Rogov's Ramblings: Travels and Tastings at Vinoble

Daniel Rogov

Located in Andalucia in southern Spanish, the city of Jerez de la Frontera recently hosted the Vinoble wine fair. An unusual fair because it is dedicated entirely to sweet and fortified wines, wine buyers and critics from sixteen countries attended, there to taste more than two thousand wines from some 275 wineries, those from eighteen different countries.

Jerez is a relatively small city, with a population of about 200,000 and the center of town easily explored on foot. What was absolutely fascinating is that despite all of the star winemakers from Spain, the one person who was recognized wherever he went was a Frenchman, Pierre Lurton. At the fair itself he was greeted with warm handshakes and kisses and, as he strolled the streets of town nearly everyone wearing a hat tipped it to him and quite a few offered him the informal salute that Spaniards usually reserve for royalty. Fair enough, for while Lurton is not the king of Spain, as one of the most talented winemakers in the world and as the CEO of Chateau d'Yquem and Chateau Cheval Blanc, he is widely acknowledged as the king of Bordeaux.

Lurton says that he considers himself to be one of the most fortunate men in the world. He has good reasons for both his happiness and his sense of self-satisfaction, Yquem being the most valued of the sweet wines of Sauternes, often living for a century or more, and Cheval Blanc producing red wines that often earn scores of 100 from the world's leading critics. That he is also one of the founders and owners of the Cheval des Andes, possibly the most prestigious winery in all of Argentina, and is rapidly proving that South America can produce wines as good as the best of Bordeaux has done him no harm either.

A dapper man, always dressed formally but always looking as casual as casual can be, and invariably with one or two beautiful women on his arms, Lurton is the scion of a family of vintners and chateau owners. With regard to Yquem, which most people perceive as a dessert wine he feels that this is "a bit silly… "after all, I drink it with caviar as well" In a somewhat less frivolous mood he also reveals his philosophical side. Reflecting on the reality that one of the things that makes the sweet wines of Yquem so magnificent is the effect of botrytis cinerea (also known as "noble rot") a fungus that attacks the grapes, shriveling them and concentrating the sugar and flavor, and results in grapes that look to the eye truly horrible, he comments that "after all, you would never dream of putting one of those dead grapes into your mouth". He goes on, still in a pensive mood to observe that the art of Yquem is transforming death into gold"

Lurton may not be far off the mark with his reference to gold. While the still young 2001 wine of Chateau d'Yquem now costs a mere 250-290 Euros, the 1928 wine, still drinking beautifully and probably destined to outlive most of the people alive today goes for anywhere between 2500-4000 Euros for a bottle. Should anyone care to go, as Lurton says "all the way", the 1900 wine, also still drinking magnificently, commands about 10,000 Euros.

Two formal tastings were held of the Yquem wines at Vinoble, those by invitation only and including tastings of the vintages of the 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004 wines, each matched with a specific tapas to match its charms. Partly because the wines are great and partly because Lurton and his cellar-master, Sandrine Garbay were there to introduce the wines, the tastings were in great demand. So great in fact that a few critics and buyers actually sold their invitations for 100 Euros each. More important, as Lurton put it "not a bad lineup at all", two of the wines earning scores of 100, two of 99 and two of 97 points.

This was not the end of my Yquem tastings, however, for between these two was a private luncheon at Jerez' Restaraunte La Mesa Redonda at which we started with tapas of tissue thin slices of Serrano ham, that wrapped about the mild Grezalema goat's milk cheese before deep frying, shrimps in a creamy lemon and sage rich sauce and then on to a main course of truffled veal with black pudding. The food, as the ambiance of the restaurant and the service was perfection but no matter how superb took second place to the wines, among which were the Yquem's of 1921, 1967, 1975 1986, 1988, 1990, 1996, 2001 and 2003, all of which well deserve all of the superlatives devoted to them as well as their scores of 99-100 points each.

As to Monsieur Lurton, his parting words to me, shortly before Vinoble ended, were: "Ah, but if you were impressed by those wait until you taste the 2007 Yquem, for that will surely be the perfect match to caviar".

More on Jerez and Vinoble

From both the oenological and overall aesthetic point of view, the fair of Vinoble is held not at a commercialized-industrialized fairground but in the Alcazar, that exquisite structure (8th-18th centuries) with its old buildings, walkways, gardens and niches and crannies all during the fair set with wine stands and exhibitions. Built by the Moslem Almohad dynasty that conquered much of Andalucia, the Alcazar contains a mosque that was converted to a Catholic chapel in the 13th century. There are also Arab baths and a camera obscura from which one can enjoy panoramic views of the city ff Jerez.

With wines available for tasting in a two story building; several smaller buildings holding rooms for tastings, some almost cave-like in nature; two sides of the gardens set with open tents with wine stands the fair offers an intimate charm missing in many similar wine events. Cool weather (even a bit of rain from time to time) made for ideal tasting conditions as did the high quality wine glasses, the well designed spittoons, ample cold water with which to refresh the palate, highly knowledgeable and remarkably warm and friendly people at nearly every stand one visited; plenty of benches in the garden on which one could steal a few moments to rest between tastings.

Because of the location of the fair it goes without saying that the Bodegas, the wineries of Jerez (or, if you prefer Xerez or Sherry) were very well represented. Among others of the sweet and reinforced wines I tasted were those from Germany, Austria, Canada, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, California, Italy and France. One simply cannot taste as many sweet wines as one can dry, the need for breaks every 20-30 wines is critical to keeping one's palate intact (it's the sugar that does it, so breaks for me invariably involved one or two cups of the espresso coffee that was freely available and, of course, a cigarette or two while strolling the streets of central Jerez. An area of narrow streets that weave in and out with no seeming logic whatsoever, and wherever one wanders there are small homes interspaced with large, medium and bodegas. It must be understood that the word bodega has multiple meanings - it can be, as with the Sherry houses, a winery; it can be a wine shop or a wine bar; or, in some places, it can also be a grocery shop.

Whether in town or in the nearby countryside, Jerez houses wineries in which are produced some of the great sweet wines of the world, some of which are simply located on city streets, hidden warehouse-like walls with the name of the house on the wall. Most of the walls are white but some have been allowed to age gracefully, white and water-stained grays the dominant colors. The windows, all barred, the gates, all architecturally appealing and nearly all will receive visitors warmly for both a tour and a tasting.

