My brother was visiting this weekend and, for the first time in a month, I wasn’t racing on a Sunday morning. Time to open some wine!
Friday night they came out of the “cellar.” Generally speaking, I would not contemplate “laying down” a Sauvignon Blanc – I enjoy its refreshing attack far too much for that – but a few years ago I attended a Louis-Dressner tasting at Chambers Street Wines in NYC that exposed me to “aged” SBs from the Loire’s Sancerre heartland. I was quite impressed and, based on an experience with a sample from the early nineties, picked up a bottle of the Thomas Labaille Sancerre “Les Monts Damnés” Chavignol 2000 that very day. Well, what must be at least five years later, it finally made it to our dinner table. It had turned into quite a golden color over the years – as you might expect – though still showed hints of the grape’s typical yellow-green texture under the lights. The nose was certainly not that of your young Sauvignon Blanc, offering instead the aroma of pine nuts, crème fraiche, with a touch of lemon wrapped around a large dose of honey. Neither did the wine offer SB’s usual acidity, and the green citrus fruit had been replaced by a firm mineral streak matched by a creamy body – and a toasty finish like you might get from a decent champagne. Quite full-bodied, and while remarkably different from a baby Sauvignon Blanc, certainly not diminished by the ageing process. Indeed, though it took a little getting used to, the more I tasted, the more I liked it. I would certainly go down this path again and would welcome other people’s comments on similarly aged Sancerres. On a simple school-like score purely for the weekend’s wines, I’d give this a solid B+.
More Sauvignon Blanc at iJamming! here and here
We also decided to drink up a Chateau Pato 1998 Shiraz from Australia’s Hunter Valley. This one was bought back in my suitcase after visiting Sydney for the Millenium; Chateau Pato was the smallest of all the wineries we visited in the Hunter Valley, operating out of a barn that only took visitors by appointment while all the other wineries ran vast tasting rooms as a tourism attraction. Winemaker David Paterson – who had a great local reputation – had died a few years earlier; his son Nick was working at one of the big local wineries to earn money to keep the vineyards going; and David’s wife Helen was womaning the barn doors, happily opening and pouring bottles for us even though they made such miniscule quantities. Indeed, there were only 120 cases of this Shiraz, and even less I believe of the Pinot Noir that I donated to someone en route. I remember talking to Helen back in the day and being assured that the Shiraz would age well; I’ve just come across a web link that recommends 15 years or more, though based on this sample of the 1998, I think a decade is just about right. The wine had surely softened from whatever initially fruit-forward texture it had displayed back in that barn, but in the interim it had settled down into something really quite special. Enticing aromas of white pepper, plums, some licorice, a good lean streak to it that spoke more of a Rhône–like Syrah than Aussie Shiraz, tannins sticking like gum drops to the bottle itself and fortunately not finding their way into the glass, and the finish quite pure, really excellent if not necessarily ethereal. A gorgeous example of what we call “purity” and a great advertisement for the ‘garage’ producer in a bustling industrial tourist area. A-
More Australian Shiraz at iJamming! here and here.
Saturday night we played safe with newer vintages of equally appealing wines. Don’t know if anyone remembers my raving about Domaine de Montvac from Vacqueryas a couple of months back after meeting the propeieter, Mme Cecile Dusserre, at an importer tasting. Well, I found the Domaine de Montvac Vacqueryas blanc 2005 on sale in NYC (at Astor) and though it was over $20, figured it was well worth buying both on memory of tasting it back at that T Edwards Porfolio event, and also because white Vacqueryas makes up only 1% of the appellation’s production, and is almost never seen in the States. The winery claims to have opted for a Burgundian approach to this white wine, in contrast to the usual hefty southern Rhône blends, making this Vacqueryas on a base of 40% Roussanne (with a balance of 40% Clairette and 20% Bourboulenc, all vinifed together) with ample lees stirring and several months of oak ageing. The result is a deeply golden wine, with Roussane’s noticeable honey and floral aroma pronouncing itself, along with some vanilla oak and maybe a bit of orange fruit peeking round the edges. Oily, rich, and very fleshy; like getting your taste buds around a fine pair of mammaries, you just don’t want to let go. The finish delivers a touch of citrus and apricot and several seconds of lingering satisfaction. Perfectly rounded in every stage of the tasting process, this was really quite magnificent for a Southern Rhône white; better than any of the white Châteauneuf du Papes I tasted at the Alain Junguenot event a few weeks back, and at a significantly better price. This Vacqueryas wine speaks volumes to the unrealized potential of Southern Rhône whites, to the splendid capabilities of the Roussane grape, and especially, to the wine-making skills of Madame Duserre and Domaine de Montvac. The examiner in me is giving this a solid A and recommending it for an end-of-term prize.
More Rhone whites at iJamming! here and here
Finally, for a British brother who espouses the usual “Isn’t Zinfandel pink?”, a bottle of Rosenblum Rockpile Road Vineyard Zinfandel 2005, from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County. A very very very serious, dark, brooding Zinfandel this one, absent the kind of bright tangy fruit that usually distinguishes the grape, compensating somewhat with considerable chocolate, licorice, tar and a fair dose of black, rather than red, fruits. Not that I’d mistake it for being a Zin-dominated wine, but I might be tempted to imagine it as a Ridge-style blend, as if there were some Petite Sirah contributing to its considerable heft. Don’t get me wrong: It was a genuinely fine wine that wore its 14.8% alcohol with admirable deftness, but it failed to sing its Zin-like fruitiness in the manner I’d hoped to impress upon my brother – and though fifteen minutes in the fridge accented some of the acidity, it failed to unearth that boysenberry/lincolnberry tangy fruit attack that I find so distinctive. That said, my brother loved it, and I’m certain that I saw him polishing off my last glass under the apparent guise that it was his own. Brotherly love, eh? Of course, I know how heavily a Zinfandel like this can hit you the next morning so I figured I’d leave him to it. But a cup of ultra-strong coffee in the morning and he seemed right as rain, raving about the Zinfandel and asking what examples he could find for himself back in the UK. A B+ for Rosenblum’s effective salesmanship downgraded to a B for hiding its fruit. All in all, though, four solid wines out of four; a nice reminder that storing wines is just as much fun as drinking them right out the bottle, if you get my drift….
More Zinfandel at iJamming! here and here