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Your Wish Is My Command

May 22, 2019 Leave a comment

Oenophiles are very generous people.

I’m not speaking in general terms here – we are only talking about the wine. But when it comes to wine, we are ready to share. We want to share the experience. We want to share the joy of what we consider a great sip of wine with the whole world. It doesn’t always work – what tastes amazing to you, might be unimaginable plonk for someone else – everyone’s palate is different. But when it works, the experience is priceless. When the person takes a sip of the wine and says “OMG”, this is the best feeling in the world. Been able to help someone to share your joy and discover something new is incredible, and I can’t really describe it – I just truly hope you get to experience it at least once.

And then there are some key words which spur oenophile into the action. “I always wanted to try that wine”. “I never tasted the wine from that region”. “Trying this wine was always my dream”. “If I can ever find that wine”. All of these are the phrases which should be used very carefully around oenophiles, as these are the trigger phrases. They make an oenophile jump of joy and immediately devise the plan on mediating the issue in whatever way possible. If you consider yourself an oenophile, I’m sure you can relate. If you are not – I hope you know at least one.

Recently at the birthday party, an old friend said: “I always wanted to drink aged wines, but I don’t know how to find them, they are probably expensive, and I don’t know anything about them”. Can you imagine my ears perked up as soon as I heard it? Oenophile’s joyous moment, an opportunity to share the wine – yes! I gave her advice as to where she can find some aged wines (Benchmark Wines, for instance), but the brain already was put to the task. When we decided to get together for dinner, the first thing I said was “I’m bringing the wines”.

Aged Wines

After some deliberation, I came to an agreement with oneself regarding the wine program – you can see the whole program in the picture above. I was happy that I had a reasonably aged sparkling wine – Guido Ferrari. I wrote about Ferrari wines many times, these are definitely some of my favorite sparkling wines. 2005 is still a baby, as this is a current vintage, but still – this is an excellent sparkling wine, and it was a sample so I had to open it in any case – sharing with friends makes me very happy.

I definitely wanted to have a Rosé as part of the repertoire, but the absolute majority of Rosé is not made for aging – and those which age well, are either impossible to find, or very expensive, or both. So yeah, no Rosé. For the white, I decided to go with another one of my favorites – barrel-aged Verdejo, 2009 Shaya Habis. 10 years is not that much in terms of wine age, but most of the white wines don’t age that well, and I didn’t have a nice Burgundy, Chablis or white Rhone to offer instead, so I think 10 years old Verdejo should be interesting enough.

Red wines generally can age. I decided to go with “middle-aged” wines, even though the “middle” varies dramatically between the wines and the regions. My selection – 1995 Estancia Meritage, a Bordeaux style blend from California, 1995 Quinta do Poço do Lobo from Portugal (one of my top dozen wines of 2018), and 1998 Kirkland Ranch Merlot from California. I saw that the folks on Cellar Tracker considered Estancia to be past prime for a while so this will be an interesting experience, no matter what. And the 1998 Merlot I never had before, so this is an excellent opportunity to try it. 2007 Sauternes for dessert? 12 years is not much of age for the Sauternes, but this was one of the few older dessert bottles at my disposal so this would have to do.

The above part of the post was written before the tasting. Now, it is time to tell you how the wines actually fared.

Vintage-designated sparkling wines with some age are not a simple thing for uninitiated wine lovers – many say that Dom Perignon is amazing only because they know how much it costs, not because they enjoy it. This 14 years old, 2005 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatory was outstanding in my opinion – fresh, complex, elegant, it was truly a beautiful, minerality-driven Chardonnay, enframed with some fine bubbles. You know what was the best part? To hear my friends say “wow” and “I really like it”. Mission accomplished.

1995 Estancia Meritage Alexander ValleyWe continued with 2009 Shaya Habis Rueda (100% old vines Verdejo, barrel aged). This wine is one of my favorite Verdejo renditions, typically offering lots of complexity – but I never had it with 10 years of age. The wine was still young and crisp, with minimal fruit expression and tons of minerality, tons. Again, I consider this wine a success as one of my friends literally hugged the bottle and kept drinking this wine, repeating every few minutes “wow, and I even don’t like the whites!”.

Now, it was not without trepidation that I opened 1995 Estancia Meritage Alexander Valley (67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc), taking into account the negative sentiment on the CT. But – my fears were unfounded. The wine was a perfect example of the nicely aged California wine – yes, it mellowed down and was tertiary aromas-driven, but it stayed that way during the whole evening, and it was a perfect example of what aging does to the wine – simply the next dimension. The aromatics which you can enjoy endlessly, an abundance of lip-smacking plums, touch of eucalyptus, good acidity – a great experience. And yet another “yes” vote in our wine program – everyone liked the wine. Were they simply polite? I don’t know. I hope they actually liked the wine, as I wholeheartedly did.

