Once again it was time for a bunch of us to eagerly accept Zach’s invitation up to his place at Mount Snow, Vermont for a weekend of poker, drinking, eating and lazing about. As usual, we tried to get up there Friday afternoon so we could get settled and jump right into the task of popping some corks. This year, we had just 6 guys, but we did our best to keep up the tradition of debauchery associated with this event.
2010 DeBiase Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. This is nice on the nose, with aromas of ripe cherries, raspberries and vanilla providing a holistic and pure feel to it. In the mouth, it has a very nice creamy texture to it, and it’s loaded with concentrated but pure red fruit kept largely reined in by a fine structure. The finish is a bit oaky, but this is quite well-done for my tastes.
2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast. There’s a very spicy core to the nose of this wine, featuring additional scents of toasted stems, autumn leaves, sassafras and brambly red berries that are bright, lifted and sweet-toned. On the palate, it is similar in many ways, but with maybe more purple and blue wild berry fruit to go along with sweet oak, dusty earth, brown Necco wafer and toasty brown spice bits. It’s extroverted and fun, but still young with its oak and spice components way out front at this time.
1995 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley. I was looking forward to drinking this, but it was a let-down. It opens with a lot of burnt ember and acrid smoke aromas before fleshing out a bit to pull in nicer notes of purple berries, grilled pepper and musky dried sweat. In the mouth, it comes across as quite gripping and a tad sticky, with the tannins poking out too much. It feels a bit jumbled up, really, with some burnt leaf and chemical overtones marring the candied purple berry fruit core running underneath. Most seem to really hate it and I hear some claims regarding one flaw or another, but all I can say is that it isn’t a very good bottle.
1999 Vieux Mas des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This wine is showing some very mellow, aged character on the nose right now, with soft scents of sun-baked earth, baked cherries, red flower petals, suede leather, cigar ash and pencil box that make for a nice combination of elements. It’s neither deep nor broad, but rather just gentle and warm. In the mouth, it just has a sun-kissed, softly-sweet feel to it, with totally resolved tannins and structure making it seem quite open and gentle. Loosely-knit flavors of red currants, dried cherries and berries and baked earth have just enough tang to keep it sipping very smooth and easy. It’s maybe a tad rustic and simple, but it delivers a good deal of easy pleasure.
1995 Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva. Here one encounters a very nice bouquet of suede leather, creamed cherries, red licorice rope, fragrant tobacco, shaved sandalwood and nice earthy undertones that are lilting and inviting. It’s medium-weighted on the palate, with good drive and twangy acidity supporting the creamy smooth texture and fine flavors of cherries and red berries, warm earth and soft spices. I find it pretty classically done and quite tasty. Moreover, many think it is even better when re-tasting it on Day 2.
1984 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Martha's Vineyard Napa Valley. A number of people were claiming TCA taint right from the start with this, but I never truly could confirm that other than to say the wine didn’t really show the way it ought to have done. For me, it is a bit volatile and funky on the nose, with bretty bits of horse barn and sweaty animal riding atop tobacco and jalapeno scents. It’s plummy, warm and creamy on the palate, with a quiet power to it and some interesting notes of leather, charcoal and tar, but it finishes clipped and short and just doesn’t have any extra gear to it.
1985 Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon Napa Valley. To my way of thinking, this wine possesses a fantabulous nose that’s sinewy, slinky, lithe and silky all at the same time, with beautiful old world aromas of black currant fruit, scorched earth, lead pencil and Belgian chocolate that make me think Bordeaux as much as anything. In the mouth, it’s still tightly-coiled, tensile and fairly tannic at this age, coming across as a real vin de garde with a solid granite sort of structure. While perhaps not the friendliest, it is nonetheless very impressive and quite tasty—with blackberry, black currant, menthol and cool dark earth flavors that occasionally let in a little kernel of sweet blueberry fruit at the center to make it all come together. I think it is drinking well right now, but I’m curious to see what a few more years in the cellar does for this wine.
1985 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve Napa Valley. The nose here shows a wide range of scents, including coffee, chicory, leafy forest, black licorice, eucalyptus, ash, black cherry and raspberry that taken together actually seem pretty typical of aged Georges de Latour in my experience. The palate is full of ripe cherry and dark raspberry fruit, with some jellied sweet character. It’s a little fudgy and perhaps not all that elegant, but a nice twinge of acidity comes in with time and freshens the whole package up. Indeed, the longer I drink it, the more I like it, and on Day 2 it comes across as a more holistic and layered wine. I’d have to call it a pretty decent showing when all is said and done.
