfectly appropriate moment to be opened. OTBN allows us to say “the perfect moment has arrived” and just open That Bottle.

OTBN 2019 lineup

Almost full line up – few bottles are not shown

While I’m celebrating OTBN for a long time, this year’s event helped me to better appreciate the true purpose of this “holiday”. Okay, I have to say that I never had such a massive amount of wine opened for the OTBN – we went through 14 bottles – and each bottle was special in its own way. But until now, all of my OTBN experiences where strictly positive – the majority of the wines opened for OTBN were either at its peak or well drinkable at the moment but still promising to improve with time. But this year, in addition to absolutely stunning, mature, unparalleled wines we had wines which were either past prime or in the strange sleeping mode (yes, I’m an optimist),  adding a good reason to follow the founding principals of the OTBN and pull the cork from That Bottle now.

Here are my notes for the wines we opened this year, together with a bit of explanation as to what made this wine special and my impressions.

2001 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatori Metodo Classico Trento DOC (100% Chardonnay)
Why: I was looking at this bottle for a long time. Ferrari makes some of the very best sparkling wines in Italy, and this is their flagship wine. At 18 years, it is a good age for the sparkling wine – and OTBN is a perfect reason to open a wine like that.
How was it: Amazing. Light bubbles, but the balance is amazing, light toasted notes, wow. The wine stayed fresh throughout the whole evening and was one of everyone’s favorites.

2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Puligny-Montrachet Le Trezin, Cote de Beaune
Why: Jim had multiple bottles of this wine and was worrying about Premox (Premature oxidation). Thus he put it out just to try.
How was it: Superb. delicious, classic burgundy, beautiful, elegant, round. Another one of the top choices for everyone.

2007 François Cazin Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny AOC
Why: This is one of my favorite wines. When it was 10 years old, was literally blown away
How was it: Underwhelming. A touch of petrol, clean, good acidity, bud no bright fruit. Still delicious in its own way – I would gladly drink it any time. But – lucking the “umpf” which was expected… Still have 2 more bottles – will open later on and see.

2014 Damien Laureau Le Bel Ouvrage Savennières AOC
Why: Well, OTBN is an all-inclusive celebration. I rarely drink Savenniers, so it is always fun to experience something new.
How was it: Ok. For the 5 years old Chenin Blanc from the Loire, it was quite decent. Nice white wine – can’t say much more than that.

1996 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva Rioja DOC
Why: why not? Lopez de Heredia is one of the very best Rioja Producers, and their Viña Tondonia Blanco might be one of the best white wines in Spain – at least from point of view of the wines which can age
How was it: A flop. Unless there was a flaw with this particular bottle, this wine was past prime and had no joy in it.

2015 Royal Tokaji The Oddity Hungary (100% Furmint)
Why: Furmit is the grape used in the production of the Hungarian Tokaji wines, some of the very best dessert wines in the world, easily rivaling the best Sauternes. Problem is – it is very difficult to prevent Furmit vineyards from the Noble Rot settling on the grapes – and thus it is rare – and difficult – to produce dry Furmint wine. Here comes The Oddity – dry Furmint wine.
How was it: Very good. Nice, clean, great minerality, balanced well-integrated palate, good acidity. Thank you, Lori, for this delicious find.

Kistler Chardonnay with Glass

No filter – look at the color of this 24 years old Chardonnay

1995 Kistler Chardonnay Vine Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley
Why: Kistler is one of the best Chardonnay producers in California, so this alone is enough to include such wine into the OTBN line up. But then California Chardonnay rarely built to last for so long, so it was definitely the time to open this bottle.
How was it: Amazing. Almonds, apples, still present vanilla, a touch of smoke, good acidity – amazing for 24 years old white wine

2008 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune Arbois Jura
Why: Trying to explain the wine such as Vin Jaune to the uninitiated wine lovers presented an interesting challenge – I failed to explain what “oxidative” means. Anyway, putting this aside – Jura wines are rare. Vin Jaune wines are rare. Jacques Puffeney wines are beyond rare – 2014 was the last vintage which he commercially produced. This wine is absolutely OTBN worthy (thank you, Jim!)
How was it: Amazing. An oxidative nose which was also incredibly attractive, mature fruit, good acidity, elegant, present, delicious wine.

