Here are some tasting notes from a mid-week dinner over at Ed’s house with me and three other guys. There were no conversations about what types of wines to bring or anything else really beforehand, but once we saw what everyone had brought along to share, we were able to put together some nice flights—each one paired up with different dishes Adam chose from his favorite local Chinese take-out joint up the street.
Flight 1: Champagnes in the kitchen
2002 Jose Dhondt Champagne Grand Cru Mes Vieilles Vignes Blanc de Blancs. There’s a very nice bouquet to this wine, featuring appealing aromas of biscuits, graham cracker, ginger, browned apples, toasted meringue and crushed nuts that are starting to show a bit advanced in tone, but in a very engaging way. In the mouth, it’s creamy-textured, cohesively-flavored and finely balanced between the excellent bass note heft and the sneaky drive and power the wine displays. I also like the yellow fruit profile and the little twists of funk that come through once in a while. Overall, it’s starting to show some maturity and I think it’s right about in the spot where I’m apt to like it best in its evolution.
2002 Henri Goutorbe Champagne Special Club. This is also lovely, though in a fresher and more elegant package. The nose sports aromas of white flowers, mellow citrus, chalk, herbs and graphite powder in a finely-lifted and crisp profile that’s nice and soft around the edges. It also has a classy mouthfeel to it on the palate, where there’s a certain sense of seriousness and refinement to the flavors of grapefruit, ginger, chalk and minerals. It has very good length and staying power, too, and I wouldn’t hesitate to drink now or hold awhile longer.
2005 J. Lassalle Champagne Cuvée Angeline. This is light, fun and fresh on the nose, with taut but expressive aromas of struck flint, pear, lemon, smoke and pencil shavings showing some pretty edgings to them. In the mouth, it’s really popping and lively right now, with a mouth-cleansing quality to the acidity and the bright flavors of yellow citrus, lemon pepper and chalk. For all that, it still feels nicely smooth and creamy on the finish. It needs a few more years probably to broaden out on the mid-palate, but it’s also a fun Champagne to drink now, in my opinion.
Flight 2: A lone white
2011 Château de Pibarnon Bandol Blanc. There’s a very floral bouquet to this wine, with notes of orange blossoms, honeysuckle, spritzy grapefruit, lime zest, lanolin, smoke and limestone emerging from the glass. In the mouth, it’s crisp and clean on the entry but quickly fans out and finds a rich bottom note on the mid-palate. It has a smooth, easy feel to it, but also a bit of youthful grip still. It has a bit more density and depth than the airy bouquet might lead one to expect, and the flavors of pineapple, grapefruit, lime and brown spices show good energy and lift. I think everybody enjoyed this, especially with some of the Chinese food.
Flight 3: Southern Rhones
1998 Château Fortia Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Our first red of the evening is fairly pale ruby in color. It has a savory, but restrained and gentlemanly nose to it, with earthy aromas of rhubarb, pomegranate, cool soil and hard leather. In the mouth, it has a nice earthy profile and fine bright acidity to it. It isn’t the most expansive wine in the mouth, but the tangy red fruit is nice and juicy in a focused swath across the palate. Supporting flavors of berries and spicy leather add refined tones that are almost pinot-like in their vinosity. It’s only going to go downhill from here, I would say, but it’s a nice old-fashioned, lighter-weighted wine for drinking right now.
1999 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The nose here is full of leather, tobacco leaf, toasted spice, red currant, cassis and truffle aromas that slowly pull in deeper notes from a well of richer dark red fruit. It’s moderately savory, but without any of the Beaucastel funk in play, at least not right now. In the mouth, it displays a lot more body, structure and depth than the first wine, with dense and deep flavors of red currants, raspberries, black plums and clean spices. Gentle tannins kick in late, and it is evident that this can go for quite a while yet.