On the narrow streets, a host of neighborhood bars, pastry shops and cafes, many of which amaze by offering their fare at remarkably reasonable prices. On the somewhat broader streets as one approaches either the Alcazar or Plaza Arenal, larger, somewhat fancier cafes (still remarkably inexpensive), a host of tapas bars, fine shops, and of course street entertainment. The two street performers that most delighted me were a couple of young men, each holding a pair of sticks about one meter long to which was attached a long string. The string was then dipped into a soap and water mixture and by waving their sticks through the air they would produce soap bubbles of up to a meter in length and diameter. Not only for the children! I loved it. And then there was a couple, one with a guitar, the other with a flute, doing Mozart in mid-day for my pleasure. Sometimes in the morning I would take a bus to the fair, at other times, and always on return, it was by foot, an enchanting 10-15 minute stroll if one did not stop along the way and by whatever route one chose, the streets lined with orange trees, the houses dazzling white and with black-grilled balconies bedeked year round with geraniums and the plazas all boasting palm trees, bougainville, camellias and roses.

Of course one has to realize that between 14:00-19:00 everything (virtually everything except the pharmacies, a few local pubs and the restaurants) in Jerez is closed. That included the fair as well, which left an abundance of time for either a nap or a long lunch. Some fine restaurants in Jerez but the king and queen by any standard are the unlimited supply of tapas that flow - the majority of those that sampled based on raw and cooked Serrano and other styles of ham; Manchego cheese ranging in age from 1 to 8 years old; shrimps in a dozen varieties; escargots with enough garlic in their sauce to refloat the armada; a host of fish, those including fresh anchovies and sardines as well as another dozen fish from the either the Mediterranean or the Bay of Cadiz. My own three favorites of my stay were of raw Serrano ham that had been wrapped about a cube of cheese and impaled on a toothpick before deep frying, the garlicky grilled shrimps; and of the plump and perfect escargots.

There were more formal dinners as well, one at Bodegas Tradicion, another at the winery of Gonzaaz-Byass, and yet another at Toro Albara, some buffet style with each tables set with dishes to best match the various kinds of Sherry (Fino, Palo Cortado, Amontillado, Pedro Ximenez, etc). And everyplace I looked charming young women to add to my aesthetic pleasures. The menu that stands out as most rewariding was that served at museum-like headquarters of the Sherry Association. A meal based entirely on tapas, those including well aged Manchego cheese; a cream of shrimps with a creamy white garlic sauce, croquettes of ham and mushrooms (those served with Manzanillo Sherry). From there it was on to anchovies and roasted vegetables with a Fino Sherry and then on to sautéed artichokes with the delicious baby calamari known as puntillitas, those served Amntillado Sherry. Nor was this the end, as we onginued with roasted pork with green asparagus and Oloroso Sherry and finally strawberries with an orange mousse, those accompanied by ice cream seasoned tantalizingly with very old Sherry vinegar, all served with a mahogany colored 50 year old Pedro Ximinez Sherry.

Lest anyone think that all was work and no play, a visit to Bodegas Harvey, that accompanied by a lunch of two dishes traditional to the Jerez region - a white gazpacho soup, that containing cucumbers and green tomatoes, that followed rinconces al Jerez (kidneys sautéed in sherry). I also made time for a late night visit to a local fair at nearby Cadiz - a fair with no name, one simply to celebrate springtime and held throughout the region every year following Easter and before the onset of the hot summer, in which balloons, flamenco and other local dances take as much place as do the foods and wine of the region. The highlight of that fair was a young woman, exquisitely beautiful and dressed quite appropriately in red who danced with a passion that while both highly sensual and sexual avoided any hint whatsoever of vulgarity. I was tempted to join her in the dance but whatever amount of extroversion I may have simply did not take me that far. I will admit, however, that before leaving I approached her, told her that she had been magnificent and received four warm kisses on the cheek in return. All had been worthwhile.

Following are some of my various tasting notes made during the duration of Vinoble.

Chateau d'Yquem - A Vertical Tasting

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1921: Bright amber in color, but still with deep orange overtones, this remains one of the greatest wines ever produced in Sauternes. Apricot flavors now dominate but these beautifully balanced by spicy vanilla, pear, and mocha flavors and aromas. Unabashedly sweet, thick and dense but with exquisite balance and structure, and aftertastes that go on seemingly without end, this is probably one of the very few wines I can drink these days that is older than I but has a good chance of outliving me. Score 100. (Yquem Vertical Tasting, Mar 2008)

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1945: Medium to full bodied but remarkably rich and concentrated, with abundant botrytis and honeyed-caramel sweetness on a background of tropical fruits, dried citrus and apricots and biscotti, the wine has a notably long finish on which delicious spicy fruits make themselves felt very, very nicely indeed. Since this wine was released nearly everyone (this writer included) predicted that no matter how superb it was, it would not survive it's fiftieth birthday. We were all wrong, for although quite mature and already burnished gold towards amber in color, this Yquem goes on and on, each year rebuilding its own myth. Drink now until the end of the decade. Score 95.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1967: Almost as good as the fabled 1921 wine, this medium to full bodied Yquem offers up classic elegance, for as intense and muscular as it remains there is such exquisite balance and structure here that the wine seems almost light on the palate. Bronzed gold towards amber in color, this superb, unabashedly sweet wine offers up complex aromas and flavors of pineapples, kiwis and honey on first attack, these yielding to summer fruits, vanilla and coconut, all on a long, long finish. Score 98.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1975: Deep, full, concentrated and intense, this is a wine that although magnificent now is still waiting to attain its peak. Abundant pineapple, peaches and toasted hazelnuts all on an unabashedly sweet, vanilla and oaky background. Balance that is impeccable make the wine magnificent now. Cellar without fear until 2050. Score 98.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1983: This concentrated and complex wine continues to show exquisite balance and concentration. Burnished gold in color, with dried peach and apricot, tropical fruit and citrus, all on a background of honeyed-butterscotch sweetness and a long botrytis finish of spicy oak and vanilla. Drink now-2050. Score 98.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1986: From the moment this wine was released it was apparent that it was going to be one of the best Sauternes ever, and now, nearly a quarter of a century on, it is fully living up to that promise. So luscious on the palate that it calls to mind fine olive oil, but with all of the rich, honeyed nose and flavors that should typify Sauternes at its best. As I have consistently noted, look for dried peaches, apricots, oranges and just a hint of pepper in this exquisite and amazingly long wine. Drink now but look forward to cellaring for 50, 60 or more years. Score 99.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1988: Deep golden yellow in color, with an intensely botrytised nose in which you will find mandarine oranges, apricots, honey and vanilla all unfolding and blending one after the other. Plenty of sweet oak and general sweetness here, but these set off beautifully by balancing acidity, this full bodied Yquem has flavors that linger long and comfortably on the palate. Drinking beautifully even now, this is a wine that will continue to age beautifully until 2040 - 2050. Score 98

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1989: So elegant that it can only be thought of as liquid gold, this rich, honeyed wine has a complex bouquet, luscious, deep flavors. A truly incomparable wine, one that sets the standards for the next fifty years!! Drink now only if you must, for this monumental wine will only begin to reach its peak in another five to ten years and will then retain its charms until 2045 or later. Superb. Score 99.