1971 Carretta Nebbiolo

No filter – just look at the color of this wine! Amazing.

1971 Tenuta Carretta Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC
Why: 1971. Need we say more? Yes, the wine of such age is absolutely meant for OTBN.
How was it: Amazing, absolutely amazing. We poured it without decanting. The wine changed dramatically over the course of an hour. My first impressions were: pungent, with clean acidity, mature restrained fruit, still has lots of life left. Wow. About 15 minutes later, the wine totally changed and was the most reminiscent of a nice, concentrated Rosé – cranberries, a touch of strawberries, good acidity, very refreshing. Another 15 minutes made this wine most reminiscent of Jura red, a Poulsard if you will – light, great acidity, a touch of red fruit. Truly an amazing experience. And don’t forget to look at the color of this wine…

1986 Château Bel-Air Lagrave Moulis-en-Médoc AOC
Why: 33 years is a very respectable age for any wine – you really want to ask such wine “how ya doin”
How was it: Wow. Young, beautifully balanced, beautiful Bordeaux, just perfect. In a blind tasting, I would never identify this as a 33 years old wine. Yes, you can call me a failure.

1996 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Léognan
Why: My exact question – why? Only because we could?
How was it: not ready. Needs time, mostly locked up. You would never think that 23 years old Bordeaux is not ready to drink, but it was not.

2004 Château Latour à Pomerol Pomerol AOC
Why: Same as previous wine – really, why?
How was it: Not ready. Closed nose, mostly cherries on the palate, need another 10-15 years.

2006 Telavi wine Cellar Satrapezo Saperavi Kakheti Georgia
Why: One of my most favorite Georgian wines. Limited production, a beautiful example of Georgian Saperavi. Most of the wine lovers are still unfamiliar with Georgian wines, so I really wanted to introduce this wine to the people.
How was it: Excellent. Still tight, beautiful fruit, big wine, could use more time. I was a bit concerned that this wine is reaching its peak – I was wrong. I’m sure another 5 years would do wonders here. Oh well…

2005 Weingut Petri Herxheimer Honigsack Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Pfalz Germany (100% Scheurebe)
Why: For one, it is very appropriate to finish a great wine program with the dessert wine. And then how many of you even heard of Scheurebe? Scheurebe grape is a cross between Sylvaner and Riesling. It is quite rare, so yeah, a perfect choice for OTBN.
How was it: Spectacular. Not only it had great acidity which is essential in enjoyable TBA-level sweet wine, but it also showed a mix of honey and herbs – rosemary, sage, thyme – just an unbelievable concoction and ultimate pleasure in every sip. Thank you, Stef, for this treat.

Obviously, I can’t complain about such an amazing OTBN – however, as you saw, we had our share of disappointment. At the same time, the good greatly overweight the bad – 1971 Nebbiolo, 2001 Giulio Ferrari, 1995 Kistler, 2008 Vin Jaune, 1986 Bordeaux were all personal favorites and I would be glad to experience those wines again at any time.

Now that I told you about our OTBN, how was yours?

Weekly Wine Quiz #87: How Well Do You Know Your Wines, Part 2

January 4, 2014 16 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

As I skipped the traditional Meritage, I would like to start with the answer to the wine quiz #86, How well do you know your wines. In the quiz, you were given the pictures of the top of the wine bottles, and you were supposed to name the producer or wine based on that picture of that foil top. Here are the answers (and below are the pictures, now with the producer/wine names):

1. Laetitia, the winery in California producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines

2. Cambria, the winery in California, also producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines

3. Wente, large winery in California Livermore valley

4. Turley, California Zinfandel and Petite Sirah specialist (however, the picture was taken from the bottle of Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon)

5. La Rioja Alta, one of the best Rioja producers in Spain

6. Peter Michael, California winery producing great Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon

Bonus: Satrapezo, a great wine made out of Saperavi grape by Marani winery in Georgia – I understand that this is a very obscure wine for many, this is why it was set as a bonus question.