1975 Château Mouton Rothschild Pauillac. If you’re at Zach’s, you know at least one 1975 is going to get opened! This year it’s Mouton, which exhibits fine-toned aromas of black currants, black leather, volcanic rock, grilled herbs and green pepper in a package that isn’t particularly fanned out or outgoing but is pretty darned nice in a narrowly-focused direction. In the mouth, it has a savory, leathery streak to it, but also some surprisingly healthy black currant fruit that’s smooth in spite of the obvious long-term tannins lurking about throughout. It holds its own for a good long while in the glass, and while it does suffer from some typical 1975 attenuation and toughness, it actually delivers a decent amount of pleasure for my palate. Any way you cut it, though, it’s always a treat to at least have a chance to try a wine like this.
1985 Château Le Bon Pasteur Pomerol. This is one seriously old-fashioned smelling wine, as it puts forth a mix of green pepper, dusty earth, old sheepskin leather, green tobacco leaf, limestone and vitamin C tablet aromas—with any dark berry fruit hiding out in far in the background. In the mouth, it is lighter-bodied than I might expect from a Pomerol, with an almost airy quality to the earth-bound flavors of dark berry fruit, caramel, leather and limestone. It isn’t all that complex or deep, but it’s got a nice shot of focused flavor and a restrained old-fashioned palate that has its place for me from time to time.
2003 Château Duhart-Milon Pauillac. The 2003 Duhart was served blind, I guess in order to mask the vintage from us and to prevent us from a biased perspective. Whoever’s idea that was shouldn’t have worried, as I really enjoyed it right from the start. The nose is dense and generous with its aromas of blueberry, sliced green pepper, fine cigar wrapper and rock quarry. It’s rich and fleshy on the palate, maybe a bit chewy at times, but it’s fine-flowing and gently-lifted. There are no hard edges anywhere and it feels finely-made all around despite the generous size and quietly elevated alcohol. The cassis, black raspberry and red currant fruit flavors are really tasty and there’s little in the way of tannic interference—putting this in a very good drinking window right now after a few hours in the decanter.
1995 Ridge Zinfandel York Creek Spring Mountain District. This wine features warm, gently roasty notes of cherry and crème de cassis buttressed by very nice earth tones, leather and menthol aromas that are almost akin to a warm-vintage Bordeaux in style. In the mouth, it’s big and round and mouth-filling, with very solid concentration of cherry and raspberry fruit, with great push and a fine slinky texture. It is nicely-knit all the way through, and is just a lovely wine in a very good zone for drinking right now.
2001 Paul Anheuser Niederhäuser Pfingstweide Riesling Nahe. This is kind of direct and simple on the nose, featuring burnished copper, tangerine peel, green pixie stick, petrol and powdered sugar aromas. It’s a bit squinchy in the mouth, with direct flavors of citrus peel, peach and funky guava that have somewhat one-dimensional sweetness.
1998 Pierre Péters Champagne Cuvée Spéciale Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Les Chetillons. We got back to the hard work of popping corks early the next day. This Champagne features a super-lively nose of lemon pith, struck match, lemon pepper, glazed apple and faint caramel aromas that lead to a palate displaying broad flavors of apple, pear and white pepper supported by a tight and zesty acidic streak and a dry, taut finish that keeps it all tightly cinched in. It’s nice for drinking now, but there’s no hurry.
2008 Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly. Fairly pale in color, this wine is juicy and inviting on the nose, with appealing aromas of candied lemon peel, lanolin, yellow apple, pear and sweet tropical fruit. I find it to be quite piquant on the palate, with a refreshing personality lead by tart, fun, succulent yellow fruit. It does finish taut and a bit drying, though, so I’d probably recommend another 2-3 years before trying again.
2010 Vie di Romans Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio Dessimis. There’s a slight orange tint to this wine. The nose is really intriguing, even though it seems to just be scratching the surface of its eventual complexity right now with its nuanced aromas of nectarine, mango, baked orange, flint and gun metal. In the mouth, it is round and almost lush, with a very slight accent of oak but mostly flavors of nectarine, peach, lime pith and toasted spices. It has an agreeably pithy texture and a grippy, lasting finish. As it warms up and stays open for a while, more red fruit accents come out and the wine gets even more complex and rounded. This is both interesting and very tasty, if perhaps a bit young right now.