Chateau Yquem, 1990: A great wine from a great house in a great year! This deep golden colored wine offers rich, honeyed, flavors and aromas that include tropical fruits, honey, spring flowers, coconuts, nectarines and citrus fruits, all coming together in a package that will make you sigh for the sheer joy of being alive as you sip it. With flavors that unfold as the wine sits in your glass, this wine is just now becoming ready to drink. In 375 ml. and 750 ml. formats the wine will cellar comfortably until 2030 - 2040. In magnum format this is a wine that will live comfortably for nearly a century. An unforgettable wine experience Score 99.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1994: Never one of the best releases from Yquem but very far from a failure. Showing consistently since its release, the wine continues to show deep golden in color, full-bodied and with generous dried apricots and apples and gently honeyed stewed fruits, those with a light but surprising overlay of petrol, all now showing on a comfortably spicy background. Long, concentrated and showing just a wee bit better as it starts to hit its stride. Drink now-2025. Score 93.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1996: A superb year for Sauternes and Barsac and the Yquem easily meets its reputation as the best of both wine of those areas. A nose so complex and deep that it will amaze. When the wine is first poured you will find honey, spring flowers, peaches and oranges in its flavors and aromas. As it opens in the glass look as well for hints of black pepper and candied fruits.Young but superb even now but best 2010-2050, perhaps longer. The stuff of which dreams are made. Score 99.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 1998: With moderate sweetness matched by subdued but well felt botrytis influence and aromas and flavors of orange marmalade, coconut custard, vanilla and citrus peel, those yielding nicely on the remarkably long finish to honeyed nuts. Drinking beautifully now, but don't hesitate to cellar until 2030. Score 97.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 2001: One of those magnificent wines that sets Yquem above all others and a wine that will cellar comfortably many decades. Deep golden yellow with orange, green and red reflections, full-bodied, with intense sweetness set off beautifully by natural balancing acidity. On the nose and palate a remarkably complex array of aromas and flavors, those including ripe yellow peaches, apricots, eucalyptus honey and sugar-glazed pineapple. As the wine develops look for spices that will rise as well as a gentle hint of caramel that will start to tip-toe in in another decade. One of the greats, You can drink, admire, enjoy and even adore this wine now but that would be a shame for it will show its best only starting in another decade. Expect the wine to be at its very best starting in 2025 and then cellaring comfortably until 2075 or longer. Score 100.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 2002: An unexciting year for Sauternes in general but this wine stands well above the standard of the vintage. Full-bodied, moderately sweet, still showing youthful golden and opening with a hint of spicy wood, that parting to reveal layer after layer of pineapple, apricot, peaches, citrus peel, all on a lightly honeyed background. Well-balanced and long. Approachable now but best 2010-2030. Score 95.

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 2003: On of those Yquem wines that is destined to be among the immortals. Full-bodied, with generous botrytis influence, honeyed dried apricots and apples and fresh pineapple, those matched beautifully by hints of baked pie crust and a light peppery-spicy sensation that runs through and then lingers on and on, seemingly without end. Superb even at this stage but best only starting in 2015-2020. Keeping in mind that the 1847 and 1921 wines are still drinking mangificiently and the 1986 and 1989 wines are still in the infancy I would have no fear whatever as to how long the wine is cellarable. This is one that will comfortably outlive everyone alive today. Score 100. (Tasted 23 Mar 2006)

Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, 2004: Full-bodied, showing perfect balance and harmony snd with an abundance of tempting botrytis influence. At this early stage showing golden-yellow in color, opens to show pineapple and citrus fruits, those parting to go on to apples and summer fruits. Concentrated and intense yet elegant and with fine balancing acidity to tame generous sweetness. Approachable now but what a waste as this one will only be at its best stating in 2012 and will then continue to develop and cellar well unti 2040. Score 98.

Oremus - Tokay

Oremus, Late Harvest, Tokaji, 2005: Lively gold with green reflections, a medium-bodied blend of Furmint, Marslelu, Zega and Muscat Lunel grapes, showing generous botrytis influence. On the nose and palate dried apricot, sugared orange and grapefruit peel, and notes of vanilla. Generous sweetness well balanced by acidity keep the wine lively and appealing and hints of minerals and leather add to the elegance of the wine. Drink now-2012. Score 90.

Oremus, Aszu, 3 Puttonyos, Tokaji, 2000: Medium- to full-bodied, with moderate sweetness set off by natural acidity to keep the wine lively. Made from Furmint and Harslevelu grapes, showing generous orange, apricot, vanilla and cinnamon notes. What makes the wine special is an appealing hint of country-style coarseness, one that sits surprisingly nicely on the palat. Drink now-2013. Score 90.

Oremus, Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, Tokaji, 2000: Reflecting its 24 months in oak with spices and vanilla, this blend of Furmint and Harslevelu shows deep, concentrated floral sweetness. On the nose and palate pears, raisins and candied citrus peel, all coming together beautifully. Elegant and generous Drink now-2028. Score 94.

Oremus, Aszu, 6 Puttonyos, Tokaji, 2000: Every bit as tantalizing and opulent as the 1999 wine. Fine botrytis influence and good acidity to set off the intense sweetness and, on the nose and palate candied citrus peel, dried apricots, raisins and a warm crème brulee note. Drink now-2030. Score 94. Oremus, Tokaji, Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, 1999: Stunning! Light golden in color with orange, red and purple reflections, medium-bodied and with excellent balance between acidity and fruits. On the nose and palate citrus and white peaches, those matched beautifully by a layer of what at one moment seems like white pepper, another a vague hint of jalapeno peppers, and yet at another of ginger. Tantalizing. Drink now-2020. Score 94.

Oremus, Tokaji Azsu, 6 Puttonyos, 1989: Medium-to full bodied, with layers of aromas and flavors that unfold seemingly without end, those including dried apricots, crème brulee, honey, spices, orange flowers. Unabashedly sweet but with the balancing acidity to carry that, a complex and elegant wine. Drinking very well now but don't hesitate to cellar this one until 2025-2030, perhaps longer. Score 94.

Oremus, Tokaji, Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, 1983: Dark golden towards orange in color, another superb Oremus wine from the 1983 vintage. On first attack roasted nuts, dried summer fruits and just the barest hint of botrytis but that rising as the wine sits in the glass. Given twenty minutes in the glass opens to reveal a panorama of aromas and flavors - salted and roasted nuts, caramel, toffee, fresh and dried apricots and nectarines, Oriental spices and, to add to its beauty, just the right note of funky botrytis. Drinking very well now but should cellar well until 2015. Score 93.

Oremus, Tokaji Azsu, 6 Puttonyos, 1981: Medium to full bodied, with honeyed passion fruit, orange and spring flower flavors and aromas, with delicate flavors of green tea that come in towards the end, this well balanced, intense and generous wine is drinking nicely now but should cellar comfortably for until 2020 or more. Score 93.