Talking about the results – this was a tough quiz, with a few people being able to properly identify Wente, and then some guesses for the #2 being Cline – this is close, but incorrect. The “C” on the Cline bottles is done slightly in the different style.

I still like this quiz, so here comes round number 2 – hopefully you can do better! Here we go:

1. DSC_0302

2. DSC_0305

3. DSC_0301

4. DSC_0307

5. DSC_0295

6. DSC_0298

7. DSC_0286

And the bonus question:

B. DSC_0291

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Serious Fun With Wines

July 24, 2012 10 comments

In case you are wondering about the “serious fun” versus “not so serious fun”, somehow this title just got stuck in my head when I thought about this post, and I decided not to fight that. Also, when you have Gaja, Ornellaia, Turley, Bertani and whole bunch of other interesting wines, I think “serious fun” is a good way to put it. And to stress even further how serious the fun was, I’m even using different style of pictures for this post instead of usual “just label” style (and yes, you are right, I also use an opportunity to play with my new camera).

What is your first thought when you see the name like Gaja on the wine list? I don’t know about you, but in majority of the cases I would expect to see a red wine there. Yes, I can think of Gaja Chardonnay, and only because it typically looks at least as an affordable possibility on the wine list, as opposed to the Gaja red wines, which are not. So the wine we had was a white wine made out of …(wait for it)…Sauvignon Blanc!

2006 Gaja Alteni di Brassica Langhe DOC, Italy was a total surprise. Mineral nose, with wet stone, smoke and heavy grass. Touch of white fruit on the palate, more stone, touch of lemon, perfectly balanced. Finish lasted for 3 minutes, if not longer! Very beautiful wine. Drinkability: 9

The next wine we had was also coming from a very respectful Italian producer, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. And the wine was…yes, white again! The grape? Yep, Sauvignon Blanc. 2010 Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, Toscana IGT was simply delicious, with perfumed nose of lychees and white apple. Palate was exhibiting nuts and ripe apple. Very long finish with some tropical fruit notes coming in later on. Bright, round, amazing! Drinkability: 9

We continued our “whites’ extravaganza” with 2009 Ken Forrester The FMC ( (Forrester Meinert Chenin), South Africa.  This wine was made out of the Chenin Blanc grape. While Chenin Blanc is one of the signature white French grapes from Loire, it also makes great wines around the world. It does particularly well in South Africa, where it is also known under the name Steen. This particular The FMC wine is a single vineyard flagship wine of  Ken Forrester, one of the oldest producers in South Africa. This wine had a beautiful nose very similar to a typical chardonnay – nutty with some acidity, bright yellow color, very round. Drinkability: 8+

Done with whites. Before switching to the reds, we had a different, very unusual wine – as you can judge from the color above, this wine is not called “Orange” for nothing. Orange wine is one of the latest trends, where skin of the white grapes is left in the contact with juice during maceration. This imparts a nice deep yellow/orange color, hence the name, orange wine. This wine also was not some fly by night experimental plonk. 2008 Marani Satrapezo 10 kvevri, Georgia (100% Rkatsiteli grape, all coming from specific block of the Kondoli vineyard) was made in a traditional Georgian style with maceration for 20-25 days in historical clay vessel called Kvevri.

The wine had beautiful orange color. On the nose it had aromas of a bright fresh apricot. Palate was dry, full bodied, vegetative with enough brightness, touch of apricot but no sweetness whatsoever. After three hours in decanter the wine softened considerably – this wine definitely would benefit from a few years in the cellar. Drinkability: 8

Okay, we are finally switching to reds – with it’s own set of surprises. We started from 1997 Estancia Meritage Alexander Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend). The wine had perfect color – dark, concentrated ruby red. Eucalyptus, wet stone, dust and raspberries on the nose. Bright red and black fruit on the palate with cassis, eucalyptus and licorice – perfect balance, nice, soft tannins. Drinkability: 8+