1990 Louis Jadot Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru La Dominode. This wine shows off a deeply floral bouquet of rosewater, red flower petals and black cherry off the top before pulling in earthier notes of leaf pile, birch, suede leather, cigarette and dark earth. It has a sweet and creamy entry onto the palate, with a good streak of cherry, leather and funky earth notes in play. It has good grip and gets more and more fleshy as the day goes on. The problem for me is that I find it rather tautly acidic and very drying on the moderately tannic finish—leaving a tough final impression. There’s a lot to like, but I think it seems to be cracking up somewhat at this stage of the game.
1999 Domaine Marquis d'Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Champans. The nose here is big, broad and fleshy with powerful aromas of mixed red and purple berry fruit, melted chocolate and woodsy, weedy undergrowth notes. It’s impressively concentrated in the mouth, with a ropy, sinewed texture to the cherry and raspberry fruit accented by sweet red citrus here and there. Although it’s decidedly dense, there’s some puckering acidity that comes into play a bit too much for me right now, making me think this will be better in another few years.
2001 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Grèves Vigne de L'Enfant Jesus. This one is darkly smoldering and smoky on the nose, showing ashy scents of fireplace, grilled herbs, jalapeno pepper and crisp minerals to go with cool black cherry fruit and toasted spices. In the mouth, it’s warmer-fruited than on the nose, with a sweeter, flabbier sort of roasty red fruit and baked earth character. It’s actually a bit too roasty, making me think it might be a slightly damaged specimen.
1987 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain. This flight of 1987 vs. 1988 Laurel Glen was a real treat, with both wines showing extremely well, I thought. While I preferred the 1988, this 1987 is a very nice wine that features a somewhat tighter, slinkier, more purely black-fruited nose that comes across as direct, powerful and coiled. It’s not as complex as the 1988 but it’s very enticing in its own way. In the mouth, it’s finely-polished, glossy and grippy, with a substantial bottom note of plump blue and purple mountain berry fruit that’s supported by little savory slivers of taste here and there that just make it all the more pleasurable to drink.
1988 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain. Oh boy, this wine has one hell of a nice bouquet—featuring deeply layered, sexy and intoxicating aromas of sweet creosote, incense, fine leather, tobacco leaf, fresh-turned earth, horsehide, leaf pile, green pepper and pure black currant fruit. I can’t get enough of it, really. In the mouth, it’s substantially dense, chewy, cool and spiced, with a solid bit of mountain fruit personality to the flavors of dark plum, purple berries, limestone, sweet tar and classy dark earth. It’s right in my California Cabernet wheelhouse, and I’m sure it will continue to deliver the goods for many years to come.
1988 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac. I absolutely love the bouquet of this very classically-made Pichon Lalande as it struts out aromas of green pepper, tobacco leaf, tomato plant, campfire smoke, pure cassis and red currant fruit. To my way of thinking, it’s drinking perfectly right now—creamy and smooth, with a fabulous mouthfeel and a great sense of holistic balance to the flavors of creamed currants, cassis, leather, iodine and meat pan drippings. It’s full of life but sort of taking things mellow right now—a winning combination. Several people I spoke to had this as their #3 in this trio of PLL’s, but for me it’s my favorite of the bunch.
1989 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac. The 1989 is outstanding, as well. The bouquet is a bit smokier, but otherwise showing similar notes of green pepper, leather, tomato vine, mushroom, dirt mound and red currants. In the mouth, it’s a bit warmer and more welcoming perhaps than the ’88, with more obvious stuffing and in general more push and volume to go with the overt flavors of pure cherry paste, cassis and fine earth. It lacks a bit of that savory, sweaty character I like in the ’88, but makes up for it with very nice balance and lift carrying all the way through to the tangy finish. It’s a real pleasure to drink, and I know it was the group favorite.