Oremus, Tokay, Aszu, 6 Puttonyos, 1979: With concentrated flavors and aromas (look for apricots, honey, pecans, walnuts and oranges), this deep and complex wine has just the right balance to make it drinkable now or in the next thirty or forty years. With flavors that linger long on the palate, elegant and delicious. Drink now-2022. Score 93.

Oremus, Tokaji, Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, 1975: Drinking even better than when last tasted a decade ago. From a great vintage year, this superbly rich wine is loaded with flavors and aromas of orange marmalade, pears, honey, nuts and stewed fruits. With just enough acidity to balance its sweetness, this deep, intense and complex wine can be drunk now but can easily be set aside for another twenty to thirty years Score 95.

Emilio Lustau - Jerez

Emilio Lustau, Manzanilla, Solera Reserva Papirusa, Jerez, n.v.: Pale golden in color, sprightly dry, opening with notes of almonds and licorice, going on to reveal apple, green olives and notes of salt-water. Generous, long and elegant. Drink now. Score 90.

Emilio Lustau, Manzanilla, Almancenista Pasada de Sanlucar, Jerez, n.v.: Almost aggressive on first attack but then settling down nicely to reveal of apples and green almonds, those followed by notes of lightly salted cashew nuts. Crisply dry but with an appealing illusion of sweetness that lingers nicely. Drink now. Score 90.

Emilio Lustau, Dry Fino, Puerto Reserva, Jerez, n.v.: Light gold with green tints, with generous doses of iodine and sea water, those making way to generous roasted and salted nuts, minerals and, on the long finish a tempting floral overtone. Score 90.

Emilio Lustau, Fino, Jarana Solera Reserva, Jerez, n.v: A lovely golden towards orange color, this classic fino shows bone dry and seems to almost float on the palate. Anyone who recalls the pleasure of eating caramelized apples on a stick in their childhood will love this one with its warm apple, toffee, grilled nuts and cardamom aromas and flavors. Complex but easy to drink, and with remarkable length for a fino. Drink now. Score 92.

Emilio Lustau, Dry Amontillado, Los Arcos Solera Reserva, Jerez, n.v. Medium-bodied, opening with walnut and bitter chocolate notes, those yielding to crème brulee, toffee, crème Anglaise and light iodine notes that tantalize. Long and complex but very easy drinking. Drink now. Score 91.

Emilio Lustau, Sera Amontillado, Almacenista, Miguel Fontadez Florido, Jerez, n.v.: Gold, with distinct orange tints, opens with what seems to be a sweet note but that is merely an illusion as the wine yields to salted walnuts, molasses, apple and mineral notes. On the finish a hint of medicinal sting but that proves a very positive sensation indeed. Drink now. Score 91.

Emilio Lustau, Amontillado, Rare Solera Reserva, Escuadrilla, 15 years, Jerez, n.v: With its smoky peat, butter, sea salt and iodine, this lovely wine cannot help but call to mind fine Islay single malt Scotch whiskey. As this one enchants don't forget to look the roasted nuts and toffee that lead to a long, long finish. Drink now. Score 92.

Emilio Lustau, Oloroso VOS, Jerez, n.v.: Medium- to full-bodied, opening with a burst of iodine and caramel, those yielding comfortably to roasted nuts, celery and caramelized apples. Smooth and round and faulted only by a note of burnt toast that lingers. Drink now. Score 87.

Emilio Lustau, Solera Gran Reserva (Very Rare), Oloroso, Emperatriz Eugenia, n.v. : A wine with a rare elegance and a near aloofness. Medium-bodied, rich and dry, remarkably smooth on the palate and with aromas and flavors of prunes, crème catalan and walnuts, all of which come together with beautiful balance and length. Best at about 13 -14 degrees Celsius. Drink now. Score 92.

Emilio Lustau, Almacenista, Oloroso, Pata de Gallina, n.v.: My earlier tasting note 17 Feb 2006) holds firmly. Deep golden towards bronze in color, full-bodied and intense. Dry but don't be surprised to find hints of sweetness rising here and there as you sip, those through well-balanced aromas and flavors of dried apricots, figs, citrus marmalade and nuts. On the long finish gentle hints of flor and iodine rise nicely. Most will suggest drinking this one at cool room temperature but let me suggest serving it at about 10 degrees Celsius and enjoying watching it open as the temperature rises in the glass. Drink now. Score 91.

Emilio Lustau, Rich Oloroso, Jerez, 1990 (Bottled 2007): Dark in color, full-bodied and deeply sweet while soft and round with generous with aromas and flavors of walnuts, prunes, espresso coffee and Oriental spices, all lingering nicely. Drink now. Score 90.

Emilio Lustau, East India Solera, Jerez, n.v.: Dark mahogany in color, a blend of Oloroso, which is made primarily from Palomino Fino grapes, those with the addition of a small quantity of the heavier, sweeter Pedro Ximinez. Deep gold towards amber in color, this deep, rich and intense caramel-molasses rich wine shows off beautifully with sweetness balanced beautifully by natural acidity, all coming together in a nose and palate rich with raisins, citrus peel, and molasses. Remarkably smooth, mouthfilling with a generous spiciness on the long finish. Justifiably Lustau's best selling wine. Score 93

Emilio Lustau, Moscatel, Emilin Reserva Solera, Jerez, n.v.: Deep bronze in color, more dense and dark than at eariler tastings, with unabashed sweetness in fine balance with acidity. On the floral nose dried apricots, candied citrus peel and a generous overlay of spices, all lingering long and generously on the palate. Drink now. Score 90.

Emilio Lustau, Pedro Ximenez, San Emilio Solera Reserva, Jerez, n.v. If the truth be told, this is one of those several wines that I enjoy so thoroughly long after dinner with a fine cigar. My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Deep mahogany towards inky black in color, intense and concentrated enough to be thought of as "thick", but with the balance and velvety smoothness to carry it off very nicely indeed. Unabashedly sweet, with aromas and flavors of rich milk chocolate, fruitcake, raisins, candied citrus peel and molasses. Some will suggest that the wine lacks a bit of acidity but they are missing the point, for this is a wine destined to be served not with but as dessert and that it coats the mouth so beautifully is indeed part of its point.Drink now. Score 93.

Emilio Lustau, Pedro Ximenez, Mirillo, 100 Anos, n.v.: Based on soleras that date from 1896-1996, this is a wine that is simultaneously luscious, hedonistic and complex. Full-bodied and concentrated enough to call to mind rum-soaked Christmas plum cake, with its deep sweetness set off nicely by vibrant acidity and showing notes of raisins, bitter-sweet chocolate, candied citrus peel and blackstrap molasses, all coating the palate gently and lingering on and on, seemingly without end. Drink now. Score 92.

