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A Night of Old and Rare at French Louie

August 31, 2015 Leave a comment
There are worse ways to end an evening.

There are worse ways to end an evening.

Been so buried under the retail business, that I’ve been quite neglectful of these pages this month. But I was sitting at French Louie, after a long day/week/month, enjoying some lovely rare bottles that have been in my Coravin stash. I have had nothing but fun and success with my Coravin, since realizing how important it is to keep the cork wet (from the inside) at all times, when not actively extracting. I did, however, make a couple of cases worth of extremely fine vinegar figuring this out. Overall, the Coravin is unquestionably the best money I’ve spent on my greater wine enjoyment since buying my first VacuVin many many moons ago.

But back to French Louie; it’s late, and I’m sipping on a couple of pinot(s) and one of the finest Bordeaux style blends to pass my lips in recent memory. The Panther Creek Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 1998 still has surprising weight, fruit, and acidity. It shows a lightly funky/earthy nose and then long dry berry fruit, and almost piercing acidity that extends through a long finish, though it wanes mercifully toward the end. This wine is barely starting to show any age visually, though the weight of the palate feels mature, and the acid leads me to believe that my last bottle of this one has another decade to live, at least.

Some corks say more than others.

Some corks say more than others.

The Nicolas Potel Volnay Taille Pieds 1999 is damned close to a masterpiece, though this one’s peak drinking window has years left in it. Deep, but subdued dark berry fruit gives way to dry forest floor, into a pool of ancient woodland herbs; somehow both lush and dry. For the darker/bigger side of Burgundy, it doesn’t get much better.

The star of the show, besides the unbelievably pillowy chicken liver paté, was the Andrew Will Sorella 1996. Tasting this blind, I might have mistaken it for a world class Napa Cab, twice its age; like the finest of blends of best-in-class ’86 and ’87 Napa Cab/Merlot/Franc. Blood of the Earth in the glass, deep purple tinged opaque garnet (admittedly, I’m a little colorblind), showing some clouding, but zero oxidation. Tart dry cherries, shot through with dried herbs, black tea, subtle earthen minerality, distant woodsmoke all tumbling into a tapering rabbit-hole finish for days. It’s still juicy, but dry and fully mature; though there may be secondary and tertiary flavors still in its future. This is a very serious wine, in the midst- perhaps the autumn- of its peak drinking years.

There was no impetus, no occasion of note, sometimes you’ve just got to treat yourself to some of the rarest bottles within your reach.

Another Tasting Night at Apiary – What day is this… man?

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m insanely behind on my posting; more so than I’ve been since I began doing such things. But helping a guy open a restaurant will do that, and I’m quite proud of what we put together, in a very short period of time. While I still have piles of CA content to get to, here are some tasting notes that should have been posted quite some time ago

A testament to OR fruit, traditional winemaking, and proper cellaring.

[It was] another Monday night at the bar at Apiary and the place is buzzing; not bad for August [yeah, that’s how far behind on tasting notes I am!]. By request, I’ve brought nothing but whites: one long shot, a probable, and a couple of sure things. First, the long shot: Van Duzer Oregon Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise 1991. I bought this wine for basically nothing at all, from an unverified source, assuming– like the seller- that this wine was likely well beyond its pleasurable drinking window. That being said, 1991 has proven to be one of the longest lived vintages ever for most OR wines that have been around that long, and Van Duzer bottles some high art, on their best days. * And I know I’ve said it 1,000 times before, but it bears repeating that Chef Scott Bryan of Apiary (formerly of Veritas) puts out- every night- some of the best, wine friendliest, food that has ever existed on this vile rock they call Manhattan.