1997 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac. Not surprisingly, this is the darkest-colored wine of the trio, and also has the darkest-toned bouquet, featuring aromas of black smoke, black leather, fragrant menthol and cedar, dirt mound and a little bit of soy. It’s very nice all around, and is surely the most cool-toned and manly smelling wine in this flight. Taste-wise, it’s dark, a bit fudgy or chocolaty, and displays a more obvious tannic spine supported by a taut framing. It can seem a bit rigid at times, but always has plenty of blackberry, plum and brambly-leafy flavors to carry things along. The leftovers a few days later were really doing well, so my take on this is to give it another 3-5 years in the cellar despite the reputation of the vintage.
1991 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate Napa Valley. After delicious flights of Laurel Glen and Pichon Lalande, where can you go? Well, we decided to do a little homage to the recently-departed Jim Barrett, and I think this was clearly the way to go in ending this auspicious weekend. We started the flight with the 1991, which has just a ton going on aromatically. It smells bold, bright and outgoing, but also deep, mysterious and pungent in its core aromas of blue and black berry fruit, baked brownies, cedar, limestone and lead pencil. In the mouth, it’s glossy and effortlessly smooth, like polished alabaster. The flavors are beautifully concentrated, sappy and juicy in tone, with a sinewed and gripping mouthfeel all the way through—lending it a sort of old-fashioned feel that I like. It impresses without even trying to, and just delivers a delicious mouthful of flavor.
1994 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate Napa Valley. Served from magnum, this wine features another outstanding bouquet--this one full of smoked cherries, tar, cigar ash, menthol, leather and fine spices in an almost soaring sort of lifted package. It’s more noticeably red-fruited on the palate, with toweringly loaded flavors of red currant, raspberry and dark cranberry delivering a huge mouthful of Cabernet flavor. It’s really a kick-ass wine that still manages to feel classy and controlled despite the sneaky tannins hanging around the back end. I really loved this bottle and could see it aging for eons with no problem at all, especially in this format.
1995 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate Napa Valley. The 1995 on the nose is focused around deep cherry and black raspberry fruit supported by piquant notes of white pepper, limestone and concrete dust—with a little bit of leather and tobacco tucked into the background. It’s polished, dark and glossy in the mouth, with a sleek and languid feel to the blackberry and black currant fruit that have a very nicely faint sweetness to it deep-down. It’s a tight package that slinks across the palate and leaves a very fine impression. It’s an excellent wine, showing better than a bottle from earlier in the week, and benefitting from more air time, I’d have to say.
1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate Napa Valley. Perhaps a reflection of the heat of the vintage, the 1997 is a little more roasted in tone than anything else on the table—with plush and warm aromas of roasted coffee beans, raspberry fruit, red currants and hard caramel that are enveloping and toasty but still classy as heck. On the palate, it’s a bit stickier than some, but very generous and warm in it rich flavors of plum, cherry paste, chocolate and coffee. It’s certainly full-bodied, creamy and lushly-textured, with a bit more of an open-knit character. It won’t be as long-lived as some of these others, but it sure delivers a lot of warm and giving flavor today.
1999 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate Napa Valley. This wine has by far the prettiest, most floral and feminine-styled bouquet in this line-up of Montelenas. It gently lifts out of the glass with aromas of gardenia flower, sweet raspberries, crushed blueberries and soft perfume. On the palate, though, it is a quick return to grippy, sleek dark fruit and menthol flavors, and in fact, the tannins here on the finish are decidedly more obvious than with any of the previous four wines. I certainly think it might be best to give those tannins some time in the cellar and hopefully allow the palate impression to catch up to the beauty and elegance of the nose.
2001 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate Napa Valley. I thought this might be too young to show a whole lot on the nose, but in fact it’s showing very nicely—with deep, luscious and sort of sexy aromas of cassis, purple berries, crushed black raspberries and fine spices. In the mouth, I really like the spherical bullet of a mouthfeel it puts forth right from the very start—showing great lift and joie de vivre to the juicy, tangy blue and black fruit. It’s a bit tannic at the tail end and there’s a muscular framework to it still, but it’s nonetheless a really delightful vintage of Montelena that can be enjoyed on the early side with enough decant time, but ought to be given another 10 years in the cellar if at all possible.
2005 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate Napa Valley. You know what? At this point in the wee hours I just couldn’t bring myself to drink another glass of wine and try to focus enough to compose a worthy tasting note. That will have to wait for another day (probably fairly far off into the future, based on what I heard from others who did drink this strapping youngster).
Sunday, as usual, came far too quickly. But all in all, it was another rousing good time for the Winos of the Mountain!