More Jerez and Tokay

Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana, Oloroso, Viejo Hidalgo, VORS 30 Years (Bottled 2006), Jerez: Deep and rich, on first attack with quite enough peat and salt-water notes to remind one more of fine single-malt Scotch whiskey than of Sherry but that comfortable illusion passes quickly as the wine opens to reveal nutty, caramel and apple notes. A well crafted, long and complex wine. Drink now. Score 93. Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana, Pedro Ximenez, Napoleon, Viejo, Jerez, n.v.: Dark, glistening brown towards black, medium- to full-bodied showing a remarkable array of aromas and flavors that play on the palate. Opens with caramel and figs, goes on to chocolate and dates, continues with ginger and vanilla. Demonstrates its excellent structure and balance by lingering on the palate with a near liquid chocolate note. Long, complex and delicious. Drink now. Score 92.

Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana, Manzanilla, Pasada Pastrana, Jerez, n.v.: A single vineyard wine, showing light and fresh on the nose and palate. Opens with green apple, Anjou pears and green olive notes, those with tempting hint of sea-water and molasses that linger nicely on the long finish. Drink now. Score 91.

Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana, Amontillado Viejo Hidalgo, VORS, 30 Years (Bottled 2006), Jerez: Full-bodied, packed with roasted nuts, caramel, and notes of freshly dampened earth. Opens slowly on the palate to reveal notes of apple, cinnamon, citrus peel and black tea. Long and complex. Drink now. Score 91.

Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana, Manzanilla, Sanlucar de Barra, Jerez, n.v. : Made entirely from Palomino Fino grapes, light in body, light straw colored and crisply dry with a fine array of almond, walnut and green apples all with a tantalizing light salty overlay. A fine aperitif. Drink now. Score 90. Bodegas Hidalgo - La Gitana, Amontillado, Napoleon, Seco, Jerez, n.v.: Damp straw in color, light- to medium-bodied and crisply dry. Opens with a strong whiff of iodine and salt water, those fading comfortably into the background to show grilled and roasted walnuts and almonds that highlight pear, apple and green olive notes. Lovely with ham and seafood tapas offerings. Drink now. Score 90.

Bodegas Bertola, Pedro Ximenez, 30 Years, VORS, Jerez, n.v.: Dark, impenetrable mahagony in color, intensely sweet with liveliness contributed to by fine balancing acidity. On the nose and palate a complex array of grape, raisin, dried figs, dates, treacle and freshly ground coffee. Fine not with dessert but as dessert. Drink now. Score 94.

Bodegas Bertola, Pedro Ximenez, 12 Years, Jerez, n.v.: Dark mahogany in color with glints of orange shining through, a rich, smooth and remarkably youthful wine. Full-bodied but floats on the palate and reveals floral, grape and dried fig notes on a nearly viscous texture, its generous sweetness set off by fine balancing acidity. Long, generous and well-balanced dessert wine. Drink now. Score 93.

Bodegas Bertola, Amontillado, Fino Imperial, 20 Years, VORS, Jerez, n.v. Deep bronzed gold, going to amber, with a walnut, seawater and floral nose. Full-bodied but seems to float on the palate opening to show a fine array of toffee, iodine and nutty flavors, those culminating in a long and generous bittersweet finish. Drink now. Score 91.

Bodegas Bertola, Amontillado, 12 Years, Jerez, n.v.: Burnished gold in color, medium-bodied, generously aromatic and with generous nutty, caramel and green apple notes. Sits long and comfortably on the palate. Drink now. Score 90.

Bodegas Bertola, Oloroso, Jerez, 12 Years, n.v.: Dark amber, going towards mahogany and deeply aromatic. Categorized as dry but in truth a bit off-dry with hints of honey and near-sweet wood tempering its blackstrap molasses, tobacco and roasted nut aromas and flavors. Well balanced and long. Drink now. Score 90.

Bodegas Bertola, Fino, Jerez, n.v. : Lightgolden straw in color, with a rich almond, walnut and wildflower nose and on the palate notes of apples, seawater and an appealing buttery flavor. Broad, generous and long. Drink now. Score 89

Bodegas Bertola, Olroso, Victoria Regina, 30 Years, VORS, Jerez, n.v. Dark golden orange going to amber, full-bodied and dry with a fine array of nutty, caramel and candied citrus, a lovely Oloroso, dry and full of flavor and richness and, on the intense finish an appealing note of iodine. Drink now. Score 92.

Bodegas Toro Albara, Pedro Ximenez, Don P.X. , Reserve Especial, Etiqueta Doble, 1966: Not so much American mahogany in color as the dark black of Brazillian jacaranda wood, full-bodied and with intense sweetness but remarkably fresh and light. Traditional Pedro Ximenez fig, grape, raisin, and molasses aromas and flavors lead to a commendably long finish. Drink now-2015. Score 93.

Bodegas Toro Albara, Pedro Ximenez, Don P.X., Gines Liebana, 1910: Almost 100 years old but still sprightly and, with near perfect balance between sweetness and acidity, even "bouncy". Impenetrable mahogany in color, with intense sweetness and, rum-soaked fruitcake flavors. It is all here - raisins, figs, molasses, eucalyptus honey and chocolate - all leading to a phenomenally long finish. Drinking beautifully now but no way to predict how long this one will cellar. Let's put it this way - if you decide to hold it until 2050 you won't go too far wrong. Score 93.

Bodegas Toro Albara, Pedro Ximenez, Don P.X., Reserva Especial, Etiqueta Doble, 1981: An oh-wow wine, for immediately following the generous sweetness are notes of mint, molasses, and vanilla, all coming together seamlessly. Full-bodied and intense but sits lightly on the palate and leads to a long milk-chocolate finish. Drink now-2020. Score 93.

Bodegas Toro Albara, Pedro Ximenez, Don P.X., 2005: A baby but oh what a beautiful baby, full-bodied, packed with caramel, raisin and spices and, from mid-palate on notes of espresso coffee and chocolate. Thick, dark brown and with intense sweetness, that balanced beautifully by natural acidity. Long and elegant. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2013-2020. Score 92.

Bodegas Toro Albara, Pedro Ximenez, Don P,X., Reserve Especial, Etiqueta Doble, 1983: What can you say about a wine that has its sources 25 years ago but is still youthful enough to be thought of as "a toddler"? Simple enough, you say, "marvelous". Full-bodied, with generous sweetness set off nicely by natural acidity, with minted chocolate and molasses on first attack, those yielding to raisins, dried figs, and generous hints of cream-sweetened espresso coffee. Long, complex and elegant. Drink now-2025. Score 92.

Bodegas Toro Albara, Pedro Ximenez, Don P.X., 1979: Mahogany towards black in color, with notes of blackstrap molasses, bakers' chocolate, raisins and mineral notes. Full-bodied and mouth-coating but remarkably light on the palate. Long and elegant. Drink now-2020. Score 92.

Disznoko, Aszu, 6 Puttonyos, Tokaji, 2001: Full-bodied, with generous sweetness and botrytis overlays set off by crisp acidity. On first attack, oranges, lemon and honey, those followed by quince and peach fruits, all leading to a mineral-rich finish that goes on and on seemingly without stop. The stuff of which dreams are made. Drink now-2030. Score 96.