This was probably the biggest surprise of the evening – 1997 Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah California. Generally, Toasted Head makes simple everyday wines – which you generally are not going to age. This wine was simply lost in the cellar, and we opened it to taste but with the full readiness to dump it. To our astonishment  (too strong of a word, but – why not), the wine had perfect acidity, bright youthful color, good black fruit, soft tannins and a touch of cassis. Drinkability: 8

The next wine was Giribaldi Cento Uve – but this will be a subject of a separate post, so I will skip my tasting notes for that wine. And the next wine was the one … we killed – it sounds way too strong, I know – but please read on. Amarone are typically big enough wines, so we decided to decant this wine – without even tasting it first (but the nose was perfect!). This was a [big] mistake. After 3 hours in decanter, the wine became barely drinkable. Another 30 minutes later, the fruit came back, both on the palate and the nose, only to disappear shortly after. Note to self – be careful with decanting. Considering this experience, I will not give this wine any rating – it simply wouldn’t be fair.

As you might expect, we didn’t just drink – we had a lot of good food as well. Just to give you an example, here is lamb kabob in the process of making:

To complement the lamb, we had 1996 Turley Duarte Zinfandel – nice fruit, raspberries on the nose and the palate, hint of jammy fruit later on, plus some eucalyptus. Very good overall balance for the wine at 15.4% ABV. Drinkability: 8-

And then of course there was a dessert – Clafoutis (no further comments, just look at the picture):

This was definitely a great experience. Pretty rare case when all the wines worked very well and were absolutely delightful – if I can only re-taste that Amarone… Well, may be one day. Wishing you great wine experiences! Cheers!

Top Dozen Wines of 2010

December 29, 2010 20 comments

One more year is passing by, becoming memories. As the closing bell nears, we often like to count good things which happened during that year. After reading the post by Joe Roberts, where he talks about his ten most interesting wines of the year, the idea for this post was born.

Here we go – a dozen of wines which made special memories throughout the 2010. Are these the best ever wines I had? No. Are these the best wines of 2010? Not necessarily. Why is there a dozen? After going through my records, I simply counted 12 wines I want to reflect upon. A lot of these wines were covered in the prior posts – I will give you links and prices if I have them. And I will explain why I felt so special about these wines. And – I will make an effort to sort the list. Prioritizing memories and experiences is hard, but I will do it nevertheless – may be just to get a good chuckle later on. And now, without further delay…

12. Haut Charmes Sauternes 2007 ($17). One of the best Sauternes I ever had – clean, balanced, with white peaches and honeysuckle on the palate. Few reasons to be in the “Top Dozens” – legend has it is declassified Chateau D’Yquem, plus great QPR for the Sauternes.

11. Cambria Bench Break Chardonnay 2006, Santa Maria ($25). For the first time in a long while, California Chardonnay tasted like California Chardonnay – lots of vanilla, butter and toasted oak on the palate, extremely balanced at the same time. Real Chardonnay as opposed to wimpy white wine without identity.

10. Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008, South Africa ($40). Totally unexpected – amazing Pinot Noir from South Africa (!). Profoundly Burgundian style, with tremendous finesse and balance. Great QPR. Worth seeking – if you like Pinot, you will enjoy it immensely.

9. Flora Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18). Literally the best California Sauvignon Blanc I ever had. In general, I love French, New Zealand and Chilean versions, and ignore California Sauvignon Blancs. However, this wine you can not ignore – beautiful combination of traditional grassiness with fruit forward and finesse. Outstanding!

8. Visp Chantone Eyholzer Roter 2008 ($26). Swiss wines are great – it is unfortunate that they literally can’t be found in US. I’m lucky to be able to experience the Swiss wines – and this particular red is probably the best Swiss wine I ever had. Playful, balanced, easy to drink and thought provoking – good till the last drop.

7. Domaine de Granajolo Corse Porto-Vecchio 2009 (€12). Best Rose wine I had in 2010. Nuf said.

6. Domaine de Torraccia Niellucciu 2009,  Corse Porto-Vecchio (€11). Accidental find in the wine shop in Paris (while hunting for the new grapes) – amazing. Playful, balanced and inviting – pure pleasure in the glass.