2007 Haut Charmes SauternesThe next wine I brought simply as a “safe bet”, just in case Estancia would not work out. While Estancia was fine, I was happy to open this wine, if anything, at least, to compare two of the wines from the same vintage – of course, from very different wine regions. 1995 Caves São João Quinta do Poço do Lobo Reserva from Bairrada in Portugal didn’t change its standing “you are drinking me too early” even for a bit (the wine was only released last year, and I was raving about it before) – elegant, restrained dark fruit and herbs – two of these 1995 wines couldn’t be any more different than they were. Again, I think people liked this wine too – but it was too far into the evening to keep track. In any case, I’m glad I still have a few more bottles left.

We didn’t open the 1998 Kirkland Merlot – will have to wait for another occasion – but 2007 Haut Charmes from Sauternes was delightful and all apricots, both the nose and the palate. Ripe apricots, candied apricots, apricot jam – all of it was in every sip – oh yeah, don’t worry, all apricots were supported by acidic core. I don’t know if this was a common expression for the aged Sauternes, but there was a lot of pleasure in every sip of that wine.

This is my story of helping friends to experience aged wines. If you ask me, this was a complete success as people got to enjoy something new and different. Have you had any of these wines? What would you open for your friends to try? Cheers!

 

Celebrate #VerdejoDay on June 12th – And Discover Great White Wines!

June 3, 2014 10 comments

verdejodayHere I come again with my rhetorical question – how many of you tasted Spanish white wine made from Verdejo grape – raise your hands? Yes, this was quite expected. Meanwhile, Verdejo wines are well worth your attention. Depending on the winemaking style, Verdejo wines can take on the full range of the expression, from light and refreshing to full bodied, complex and thought-provoking. I talked about my favorite Verdejo wines from Bodegas Shaya many times in this blog. 2009 Bodegas Shaya Habis Verdejo, (made from the grapes harvested from 100+ years old vines) was my wine #9 in the Top Dozen Wines of 2011, and 2008 Bodegas Shaya Old Vines Verdejo was one of the wine highlights in February of this year.

Another great example of Verdejo wine is Martinsancho Verdejo, which is produced in the quantity of less than 4,000 cases a year from the Martinsancho vineyard. Verdejo is a star indigenous white grape of Rueda region in Spain, tracing its history hundreds of years back, which became nearly extinct in the 1970s. These were the efforts of Angel Rodríguez of Martinsancho, who used the cuttings of Verdejo vines from the Martinsancho vineyard, to help bring the Verdejo wines back to the mainstream.

Now, what I want to bring to your attention is that instead of listening to me, you can actually go and experience the Verdejo wines on your own! Next Thursday, June 12th, is the #VerdejoDay, which will be celebrated both virtually and in the actual live events. If you live in a close proximity to New York, Chicago, Miami or Los Angeles, you can attend the Verdejo celebration in person. In all four cities, the parties will take place in the restaurants, where you will be able to taste various Verdejo wines (there will be 12 different wines served in NYC), experience Rueda regional cooking and have fun!

To read more about #VerdejoDay celebrations and Verdejo wines, please click here. To register to attend a #VerdejoDay celebration in one of the four cities, please use this link to EventBrite site.

Shaya

Shaya

Even if you can’t attend one of the events, go find a bottle of Verdejo in your local wine store – and you can thank me later. Cheers!

Notes from Slocum & Sons Wine Tasting in Connecticut

October 8, 2011 1 comment

This past weekend I attended yet another great wine tasting by Connecticut wine distributor Slocum and Sons. Of course when hundreds of wines are presented in the tasting, there is a good chance of finding lots of great wines among them. This tasting was no exception – I had a lot of tasteful encounters at the event. Here are some notes, with pictures, as usual.

Let’s start with the sparkling wines. One of the first wines we tasted was Armand de Brignac Brut Gold (Ace of Spades):

The Champagne is this sparkled (no pun intended) bottle was good, with good body, green apple and zinging acidity running in the back. At the same time, as I’m always looking for QPR when I’m thinking about wine, this wine, the most expensive in the entire tasting, at about $270 per bottle, doesn’t not represent value at any level. If I have to spend this amount on the bottle of Champagne, I would much rather drink Krug.

Continuing sparkling wines category I have to mention Champagne Vollereaux, which is a Growers Champagne. We tried Vollereaux Brut NV, Vollereaux Rose Brut NV and 2004 Vollereaux Cuvee Marguerite – all beautiful wines, full flavored champagnes, with the most expensive one still being less than 1/4 of the price of Armand de Brignac – and delivering more pleasure.There were other great Champagnes there, such as Laurent Perrier and Veuve Clicquot, but I also have to mention a wide variety of excellent Cavas, sparkling wines from Spain – here is the picture of the line up of one of my all time favorites – Segura Viudas, with all four wines being one better than the other:

Moving one to the white wines, there were some personal discoveries and some “meet and greet” with old favorites. In the “personal discoveries” group first I would like to mention 2008 Trefethen Dry Riesling Oak Knoll District, Napa valley – this is  the first California Riesling which I really enjoyed – it got all the beautiful white fruit, balancing acidity and even hint of petrol!

The next discovery are two wines from Bodegas Shaya – 2010 Bodegas Shaya Verdejo Rueda DO and 2009 Bodegas Shaya Habis Rueda DO.