Disznoko, Aszu, 4 Puttonyos, Tokaji, 2004: Medium-bodied, with orange, orange peel and kiwi fruits, those on a background of earthy, floral and minty aromas and flavors on first attack those opening to honeyed and mineral notes that linger long and comfortably. Best from 2010-2025. Score 92. Arvay. Aszu, 6 Puttanyos, Tokaji, 2000: The best ever from this producer. Generous botrytis influence in this medium- to full-bodied oak-aged wine. On the nose and palate candied citrus and berries along with cinnamon, cloves and minerals, all leading to a long crème patisserie and espresso-rich finish. Elegance on a grand scale. Drink now-2035, perhaps longer. Score 96.

Arvay, Edes Elet Cuvee, Tokaji, 2003: A medium- to full-bodied blend of Furmint,Harslevel and Sargamuskatoly grapes, showing appealing botrytis funkiness along with floral, vanilla, apple pie and cinnamon aromas and flavors. Clean and spicy, almost like eating ginger snap cookies. Drink now-2010. Score 89.

Patricius, Late Harvest, Tokaji, 2003: Light golden straw in color, medium-bodied, reflecting its 12 months in barriques with appealing vanilla and caramel notes. A blend of Furmint and Harslevel grapes, those partly showing a light botrytis influence. Lightly sweet, showing dried orange, tobacco and white chocolate on a lightly spicy background. Just the right hints of complexity and elegance. Drink now-2012. Score 90.

Patricius, Aszu, 4 Puttonyos, Tokaji, 2001: Deep sweetness balanced by lively acidity, a medium- to full-bodied wine showing orange, orange peel and cinnamon notes those on a background of crème patisserie. A bit rustic but very pleasant. Drink now-2012. Score 89.

Patricius, Aszu. 5 Puttonyos, Tokaji, 2000: Medium-bodied, with fine honeyed sweetness and showing orange, nutmeg and cinnamon aromas and flavors. Gentle and elegant. Drink now-2012. Score 90.

Patricius, Aszu, 6 Puttonyos, Bendecz, Tokaji, 2000: Full-bodied, unctuous and creamy but with a lively structure that holds the honeyed summer fruits, citrus peel and mineral notes in fine balance. On the finish an appealing toasted caramel finish. Drink now-2020. Score 92.

Apple Ice Wines (Including Some That Are Kosher)

As is fairly well known, I do not often review or, if the truth be told, even bother to taste fruit wines, frankly finding grape wines of far more interest and complexity. During my visit to Vinoble 2008, however, I sampled several of apple ice wines, two of them even certified as kosher. How I came to taste these is quite simple. The first tasting, from La Face Cachee de la Pomme, came about after a tasting of the Inniskillin ice wines and primarily because I was too polite to reject the obvious enthusiasm of the two gentlemen who offered them to me. No regrets on that.

The second tasting came about even more in accordance with the rules of serendipity, for as I was making my way to that sacred place at the exhibition where espresso coffee flowed like spring water, my eye caught a note on another stand, that of Domaine Pinnacle, stating that their apple ciders were kosher. It was certainly not thirst but curiosity that made me stop to do a tasting. Again, no regrets at all.

Those interested in locating these apple wines can contact La Face Cachee de la Pomme by email to and Domaine Pinnacle at

Domaine Pinnacle, Ice Cider, Quebec, 2005: Absolutely delicious, calling to mind ice-cold apple juice with a decided alcoholic kick (12%), a dessert-style qua ice-style fruit wine shows generous apple and apricot fruits, those backed up by notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, all on a vibrant background Lingers comfortably and remarkably clean on the palate. Drink now. Score 88. K

Domaine Pinnacle, Sparkling Ice Cider, Quebec, 2006: With generous fine bubbles, a sparkling ice cider showing green and red apple notes along with (surprisingly enough) hints of grapes, spices and lanolin. Light, with moderate sweetness well balanced by natural acidity and a well balanced, lightly honeyed note on the finish. Drink now-2009. Score 88. K

La Face Cachee de la Pomme, Neige, Cidre de Glace, Quebec, 2006: Not a true Icewine per se because it was made from on-the-tree frozen Macintosh and Spartan apples but don't let that hold you back because this is a delightful beverage. Generously sweet but with fine natural balancing acidity and clean, fresh apple flavors, those with hints of apricots and yellow peaches. An excellent aperitif or good with chicken, duck or goose liver pates. Drink now. Score 86.

La Face Cachee de la Pomme, Neige Eternelle, Cidre de Glace, Quebec, 2004: Made from eight different varieties of winter-harvested frozen apples, an ice-cider of great charm. Developed in barriques, showing appealing hints of cloves, cinnamon and vanilla on rich, clean apple flavors and aromas. A sweet fruit wine perhaps but one with good balancing acidity and enough complexity to grab the attention comfortably. Drink now or in the next year or two. Score 88.

La Face Cachee de la Pomme, Frimas, Cidre de Glace, Quebec, 2006: Deep gold in color, medium- to full-bodied, made primarily from Golden Russet apples, and with fine natural acidity to set off the generous sweetness. On the nose and palate appealing honeyed apple, tropical fruits and citrus. Best as a dessert wine with either cakes or cheeses. Drink now-2010. Score 88.

A Potpourri From 11 Different Countries


Inniskillin, Riesling, Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, 2006: One of the best ever from Inniskilin, Light gold with orange and green tints and reflections, medium-bodied, with moderate sweetness set off nicely by lively acidity. Opens with a generously but not cloyingly floral and honeyed nose, goes on to open in the glass to reveal apple, summer fruits, and a hint of pineapple, those on a lightly peppery background. Try this one with an éclair filled with vanilla pastry cream and you'll know what paradise is all about. Drink now-2020, perhaps longer. Score 95.

Inniskillin, Vidal, Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, 2006: Oak-aged and showing deep sweetness, that well set off by natural acidity. Medium-bodied, with excellent, near-intense concentration, but floating lightly on the palate. On the nose and palate summer fruits, green apples and nectarines, all with light honeyed and spicy overlays. Another 2006 triumph for Inniskillin. Drink now-2018, perhaps longer. Score 94.

Inniskillin, Vidal, Sparkling Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, 2005: I suppose that many palates become jaded after a while (why do I think specifically of nouveau-riche palates?) and for those people a sparkling Icewine is probably in order. This one, made from Vidal grapes using the Charmat method is pleasant enough. What is lost in the bubbles, however, are the rich flavors and finely tuned balance of the regular (that is to say, non-sparkling) edition. Nice but far from great. Drink now-2010. Score 88.