5. Chateau Hosanna 2003, Pomerol ($100). One of the best Bordeaux wines ever. Very approachable now, and will be amazing in another 20 years.

4. Jamesport Petit Verdot 2006, Long Island ($100). One of the biggest surprises of the year – having only bad experience with 100% Petit Verdot wines from Australia, this wine was absolutely pleasantly unexpected. Luscious , silky smooth, concentrated wine – no edges or rough corners. Lots of pleasure.

3. Satrapezo Saperavi 2006, Georgia ($28). This wine completely changed my perception of Georgian wines. Georgia was a birthplace of winemaking, but tasting Georgian wines until recent was saying that the art is lost. This wine changed that. Perfectly balanced and restrained, with earthiness, fruit, acidity and tannins coming to play as a team. Great wine, and great value.

2. Rozes Over 40 Years Old Port ($90). My best port ever. I can close eyes and imagine the smell and taste of this wine – multiple layers, tremendous complexity and great opportunity to reflect on life when the finish lasts for 15 minutes. Find this wine and experience for yourself.

1. Mara Laughlin Road Ranch Pinot Noir 2007, Russian River Valley ($45). Incredibly balanced, silky smooth wine, very powerful and round. Alcohol content is 15.6%, and it can’t be noticed unless you read the label. Great wine now, will improve with some cellar time. Find it if you can.

There were many other wines worth mentioning, and I did my best throughout the year to cover them. The wines in this group delivered special experiences – that’s why they listed here. That’s all, folks – for this post. I will be glad to hear, however, about YOUR special wines and wine experiences from 2010. Speak up – now is the time!

When Was The Last Time You Had Georgian Wine?

December 15, 2010 4 comments

Let me repeat the question – when was the last time you had wine from Georgia? I don’t mean one of the US states down south, I mean the Georgian Republic, the country bordering Russia in South Caucasus. I would expect that for some of you the answer will be “long time ago”, and for many others – never. And this is rather expected, but now is the time to change that.

Based on many sources, Georgia is regarded a birthplace of the winemaking. It is considered that winemaking in Europe goes back 5,000 years. Winemaking in Georgia seems to have a little edge over that with start at around 7,000 years ago. While we appreciate historical references, we are drinking the wines now, so the current state of affairs (I mean, of course, winemaking) is a lot more of interest.

Georgia’s wine industry had been through some rough times, starting with Prohibition attempt in former USSR during the 1980s. After Georgia became an independent country, there was a quick turnaround – for profit, it is. A lot of bad wines were produced in Georgia, and even more false Georgian wines were produced outside of it, to take advantage of historical value recognition of the Georgian wines. Luckily, as capitalism is taking hold in Georgia for good, there is a similar change in the Georgian winemaking, with honest people coming back to make honest wines and restore the “pride of the land”.

Seeing (oops, sorry, I meant tasting) is believing. Tasting the wine called Satrapezo, made from one of the Georgian authentic grapes, Saperavi, completely changed my perception of the Georgian wines, which I was definitely avoiding for a while. This wine is produced at the winery called Marani. Marani is really focused on making great wines, and it is showing in this flagship wine. Beautiful deep garnet color, layers of concentrated fruit (old world mature style, nice and gentle) and silky smooth tannins, balanced with good acidity and a very long finish. This is the wine to enjoy,…and enjoy, …and enjoy. In terms of Drinkability, this is definitely a 9.

Another example was (totally unexpected to me) sparkling wine called Bagrationi. Made from three authentic grapes ( yay, Treble Journey advance!), Chinebuli, Tsitska, and Mtsvane, this wine had all the classic champagne traits – yeasty nose, hint of apples and fresh bread on the palate, dry and refreshing.

There are a lot more of Georgian wines to discover and enjoy. I’m glad to add Georgia to my personal wine map – and I highly recommend for you to do the same. Go find a bottle of Georgian wine and enjoy the results of 7,000 years of winemaking history!

 

 

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