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The foil off, and the cork still has some pressure behind it, the CO2 persists, and the initial pour shows a respectable head for a 21 year old American bubbly. It’s pale gold, or brilliant straw, bubblier than expected, and it’s rather captivating immediately. The nose is deeply yeasty, but subtly, not pungent. The palate shows bright integrated Meyer lemon zest over a broadly bready body, with a slightly creamy texture in the mid-palate, and faint mingling notes of raw honey and honeysuckle…. Van Duzer Oregon Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise 1991 is unquestionably one of the most pleasant palate surprises of the year, to date. At the price that was offered, I should have grabbed the 2 cases that were available…

Can’t believe I didn’t make note of the appetizer in the foreground…

While unanimously declared a tough act to follow, the hesitating beauty to my right, Roy (Apiary’s Wine Guru), and I moved on to the Vincent Girardin Chassagne Montrachet Le Cailleret 1999. I can’t overstate how universally fantastic and underrated world wine is from 1999. It’s a solid- if not classic- vintage in many major wine regions from the Rogue Valley to Ribera del Duero, and represents many of the last “bargains” from overpriced earth, like that of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Not sure why this guy is staring at me…

In the glass the the Girardin Chassagne Montrachet Le Cailleret ’99 is as much caramel as gold, though the pictured softness is condensation on the glass, not the telltale cloud of oxidation. The nose is ripe with a damp earthy funk over a building tide of increasingly prevalent salt air. The palate is soft and integrated, with a citrus spike, punctuated by a flutter of honeybell rind, dancing about a tight mineral core. I would love to blind taste this one on a roomful of Burgundy snobs who scoff at such negociant wines.

It would be dishonest of me to give full tasting notes on this Guigal St Joseph Lieu Dit 2007 as I can’t locate my notes on the matter. But I do have a small list of bullets from Roy: “apple, papaya, lychee, white river stones, limestone, calcium- medium long finish, med+ weight.” The wine was quite beautiful and deserves a more considered review, but the above list represents the only primary resource I have from that evening.

Unmasked and Anonymous: Castagnier Vougeot 1999 and Marry Me Jane

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Digging into the depths of the 144-bottle wine fridge in the corner of my kitchen, I discover a slightly tattered bottle of Castagnier Clos Vougeot 1999. As small as the total grape-growing real estate is in Burgundy, there are so many subdivided plots (mostly through lineage succession) that many tiny producers bottle very nice wine, almost completely unnoticed by the outside world. I’ll often take a chance on unknown Burgundy at an attractive price. In a nice vintage, such as 1999, not too many bad grapes were grown in Vougeot, in Echezeaux, in Bonne Mares. And with yields so tiny, very little fruit falls into inept hands.

I’m having a deep mid-90s (pop)rock chick moment as I am listening to the debut self-titled album by Marry Me Jane (1996). The opening forlorn electric guitar of “Twentyone” reminds me that this album was appropriated quite extensively- to great effect- in the little known (but great, for a RomCom) Eric Schaeffer film, If Lucy Fell. Elle MacPherson is surprisingly good (and unreasonably attractive), Sarah Jessica Parker is her old pre Jimmy Choo charming, and Ben Stiller’s small but unrelentingly absurd character roll is worth the price of admission. But back to Marry Me Jane which was a 2-record band, largely a vehicle for the songs of Amanda Kravat, who according to IMDB logged a fistful of composing, acting, and soundtrack credits between ’96 and ’01, before disappearing into the ether.

The Castagnier Clos Vougeot 1999 does not disappoint, at its price, and Vougeot has gotten disproportionately pricey, even amongst Burgundy. The color and palate are both bright, but deep (red) cherry. There’s an earthiness on nose and palate, but without any of that typical Burgundy funk. The ’99 Castagnier Vougeot is medium bodied, if a touch unchallenging, but sweet with cherry with wisps of fresh mint and a palate smackingly dry finish. The alcohol is a little more prevalent than was expected, but the acid and the fruit hold it all together. In a blind tasting, one might mistake this Vougeot for a Griotte Chambertin, twice its age.

Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin en Motrot 1997 and Jackson Browne’s “These Days”

August 15, 2011 2 comments

I had only recently stumbled upon and found significant fascination in the Burgundy of Denis Mortet when I heard the news that he had taken his own life, early in 2006. It was his ’96-’98 Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques which first struck my palate’s interest. I had ordered but not yet received a parcel of his Gevrey Chambertin from the mid ‘90s and upon the news, I snapped up what else I could. To experience the wine of a deceased master is a glorious indulgence, finite and fleeting. It’s both a celebration of life and an acknowledgement of loss and of mortality, and I afford great respect to bottles from winemakers like Denis Mortet, David Lett (The Eyrie Vineyards), and Alois Kracher.

All that Nico, John Cale, Lou Reed, and Velvets en masse, that has been injected into my now through the grace of David Byrne Radio, got me seeking out other semi-related cool tracks. After pulling up Nico’s cover of These Days,” which was so artfully appropriated by Wes Anderson for the soundtrack of The Royal Tenenbaums, I found other thoughtful renditions of the same. While I knew that tune was originally by Jackson Browne, I didn’t know that he wrote it when he was 16, until he told me. Then YouTube informed me that Elliott Smith (2nd Tenenbaums soundtrack connection) also covered that track live, which thankfully some nerd posted, and I also came across a pretty and breathy version by St. Vincent. But as YouTube giveth, YouTube also taketh away. Apparently, the Foo Fighters, Bon Jovi, Nate Dogg, Alien Ant Farm, and Rascal Flatts have all recorded “songs” with the same title as (but otherwise unrelated to) the Jackson Browne classic, each one more soul crushingly worthless than the last.

The Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin en Motrot 1997 is bright, though softening, translucent ruby in the glass, and there’s just a touch of sedimentary cloud to the color, but no signs of oxidation. The first waft is of an earthy, flirting with swampy, funk, though the latter begins to wane with air. The palate is of dry raspberry, subtle tart cherry, leather and ancient cigar tobacco. This is a refined medium-bodied pinot and there is a greater overall presence and depth here than has been found in other recent lithe ’97 Burgundies. As the swamp dries up, damp fall leaves remain, and an encompassing, but not overwhelming dryness approaches the palate. And the last glass is raised to the memory and fruits of a tormented master.

Jean-Michel Guillon Bourgogne 2002 and Tom Petty’s Heartbreaking Soundtrack from She’s The One

July 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Once again, I’m dipping into the mixed case of Bourgogne rouge and I’m deep into the 2002s. Today’s is Jean-Michel Guillon Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2002. 100% Pinot Noir, as the label- and regional norm- attest, from the village of Gevrey Chambertin. Guillon produces a handful of reds from some important plots in and around Gevrey Chambertin and a smaller handful of whites of slightly more humble sourcing.

I’m listening to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ soundtrack from Ed Burns’ second film, She’s The One. While there has been an awesome amount of great music written, over the years, specifically for films, very little of it stands on its own as a record in the catalog of a specific artist the way that this one does for Petty. Besides the fact that half the tracks on the record remind me of the woman I used to live with back in Seattle, the songs coalesce in a way that made a decent movie aesthetically three dimensional. This record contains some of Petty’s prettiest song craft (“Angel Dream”), a great Blood on the Tracks breakup song (“Hope You Never”), and a remarkably well placed cover of Beck’s “Asshole” from his raw as hell One Foot in the Grave record.

Medium ruby to garnet in the glass, this Guillon Bourgogne 2002 opens with a near-typical Burgundy earthy funk, but with ruminations of briny sea air. The palate immediately delivers raspberry liqueur, dark tart cherry and cigar box. The wine is medium bodied with initially just a touch of effervescence to the texture, which blows off with some breathing time. The raspberry sweetness that exists and persists on the nose comes off much drier on the palate, leaving almost no sweetness on the tongue. This ’02 Guillon Bourgogne has good structure and length, but despite its intricate nose (for its pedigree), the palate is somewhat austere. It’s difficult to discern from the flavor and texture profiles here if this wine has time left to evolve or if the fruit will only thin out from here, on its way past its plateau. Perhaps we’ll revisit in a year or two.