Inniskillin, Cabernet Franc, Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, 2006: Medium-bodied, rusty-pink in color, with a distinct note of vanilla and cinnamon sweetness along with blackberry and citrus peel notes, a red dessert wine that, although lacking in complexity does manage to refresh. Those who know me well enough will understand my comment that "at least it is better than sparkling Shiraz". Not my cup of Icewine but pleasant enough I suppose. Drink now-2012. Score 87.

Jackson-Triggs, Vidal, Icewine, Proprietor's Reserve, Niagara Peninsula, 2005: Light golden, medium-bodied, imparting an interesting sweet and sour sensation to the palate. Opens to show appealing honeyed apples, citrus and spicy notes that linger nicely. Appealing but not up to the best Jackson-Triggs standards. Drink now-2011. Score 87.


Domaines Francois Lurton, Pasitea, Valle de Uco, Argentina, 2007: A light- to medium-bodied blend of 60% Torrontes and 40% Pinot Gris grapes. Light golden straw in color, a lively wine with moderate sweetness, good balancing acidity and lightly honeyed apples and sugared citrus peel. Light, lively and refreshing, best as an aperitif. Drink now. Score 86.


Domaines Francois Lurton, De Puta Madre, Vino de Mesa, Pantelleria, Sicily, 2007: Made from Verdejo grapes, as light in body as in its straw color, with moderate sweetness, and appealing citrus, green apple and dried raisins, all on a lightly spicy background. A simple but appealing summertime quaffer. Drink now. Score 85.

Domaines Francois Lurton, Passito di Pantelleria, Carole Bouquet, Sicily, 2006: A blend of Muscat of Alexandria and Zibbido grapes. Deep, almost bronzed gold in color, full-bodied, near-unctuous and with generous sweetness, that balanced well by natural acidity and showing generous honeyed citrus and apricots. Best not with but as dessert. Drink now-2014. Score 89.


Domaines Francois Lurton Mas Janeil, Maury, Roussillon, 2004: Medium-bodied, with soft, caressing tannins and pronounced but gentle sweetness, this red blend of Grenache and Carignan (80% and 20% respectively) shows appealing sweet berry, cherry and cassis notes, all on a light peppery and mineral background. Generous and warm, a good bet for cold weather drinking. Drink now-2012. Score 89. Domaine Patrick Baudouin, Les Bruandieres, Coteaux du Layon, Loire, 2004: Made from Chenin Blanc grapes, medium-bodied, light gold in color, with generous sweetness and appealing lime, kiwi and floral notes. Drink now-2010. Score 88.

Domaine Patrick Baudouin, Maria Juby, Coteaux du Layon, Loire, 2004: Medium-bodied, with moderate sweetness complimented by fresh acidity and generous botrytis influence. On the nose and palate traditional Chenin Blanc citrus peel, quince and apple notes, those on an appealing earthy-mineral background. Opens nicely in the glass. Drink now-2009. Score 88.

Domaine Patrick Baudouin, Selection d Grains Nobles, Coteaux du Layon, Loire, 2004: From Chenin Blanc grapes, with generous sweetness well balanced by acidity and opening on the palate to show raisin, apple and stewed quince notes, all leading to a long mineral-rich finish. Drink now-2012. Score 89.

Chateau Lamothe Guignard, Sauternes, 2005: Best ever from this chateau. Full-bodied, almost viscous and with generous sweetness set off nicely by natural acidity and a light botrytis overlay. On the nose and palate generous apricot pie and toffee notes, those complemented nicely by notes of citrus peel. Spicy, mouth-filling and long. Approachable by 2010 but best 2013-2025. Score 94.

Chateau Lamothe Guignard, Sauternes, 2002: Light gold in color, primarily Semillon, that blended with 5% each of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadel. Medium- to full-bodied, moderately sweet with light hints of botrytis funk and spices and showing apple, pear and caramel notes. Generous, mouth-filling and moderately long. Drink now-2018. Score 90.

Chateau Lamothe, Sauternes, 2003: After 26 months in barriques this traditional blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle (85%, 10% and 5% respectively) opens with an intense vanilla and pineapple nose, those yielding on nose and palate to dried apricots, citrus and honey. Full-bodied, with abundant fruit and a long fruity finish. Drink now-2018. Score 90.

Chateau Romer du Hayot, Sauternes, 2001: Showing much, much better than at barrel tastings. Medium- to full-bodied, light gold with orange and green tints, with lightly honeyed sweetness and generous botrytis influence. On the nose and palate pineapple, honey and apple pie notes matched nicely by minerals and spices. Deep, intense and long. Drink now-2022. Score 90.

Chateau La Bertrande, Cadillac, 2003: Semillon tried and true. Full-bodied, with moderate honeyed sweetness matched nicely by apples, peaches, crème patisserie and just the right hint of botrytis funkiness. Drink now-2015. Score 89.

Chateau Le Cros, Loupiac, 2003: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle come together very nicely indeed on a medium-bodied, moderately sweet background. Opens to show apple pie, dried apricots and a not of crème caramel, all lingering nicely. Drink now-2012. Score 88.

Lebanon and Jordan

Clos St. Thomas, Le Miel de Clos, Liqueur deVin, Libano, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 2005: Medium-bodied, made from Muscat of Hamburg grapes this red, reinforced wine shows very generous sweetness, that failing to be set off by acidity which leaves the sweet red berry and cherry fruits a bit too cloying and coarse. Reminds me of too many of the not-at-all exciting reinforced red dessert wines that I have tasted in Israel. Drink now. Score 80.

Clos St. Thomas, Delice des Mones, Beka Valley, Lebanon, 1997: Made entirely from Grenache grapes, those fortified by neutral alcohol an age in barriques for 5 - 6 years. Medium- to full-bodied, notably smooth and rich, showing an appealing array of blackberry, blueberry and raspberry fruits, those on a lightly honeyed background. Smooth and long. Drink now-2011. Score 89.

Zoukeirat, Jordan, n.v. A super-sweet reinforced blend of Moscatel and Chardonnay grapes that seems to have gone seriously wrong somewhere along the way. Cloudy yellow in color, with aromas and flavors that remind of nothing more than too sour lemincello. Drink now if at all. Score 70.

Port - Portugal

Ferreira, Tawny Port, Dona Antonia Reserva, 8 Years, Port, n.v.: Medium-bodied, dark ruby towards garnet, showing soft tannins and appealing plum, chocolate and caramel notes. Silky and round with a crisp fruity finish. Drink now. Score 88.

Ferreira, Tawny Port, Quinto do Porto, 10 Years, Port, n.v.: Rusty red in color, full-bodied, with moderate sweetness and an appealing array of chocolate, caramel and purple plums. Fruits rise nicely on a moderately-long finish. Drink now. Score 89.

Ferreira, Tawny Port, Duque de Braganca, 20 Years, Port, n.v.: Medium- to full-bodied, with moderate sweetness well balanced by acidity. Appealing dried plums and rasisins highlighted by notes of orange peel and caramel. A not at all complex but very pleasant wine. Drink now. Score 86.