Both wines are made from the 100 years old vines Verdejo, first wine fermented in stainless steel tanks and second one, Habis, fermented in French oak barrels. Bodegas Shaya comes out with very clean fruit and minerality expression, good acidity, very balanced. But once you taste Habis, the first and immediate impression is Wow – this will beat any Chardonnay! I don’t want to push it too far, but I would love to see this wine next to Peter Michael Chardonnays in the blind tasting – that would be a very interesting experiment.

Few more highlights in the white wines category. Three of the Talbott Chardonnays – 2009 Tabott Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay, 2009 Talbott Logan Chardonnay and 2009 Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay were all outstanding, showcasing balanced wines, with good acidity, white fruit and hint of vanilla. I didn’t have Talbott wines before, so I was very impressed with the quality. And then in the “familiar category” I want to mention two Spanish whites, both of them I got to know thanks to the The Capital Grille’s “The Generous Pour” summer wine program. These wines are 2010 Jorge Ordonez Botani and 2010 Bodegas La Cana Albarigno.

Both were beautifully refreshing, with floral notes on the nose, with La Cana having a bit more of acidity and mineral expression – both wines should be perfect on any summer day.

Coming to reds, the task of sharing my impressions becomes even more challenging – there were A LOT of great ( did I say “great”?) wines from Spain, California and France, so I will have to resolve to more of the pictures than words.

I want to start from the wines of Charles Mara. As some of you might remember, 2007 Mara Pinot Noir Laughlin Road Ranch was my most favorite wine last year (#1 in the Top Dozen). Now, I had an opportunity to try 2008 Mara Pinot Noir Laughlin Road Ranch Russian River Valley. What a radical departure! If I would be given those wines in the blind tasting, I would never even guess that those wines are coming from the same vineyard, left alone made by the same person. While 2007 was California Pinot at its best, 2008 is a pure Burgundy – dry, austere and in need of time – it probably needs another 5 years to open up.

Another very interesting wine was 2008 Mara Russian River Valley Zinfandel “old vines”:

As Charles Mara said himself, he was trying to make a “super-Tuscan”  of Zinfandels, by blending zinfandel grape with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from two different vineyards. I think he successfully accomplished that, ending up with powerful, dense red wine, showing beautiful fruit with a great restraint. This wine also need at least another 5 years to showcase fully.

Spanish reds selection at the tasting was so strong that it is nearly impossible to decide what wines should be mentioned and which were my favorites – El Nido, Alto Moncayo, Muga, Sierra Cantabria, Tesso La Monja – all powerful, beautiful wines, all age-worthy, delivering pleasure right now and for the next 30-40 years (or longer). I guess I would have to put a stick in the ground and say that 2007 Bodegas El Nido El Nido was my favorite Spanish wine in the tasting ( with the second thought in my head – well, yeah, and what about … ) – powerful, with amazing structure, firm tannins, good fruit, very balanced – “wow” was my single word descriptor.

By the way, standing next to El Nido are two Spanish wines,  2009 Blau and 2009 Can Blau – both were outstanding, fresh, with lots of sour cherries on the palate – and quite affordable for every day enjoyment.

There are few more reds I want to tell you about. First, it is Chateau Leoville Poyferre from Saint Julien. I already wrote about great experience with 2005 Chateau Leoville Poyferre Grand Cru Classe wine (here is the link to the post). This time I was able to try first, second and third labels of Chateau Leoville Poyferre – 2006 Chateau Leoville Poyferre Saint Julien Grand Cru Classe, 2006 Pavillion de Poyferre Saint Julien and 2008 Chateau Gulliver Bordeaux AOC.

Chateau Gulliver was the lightest from the group, showing lots of earthy notes on the palate, and both Chateau Leoville Poyferre and Pavillion de Poyferre were big, powerful and well structured wines, with chewy tannins and lots of dark fruit, very balanced.

There was another set of wines which belong to the same group (owned by Chateau Leoville Poyferre), but coming from across the ocean – from Argentina, to be precise. These are the wines from Cuvelier Los Andes – take a look at the similarities in the label design:

Two out of four wines presented in the tasting were my favorite – 2009 Cuvelier Los Andes Cuvee Maule, soft and round, and 2007 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Vin, a Malbec blend, big and powerful.

Last but not least was a group of wines from Ferraton, coming from Northern France – 2006 Ferraton St. Joseph La Source, 2007 Ferraton Cote Rotie L’Eglantine and 2006 Ferraton Hermitage Les Miaux:

Both St. Joseph and Hermitage were classic Syrah wines, earthy, spicy, with the hint of white pepper and good amount of dark fruit. But my absolute favorite was Cote Rotie. First, I have to admit that it was my first ever taste of Cote Rotie. Actually Cote Rotie meaning in English is “roasted slope”, due to the amount of sunlight and positioning of the vineyards. You could actually taste all those roasted rocks in this wine, creating unforgettable impression. Needless to say this was my absolute favorite in the tasting.

I think it is time to finish – there were still more wines I wanted to share with you, but I think this is enough for now. More great stories is coming, but for now – cheers!

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