Back to Bourgogne Rouge and (John Hartford’s) Back in the Good Old Days

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Back into the mixed case of 2000-2005 Bourgogne Rouge and next up for tasting is Domaine Robert Chevillon Bourgogne 2000. While this Bourgogne Rouge is Chevillon’s générique Pinot Noir, they are known primarily for their (Grand Cru quality) Premier Cru Nuits St Georges and I have been impressed especially with (and continue to hoard a few of) their Les St Georges and Les Cailles releases of vintages past. Those of the late ’90s were drinking beautifully at last tasting.

I’m listening to John Hartford’s “Back in the Good Old Days” from his 1971 landmark Aereo-Plain album. In that same year, Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” appeared in Rolling Stone and John C. Lilly wrote Center of the Cyclone. Aereo-Plain marked the moment when the hippies met the hillbillies (none of whom cared to be drafted) and some pretty fantastic music ensued. Hartford’s band for Aereo-Plain included Vassar Clements, one of the most naturally gifted and accomplished bluegrass fiddle players that ever lived.

Back in the glass, the Robert Chevillon Bourgogne 2000 is deep ruby. There’s an earthy funk to the nose that’s heading toward animal, almost barnyard, but not heavy enough to obscure the soft red fruits, raspberry, and cherry. On the palate, those red fruits are joined by ripe black currant. There is an acidic structure to the finish that suggests that this wine will happily last another few years, properly cellared. These aged base line Burgundies continue to provide excellent drinking per dollar.

Ken Wright Pinot Noir McCrone Vineyard 1998 and Cash by Johnny Cash

July 18, 2011 Leave a comment

An American classic.

I’m at the bar again at Apiary, checking in with the menu updates and tasting some world class pinot noir. Before this post, Ken Wright Cellars was already officially the most reviewed wine label here on WineGeist and I make no apologies for it. Ken Wright is an artist and I dig his work. Most recently, I was floored by the experience of a Ken Wright Pinot Noir McCrone Vineyard 1998. Much pinot from that vintage in OR was a little off, and what was nice tended to age quickly. In this way, ’98 OR pinot is similar to the much maligned ’98 Cote de Nuits wines (Burgundy). Even in 1998 OR and Cotes de Nuits, as in all challenging vintages, great winemakers generally find a way to make nice wine.

I’ve been reading (finally) Cash, Johnny Cash’s eponymous autobiography. I’m very near the end and am already planning to pick up Cash’s previous autobiography, Man in Black, if only to get the 3 or 4 stories he says are in it, which he didn’t feel like retelling in the more recent book. Cash also penned Man in White, a novelization of six years in the life of St. Paul the Apostle, which will not likely make the reading cue anytime soon. But back to Cash, by Johnny Cash: like him or not as a musician, a performer, or a man, but there’s an undeniable honesty to his tales and there just aren’t that many people who have ever been able to tell first hand tales of touring with Elvis. It’s been a highly entertaining read.

Tasting notes at Apiary.

Back to the Ken Wright Pinot Noir McCrone ’98, which turns out to be far more comparable to 1996 Cote de Nuits, which will likely prove to be the longest lived vintage for that region, of the decade. But we’ll discuss that in another 7 years or so. The Ken Wright PN McCrone ’98 is shockingly fresh for its age and has a long backbone of firm acidity. This leads me to order the Scottish salmon (yes, red with fish!) with asparagus, shaved fennel, trout roe, and white port beurre blanc, which paired swimmingly. The initially somewhat muted nose shows wild raspberry, black cherry, and ash. These notes pass seamlessly into the palate where they mingle with damp fall earth and a suggestion of petrol. After over an hour of breathing, a hint of apple dryness blankets the mid-palate. This is a nuanced wine of excellent structure and concentration that is drinking beautifully at over a decade in bottle.