Ferreira, Vintage Port, 1995: Dark, almost inky black in color, opens with a burst of violets and raspberries and then goes on to currants and chocolate. Full-bodied, moderately sweet with soft tannins and fine concentration. Drinking nicely now but best from 2012. Score 91.

Ferreira, Vintage Port, 2000: Medium-bodied with soft, caressing tannins and moderate sweetness. On the nose and palate currants, plums and spices, all with hints of stony and earthy minerals. Nicely balanced and moderately long. Best from 2010. Score 90.

Sandeman, Tawny Port, Imperial Reserva, n.v.: Medium-bodied, with light- to medium-sweetness and showing appealing ripe plums, honey and walnuts. A bit hot on the finish but a well-defined wine. Drink now. Score 87.

Sandeman Tawny Port, 10 Years, n.v.: As it is at every release, a medium-bodied, moderately sweet, well baanced and, although not overly complex very pleasant and easy to drink Tawny Port. On the nose and palate prunes and raisins along with notes of caramel, toffee and honey. Drink now. Score 89.

Sandeman, Tawny Port, 20 Years, n.v.: A beautiful Tawny, full-bodied, with a nose and palate that show tempting arrays of honey, caramel and egg yolks, those as background for its nutty and orange peel personality. Generous sweetness here but fine balancing acidity and with a long nutty-butterscotch finish. Drink now. Score 92.

Sandeman, Vau Vintage Port, 2000: Full-bodied and with generous sweetness, good balancing acidity and tempting prune, raisin, coffee and chocolate notes. A fine wine but lacks the tannins required for more than medium-term aging Drink now-2012. Score 89.

Republic of Georgia

Kaknur, Rkatsiteli, Alazani Valley, Georgia, 2007: Light straw colored, light in body, semi-sweet, with a deep floral nose and citrus and pineapple fruits. Without complexity and a bit cloying it is easy to think of this as the equivalent of Israel's Emerald Riesling. Drink up. Score 75.

Vinoterra, Arva Tvishi, Georgia, 2007: A light- to medium-bodied semi-dry white made entirely from Tsolikouri grapes. Not at all complex but with appealing grapefruit and tropical fruits a entry-levelquaffer, possibly at its best with several ice cubes added. Drink up. Score 79.

Eniseli, Kinuzmarauli, Saparavi Kahleti, n.v.: Dark ruby in color, a lightly off-dry red made entirely from Kinuzmarauli grapes. Light- to medium-bodied with soft tannins and on the nose raspberries, strawberries and red cherries, a simple but pleasant quaffer. Serve well chilled. Drink now. Score 80

Metekhi, Saparavi, Ice Wine, Racha, n.v.: Made from Saparavi grapes, a light-to medium-bodied, generously sweet red wine, that lacking balancing acidity and showing somewhat medicinal aromas that linger too long before revealing a skimpy red fruits. Drink up. Score 74.


Domaine du Mont d'Or, Johannisberg du Valais, Vin Doux Natural, Saint Martin, Valais,, Switzerland, 2005: Lively pale gold, medium- to full-bodied, with flavors of ripe apricots, glazed orange peel, almonds, spices and smoke, those complemented nicely hints of cream and sea salt. Drink now-2015. Score 90.


Concha y Toro, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Maule Valley, Chile, 2005: A very pretty wine, medium-bodied, with moderate sweetness set off nicely by balancing acidity and showing peaches, orange peel, spices, and a light honeyed note that runs throughout. As good as an aperitif as with goose liver or fruit-based desserts. Drink now-2011. Score 89.

Undurrago, Late Harvest Semillon, Reserve, Maipo Valley, Chile, 2006: Generously sweet, with hints of botrytis and appealing fig, pear and herbal aromas and flavors. Needs a bit more acidity to keep it lively. Drink now. Score 85.

USA - California

Quady, Essencia, California, 2006: Made from Orange Blossom Muscat grapes and fortified with neutral brandy, this dark golden towards orange colored wine shows smooth and comfortably moderate sweetness set off by good balancing acidity. On the nose and palate white peaches, nectarines, oranges, and figs on an appealingly spicy background. Fine as dessert or, on the rocks as an aperitif. Lovely. Drink now-2012. Score 90.

Quady, Elysium, California, 2006: Dark ruby in color, medium-bodied, sweet but not cloying. Opens with floral and berry notes, those going on to reveal a fascinating combination of tropical fruits, cherries, nectarines and oranges, all on a lightly honeyed background. Sweet but lively, a very good match to berry, peach or plum pies. Drink now-2011. Score 89.

Quady, Deviation, California 2006: Samuel Pepys adored aromatized wines (wines in which had been steeped flowers, herbs and spices). I suppose that was his privilege as he also adored pickled oysters. This generously sweet aromatized wine, made from Orange Muscat grapes, shows distinct aromas and flavors of roses and geraniums along with hints of chives and white pepper. I feel frankly unqualified to evaluate this wine but will say that it brought a broad smile to my face. Whether that was a smile of pleasure or of confusion is something I have not yet decided.


Domaine Sigalas, VinSanto Sigalas, Santorini, Greece, 2003: Medium- to full-bodied, a blend of sun-dried Asyrtiko and Aidana grapes. Generously sweet, with fine balancing acidity and loaded with fig, pear, apple, kiwi and pineapple fruits all overlaid with notes of cinnamon, crème brulee and a hint of anise that creeps comfortably in on the finish. Drink now-2011. Score 90.

Samos, Vin Doux Naturel, Grand Cru, Samos, Greece, 2007: Deep golden-orange in color, with generous sweetness matched by lively acidity and showing appealing peach, apricot and pineapple fruits, those on a lightly minted background. Well done. Drink now-2012. Score 90.

Samos, Vin Doux, Vin de Liqueur, Samos, Greece, 2007: Light gold in color, with moderate sweetness and showing generous spiced pear fruits along with hints of crème patisserie. Drink now. Score 86.

Samos, Nectar, Vin Doux Naturel, Samos, Greece, 2004: Aged in French oak for three years, showing orange towards gold in color, a richly sweet wine with good balancing acidity and showing citrus and tropical fruits on a background of cinnamon-rich sweet cream Drink now. Score 87.

Samos, Anthemis, Vin de Liqueur, Samos, Greece, 2002: Made from Muscat de Petits Grains, aged in French oak for five years, lively deep orange in color and showing generous ripe summer fruits. All is fine until mid-palate when a distinct note of garlic rises and then dominates. Drink up. Score 79.

Boutari, VinSanto, Santorini, Greece, 2004: Made from Asyrtiko and Aidani grapes, a generously sweet white dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes. Gold, with orange and green tints, generously sweet, with ripe peach, apricot and citrus notes. Could use some balancing acidity. Best as a sauce for vanilla or peach ice cream. Drink now. Score 84.

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