Flight 4: Northern Rhones
1997 Tardieu-Laurent Crozes-Hermitage. This is a tad dusty and musty off the top, but beneath that can be found rather serious, dark and earthy aromas of black cherry, charcoal, vanilla bean, iron ore and iodine. It improves all night long, with some sweeter elements coming into play as the evening goes along, but always staying sinewed, cool and black in tone. In the mouth, it’s dark and full—with black olive, dried blood, black currant and sweet vanilla flavors showing a gripping and ropy quality to them. It has a cylindrical feel to it and stays tight-knit all night long. I like it more than I love it, but I can see it hanging in there and perhaps softening a bit over the next 5 years or so.
1991 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde. This is a real treat on the nose, showing outstanding aromatics of peppercorn, bacon fat, brine, burnt embers, tapenade, and mixed red and black fruits that have great balance and fine old-world character. In the mouth, it’s cool, calm and collected—still showing plenty of grip, tension, backbone and supportive tannin but also lots of meaty, briny and muscled flavors of black currants, tapenade and black pepper. The flow and freshness are great and the controlled but expressive profile is really to my liking. This is excellent stuff right now or you can hold it without worry.
Flight 5: Napa Valley Cabernets
1987 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Bonny's Napa Valley. The nose on this wine soars up out of the glass and leaves no doubt whatsoever that this is a Silver Oak bottling--with big hits of peppermint dust, menthol, eucalyptus, pine needle, jalapeno, dusty earth, cassis, red currant and tomato paste aromas carving out their distinctive house signature. In the mouth, it’s smooth and medium-weighted, with a lively and generous flavor profile packed with sweet red fruit and supported by accents of pine sap, mint and menthol. For some at the table, it’s all a bit too obvious, but I find it kind of fun, easy and characterful.
1998 Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards Éloge Napa Valley. This blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot is richly-styled but also fairly Bordelais in nature with its outstanding aromas of tobacco, leather, black currants, black raspberries, violet flowers, classy spices and raw lumber. In the mouth, it starts out a bit syrupy and sticky early on, but smooths out and weaves an ever-finer tapestry the longer you stay with it. The tannins are definitely in play, but again seem to integrate better with time. All the while, the full-bodied and finely-balanced flavors of black currant, dark berry and rich earth provide a luxuriant blend that delivers a good deal of palate pleasure. It may actually have been better on day 2—suggesting to me that a healthy decant is the best way to approach this wine right now to optimize all that it has to offer.
2001 Nickel & Nickel Cabernet Sauvignon Rock Cairn Oakville Napa Valley. This is definitely young, but already seems expressive aromatically with its fine and pure aromas of cassis, bright red cherries, fine soil and dark-roasted coffee. It turns more black-fruited in the mouth, where it features full-bodied but polished flavors of black currants, blackberries, and dark plum supported by abundant but well-rounded tannins and smooth cool acidity. There’s some sneaky power to this, but it also seems pretty classy and toned. It has a long life ahead of it, in my opinion, and I’ll be glad if it turns out anything like the fine 1997 we had a few months earlier.
Flight 6: Sweet wines
1988 Château de Rayne-Vigneau Sauternes. This was served from a 375 ml bottle. It features very robust botrytis aromas on the nose, with lots of scents like candied grapefruit, powdered sugar, crème brulee topping and sweet caramel cream just adding to the very nice overall impression. In the mouth, it’s creamy and rounded--with exotic tastes of candied ginger, pineapple, baking spices and caramel. It’s not a blockbuster sort of wine in terms of richness or sweetness, nor is it a particularly racy style—instead if comes across as balanced and well-paced, with generous flavors and a tasty all-around profile.
1983 Gould Campbell Vintage Porto. The color here is very healthy, and the nose is quite lively with its rich but effortless aromas of dark figs, black plums, brown spirits and toasty spices. It’s a nice and generous wine on the palate, too, without much heat at all and showing fine balance and plenty of structure still. It’s quite spicy and warmly-fruited, and goes down nice and easy, still showing a bit of grip toward the finish. I’d have to say it’s drinking quite nicely, but I don’t think it’s in any danger, either.