Saturday, August 27, 2011

2005 Haut Bergey

This Pessac-Leognan was a wine I thought I'd purchased as a 2005 future. Unfortunately the store where the futures were ordered went out of business. So tonight was my first taste of the '05 Bergey, from a half bottle at Brabo in Alexandria, VA. Sat two tables away from Jim Brady (Reagan's paralyzed former press secretary, shot during the assassination attempt*) and his wife (gun control activist) and their friend. Anyhow, the wine: still young looking but tannins pretty sweet and soft. Dark in color and very silky on the palate. On nose, started off with blackberry and very little cherry, then developed an intriguing and enticing mint, spearmint in particular, and maybe hint of eucalyptus and other spices. Perhaps a hint of licorice and cocoa/mocha. The acid, fruit and tannin in good balance with the alcohol. Will be better, with a more open aroma, in a couple years and last another 8-10. It's a classic bordeaux worth 91 points.

*I have a story about just missing that March 1981 event at the Washington Hilton, previously best known as the frequent site of the APSA annual meeting. I was in DC to tape a Charlie Rose show (then a syndicated day-time talk show) and to do a signing of my first book at Kramerbooks. The signing was spoiled as Reagan was shot midday and was in bad shape at GW Hospital; the city almost shut down. With me on Rose show was Lou Cannon, Reagan's biographer and Wash Post White House reporter, and he invited me to go with him to Reagan's speech at the Hilton right after the taping. Cannon was later an eyewitness to the shooting. I turned down Lou's invitation, which was a mistake.

Parker says 92 points:
One of the finest under-the-radar estates in Pessac-Leognan, Haut-Bergey’s 2005 (a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot) offers up aromas of scorched earth, wet stones, burning embers, charcoal, and copious black currant and cherry fruit. The sumptuous bouquet is accompanied by a full-bodied wine displaying dazzling purity, sweet tannin, and a long, opulent finish. This beauty will be drinkable at a relatively early age for a 2005. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2025.

Here are 3 notes from Tanzer, showing his varied responses in '06, '07 and '08 as the wine matured--though most recent is obviously 3 years ago:

By Stephen Tanzer
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/Jun 06
Full ruby-red. Expressive aromas of cassis, dark chocolate, loam, truffle and smoke. Ripe and dense but not at all overly sweet, with harmonious acidity framing and intensifying the flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, burning tobacco and smoke. I like the fruit/acid balance here. Finishes with firm, slightly drying tannins, sexy oak tones and very good length. 88-91 points
By Stephen Tanzer
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/Jun 07
Deep medium ruby. Blackberry, violet and a hint of dark chocolate on the nose. Impressively dense and primary, with flavors of blackberry and smoked meat complicated by a suggestion of bonfire. Chewy, dry and classic wine, finishing with substantial building tannins. 90-92 points
By Stephen Tanzer
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May/Jun 08
($33-$38) Good full, deep red. Superripe aromas of redcurrant, plum, cherry, flowers and beefsteak tomato. Sweet, fat and full, but less wild and expressive today than the 2006. Distinct notes of milk chocolate and roasted berries. The major tannins currently cut off the wine's fruit. Impressively rich but lacks a spark: is this too ripe for its own good? 90? points

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2006 Trial of John Montford Cabernet (Padthaway, Australia)

This fine cabernet came from the wine club that was gifted by Almenia Garvey. All of the club's bottles have been excellent quality but this one is especially good. Definitely a New World cab, very ripe but with acid to match the grapey fruit and a deep, complex nose of black currant, cassis, violet, vanilla, licorice with some pleasant herbal notes. I'd say almost anyone would recognize this as a classic cabernet bouquet. The alcohol is pretty restrained (14.5%) to me, and I've been very sensitive to alcohol since my hepatitis so to me these days, when a wine doesn't have much hotness on the palate it's a mark of a well-made bottle. There isn't much tannin and I don't think this is a long-term wine but for 2-3 more years it will be a pleasurable drink. This could pass for a nice Napa valley cab, perhaps not surprisingly. This is a 90+ point wine. These are the people who make Henry's Drive Shiraz.

Parker is slightly less enthusiastic but similar, giving it 89 points:

The higher end of the portfolio starts with the 2006 The Trial of John Montford Cabernet Sauvignon, harvested at a modest two tons of fruit per acre. Cherry red in color, it has a fragrant perfume of bouquet garni, cassis and black currant. On the palate it reveals an elegant personality but is lacking the depth and concentration needed for an outstanding score. Nevertheless, it is a fairly priced effort for drinking over the next five years.

Here's a nice little history of the area in southeast Australia:

Historical evidence shows that sea once covered the Padthaway region, with the ranges running parallel to the coast being coastal sand dunes. This is evident from the limestone now found beneath our soil.

