The following are notes from a poker game one evening at Zach’s house. Each person was asked to bring one bottle and everything was served blind during the course of the game. Some folks supplied multiple bottles, just to add to the festivities!
2002 Jean Milan Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Terres de Noel. This is just very pleasant all around. It features a nicely distinctive bouquet of almond slivers, wet chalk, ginger, white flowers and graphite powder, along with beautiful scents of apple and pear fruit. In the mouth, I find it to be rather elegant and classy—with a juicy cut of acidity gently lifting up fine creamy flavors of apple, pear and white peach. It has no hard edges and just drinks nice and pretty.
1975 Chateau Le Gay Pomerol. This is certainly an older wine, judging by the faded color upon pouring. Aromas of old books, bridle leather, tea leaves, mushrooms, cigar ash, pressed flowers and dried red fruit contend with a little bit of musty, dusty character that does sort of blow off after awhile. In the mouth, aged flavors of baked cherries, tea leaves, rusty minerality and dark earth are nice, but like a lot of 1975s, an aggressive and drying acidity becomes more and more of a factor the longer one stays with it. The texture is actually kind of smooth and slippery, but that omnipresent dryness makes this a tough haul when all is said and done. Although this was better than a more stewed and volatile bottle some of us drank earlier in the year, I feel fairly confident in saying this wine ought to be drunk up.
2009 DeBiase Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. Right away, this seems like a California Pinot Noir to me, with its very pretty bouquet of sweet blue and purple berries, vanilla bean, pale oak, and offsetting bits of leafiness and autumnal spice aromas. In the mouth, it is rather lusciously-textured and full of glycerin character, while showing solid depth of flavor and a certain showy flamboyance. For all that, it seems like the acidity level is just right for the wine and I find myself liking it and considering it well done within this style.
1997 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve Napa Valley. Here was my Wine of the Night. It just smells absolutely dead-on classical Napa Valley Cabernet to me, and had me guessing things like 1999 Laurel Glen or 1996 Montelena or something. It opens right up with beautiful aromas of black currant, leather, charcoal, asphalt, dark chocolate and menthol riding atop a smoldering core of sweeter cassis fruit. There’s all sorts of complexity here and it’s just right in my personal preference zone. In the mouth, it follows through on the compelling nose with a beautiful palate presence—juicy, intense, driven and dense. It shows great life and great depth all around and wonderful structure to go along with the classical black fruit and savory earth flavors. There’s still a bit of chewy youthfulness to it, but I could drink a whole lot of this beauty.
2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova. This wine also sports a lovely bouquet—this one more old world-styled and featuring very fine aromas of cedar, menthol, black fruits, road tar and earth. In the mouth, it is sleek and cool in tone, with a very smooth palate flow. It also has substantial presence and outstanding drive. This is classy and directed, with a languid and lovely underflow that works quite well for my tastes. My #2 wine of the night.
2004 Paolo Bea Montefalco Rosso Vigna San Valentino. This is a much brighter and more obviously lifted nose—with beautiful sappy aromas of kirsch right off the top and subtler notes of peach, licorice rope, chalk and gardenia flower in support. There’s a little sweet nick to it, along with a slight vein of exotic funk, as well. In the mouth, it is too young but with an exciting future, in my opinion. It is full of sour cherry, strawberry, spice and funky earth flavors, with a little spike of volatility and a juicy tart acidity running through it that both need to better integrate with some time in the cellar. I would hold off 5 years or so before checking in again.
1996 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis. This wine is tight, dark and spicy on the smoldering nose—with charcoal, black cherry, tar, cooled bacon fat and cracked black pepper aromas that are somewhat rigidly-structured and kind of reserved at this stage of its development. It is similarly young-seeming on the palate, where a little bit of alcohol is showing through the thick flavors of dark chocolate, blackberry and chewy dark earth. It has nice felty tannins and smooth texture, to be sure, but it just seems to be holding much in reserve. I’ve read great reviews of this wine recently, but even with extended air this just doesn’t seem anywhere near ready to me.
1997 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley. This is excellent stuff on the nose—full of slinky black fruit, balsa wood, green pepper, black leather and spicecake aromas that are vigorous yet plush and beautifully-spiced. In the mouth, it is thick and velvety-smooth, with rich flavors of black currant, chocolate and white pepper filling the mouth with all kinds of body and glycerin. It is really kicking out the fruit flavors over a plush texture but all within a decidedly muscular framework. It is impressive stuff and was just outside of my top 3 wines of the night.
2000 Chateau Pontet Canet Pauillac. This is a whole different animal on the nose, and I do mean animal. This is a decidedly feral-smelling wine, with tons of animal fur, sweaty horse, turned earth, peat, black smoke, rawhide leather and black currant fruit aromas that are savory and interestingly old world-styled. In the mouth, it is cool and smoky and loaded with leather and animal tones supporting the smoky-sweet black currant and earth flavors. For all that, it is supple and giving and just really interesting to drink. I kept going back to this and finding other facets to it that I liked, and by the end of the evening I had elevated it to my #3 wine of the night.
2007 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Vintner’s Select Napa Valley. This is a big and boisterous snortful of intense briery berry, sweet oak, barrel spice, vanilla bean and tobacco leaf aromas that comes across as extremely spicy, woody and sweet-fruited. It is rather full-bodied and almost painfully young on the palate, with tons of charcoal, plum, wild blueberry, boysenberry and sweet oak flavors. It has enormous structure and breadth and needs at least 5 more years to let the overt oakiness better integrate.
1997 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. I like the nose here a lot, with its cool and focused aromas of of dark coffee roast, chocolate paste, fireplace ash, bacon fat and black currant fruit. In the mouth, it is kind of dense, but slinky and vibrant with its black fruit and woody spices. This is really solid stuff that has plenty of life left but it is also drinking great right now.
After hours Zach pulled out one more bottle (again, blind):
1945 Terroir du Crest et de l’Agly Rivesaltes. This is labeled as a Vin Doux Naturel and according to the label was bottled in 2001. It is a cloudy tawny-brown color and smells of caramel, chopped walnut, yellow raisins and dried salt, along with some lifted spirit notes. It is a super-tangy wine in the mouth, almost attacking the palate with the acidity, but also giving up a whole lot of toasted walnut, caramel and Christmas fruitcake kinds of flavors that are very much alive. It finishes lively and seemingly balanced despite the high-toned spirits elements in play. In the end, it is quite interesting and different, with some definite pleasures to be had. A nice treat to end a fun wine and poker event!