In the mid 1800’s this land was covered by freshwater for much of the year and referred to as “Mosquito Plains”.
Robert Lawson, a Scottish immigrant, took out a pastoral lease in 1847 which covered an area of 47 square miles. He named his new home, “Padthaway Station” and the original stone cottage of Robert and Eliza Lawson is still in use today.

In 1872 the government reclaimed parts of the Lawson’s run, then offered blocks of land for sale at the “Village of Cockatoo Lake” which was later renamed “Keppoch”. This land was gradually cleared for cropping and grazing with sawmills and timber workers processing the huge red gums in the area for use as sleepers to support railway lines.

Another large group of farming blocks was taken up in 1936 by farmers in the Hundred of Glenroy. Following World War 2, soldier settlement blocks were allocated closer to the Padthaway Station homestead and irrigation began being developed using the underground water resource.
Today, Padthaway is a versatile agricultural region with outstanding production being achieved by both dryland and irrigated methods. The variety of commodities produced includes grapes, onions, cereals, pulses, pasture seeds, vegetables, sheep and cattle.

Friday, August 19, 2011

La Janasse Cuvee Chaupin 2007

From one of my favorite winemakers, in the Rhone region of Chateauneuf du Pape, and in a great year. Francie and I visited the winery pictured above and had an absolutely wonderful tasting, one that along with Beaucastel convinced me that Chateauneuf is one of the world's greatest wines. This one has an unusually intense aroma of sweet, almost candied, raspberry/cherry. Yet I'd say it's barely begun to evolve and the intensity is more of the deep sort that requires swirling and sniffing rather than jumping out of the glass. It is very dark in color and quite young--really shouldn't be drinking this for another 4-5 years. There are also aromas of licorice, tar, 5-spice powder, and a touch of a sweet herb like lavender. It offers complex tastes and big fruit, with plenty of acid, alcohol and tannin in good balance. But I'm not touching my other bottle till 2016 or so. It will, I predict, be a stupendous wine then and on for another decade. Chapin is a vineyard of 100% Grenache vines 60-80 yrs old. As far as Grenache goes, this is about as good as it gets. Enjoyed this with Laurie and Bob, celebrating Laurie's birthday. Also opened another bottle of the very fine 2007 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay (Carmel Road), which is also wonderful and also needs some more time to expand and integrate fully.

I must say it's a huge pleasure to be able to have wine again after laying off for 4+ months. Life's too short to drink no wine.

Parker gives the Chaupin 98 points, Tanzer 94. Parker is more attuned to a young wine's potential so I can't dispute his score; Tanzer is usually 2-4 points below Parker. I'd split the difference at 96 but think it may well be even better with some time to develop bottle bouquet. Parker's take:

Made from 100% Grenache (60- to 80-year-old vines) aged largely in neutral oak foudres with a small amount in new barrels, the inky/ruby/purple-hued 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin is the greatest example of this offering since the 1998, but it is even more concentrated than that wine. A cold terroir and sandy/clay soils have given the wine an extraordinary amount of acidity and freshness that serve it well in buttressing the fabulously concentrated, massively extracted, old vine Grenache. This blockbuster wine possesses enormous richness and density as well as an incredibly unevolved, young personality. Everything is there, including awesome aromatics, unbelievable layers of kirsch, raspberries, licorice, incense, and blacker fruits, and a finish that goes on for close to a minute. However, I would age this wine for 2-4 years and drink it over the following two decades or more. It is a tour de force in old vine Grenache as well as one of the vintage’s most compelling wines.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to Priorat 2005 batllet gratallops

First post since March 2011. I know my many fans (n=8) have missed my tasting notes, so here goes. I was sidelined by hepatitis as some of you know.

So this wine is a very pretty mixture of cherry, spring flowers, pine/cedar and chicory on the nose. Dark and fulll bodied, with tannins still in evidence 6 yrs after the harvest. This has majority Carignan i believe. I can taste the grenache and cabernet, or so i convince myself. But it is the flowers that are esp noteworthy for a red with plenty of tannin. In other words, this is drinkable now but should last another 5-6 yrs.

Gratallops (pictured above) is a small hill town in Priorat, the small exquisite wine area about an hour south of Barcelona. Wines of priorat (priory) combine the French varietals merlot, syrah and cab with more traditionally spanish(but slso french) carignan, mourvedre, and grenache--a wonderful match. I think Priorat is my second favorite region (bordeaux is #1 for me).

I know Parker gave this wine 94 and tanzer90+. I would say 92+. a very fine wine for $20 from CH Wine Co.

Here is the Parker review:
2005 Closa Batllet is a blend of 65% Carinena, 22% Garnacha, and the balance Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. It was aged for 15 months in French and American oak. It offers up a classy nose of cedar, liquid minerals, lavender, cinnamon, blueberry, and black cherry. Layered on the palate with silky tannin, this rich, full-flavored effort has great concentration and a lengthy, pure finish. Give it 2-3 years of additional cellaring and drink it through 2020.