Topic: TN: MoCool 2002, Ch. 3, Back to Skool, then Pinot Pandemonium...
Author: Manuel Camblor/NYC
Date: Wed Aug 28 12:36:49 2002
Saturday, 24 August 2002: The “Bad to the Beaune” Seminar, Holiday Inn, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Peter Finkelstein lives! Or at least, there is now trustworthy testimony to the existence of said Néctar-Impérial-swilling provocateur. I received this information from none other than Mr. Finkelstein’s employer, Leo Fox, head of the Rénard World Domination Corporation, or at least of a business operating under a similar name.
Leo was the greagarious (and highly informative) seminar-leader at the “Bad to the Beaune” MoCool session on Saturday morning. We would be tasting a number of the best wines he imports into the US.
On walking into the conference room at the Ann Arbor Holiday Inn (a place that, unlike anything else in the MoCool agenda, didn’t require hours of driving to reach) where the tasting took place, the number of bottles with high-sounding names was auspicious.
(Image) The line-up at the Holiday Inn
While hearing gossip about vignerons and about the underbelly of the American wine-import biz. We tasted a good number of decent stuff. Peter Finkelstein was not there, but Leo assures us he does pay a person by that name to work under him.
What was imbibed, with or without expectoration…
1997 François Gay, Chorey-lès-Beaune: Cheesy, sweaty and a bit peppery on the nose, with pleasant waves of raspberry, cranberry and fresh tomatoes. Thin and tannic in the mouth, its redeeming feature being a pleasant freshness. Good length, with plumskinnish tannins on the finish.
1998 François Gay, Chorey-lès-Beaune: A very light and not unpleasant whiff of turpentine, then caramel, raspberries and cookie dough. A fuller thing, compared to its older sibling. It’s also very tannic, but ripeness helps matters along. A chicken-brothy savory vibe in the mouth, along with plums and cherries. Okay stuff, but only just so.
1999 François Gay, Chorey-lès-Beaune: More compact and dense than the preceeding two. Nose of cherry and raspberry preserves, new saddle, dried herbs. Big and brassy on entering the mouth, with ripe tannins and very good acidity. At midpalate it tightens up, becomes more about structure and tougher. A bit lacking in length. A wait-and-see.
1997 François Gay, Savigny-lès-Beaune: Floral and raspberry-sweet nose with accents of hot clay and butter toffee. Savory and smooth, a corpulent wine for its vintage, with a bit of heat on the palate. Nice berry fruit on the aftertaste, but it quickly fades to muteness.
1999 François Gay, Savigny-lès-Beaune: Forward blackberry and bing cherry nose with hints of cola and allspice. Kind of macho-scented. A compact, four-square wine. Tightly packed with ripe fruit and bearing some nice savory accents at midpalate. Decent balance and length.
1999 Roger Belland, “Les Gravières,” Santenay 1er Cru: Cuban birthday cake (yep, I know, that’s a very localized cultural reference that doesn’t comeconveniently packed into Le nez du vin, but what can I do?), cherry jam, cinnamon and wood polish on the nose. Also, a touch of raspberry syrup… Plush and rather sexy in the mouth. It turns a bit grainy towards the end, but the amount and the definition of flavor in this wins the day. Drinking well right now. If I hadn’t bought a good quantity of my favorite Savignys, those of the Maréchals, perhaps I’d stash some of this away…
1999 Roger Belland, “Santenots,” Volnay 1er Cru: Reductive nose. Actually, very much so and with a strange burnt-rubbery aspect to it, too. There are aromas of bitter chocolate, olives, blackberry and something oddly redolent of the chicken coop. The full effect is not at all disagreeable, though. It’s just an awkward drop of Volnay that needs time to get its act together. Ample fruit at midpalate and very good length.
1999 Claude Chevalier, “Rognets,” Corton Grand Cru: Softly elegant. Even its scent is velvety… Minerality, underbrush, bay leaves, beeswax, plums and raspberry jelly aromas. Graceful, even if it’s a bit too chewy at this early stage. Long, loads of charm.
1999 Anne-Marie Gilles, Nuits-Saint-Georges: Ripe red berry nose with notes of cola, allspice, bread-pudding and toasted walnut. Well-berried in the mouth, though the fruit speaks softly. Lovely spicy hints and a faint peppery edge on the balanced, long finish. A very attractive village wine.
1999 Anne-Marie Gilles, “Les Brulées,” Nuits-Saint-Georges: Caramel, toast, caraway seeds, a hint of sweaty horse, cherry and cola on the nose. Muscular and spicy in the mouth. Ripe tannins and firm acidity on the finish. Very good.
1999 Anne-Marie Gilles, “Aux Busselots,” Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru: Very tight, but also very sexily floral on the nose, when all the swirling’s done. Lovely brambliness with accents of lavender, lilac, honeysuckle and rose petals on the nose. Elegant, if still a bit puppyfatty in the mouth. Nice, sweet fruit with excellent acidity. The finish is discreet but long.
1999 Gérard Séguin, “Vieilles Vignes,” Gevrey-Chambertin: Violets, forest floor and raspberry liqueur on the nose. Pleasantly aromatic, yes, but shallow on the palate. The finish is so shy is easily to ignore completely.
1999 Marc Roy, “Clos Prieure,” Gevrey-Chambertin: Very forward, earthy and assertive. Chewy, fruity and alive, though oak kicks in on the palate and overwhelms other flavors, marring what would have been a very nice Gevrey.
1999 Gérard Séguin, “Craipillot,” Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru: The jokes about this one began almost immediately and people were whispering about that name, which for Americans would end up sounding a lot like “Crap-a-lot.” The wine smells like Ben-Gay® off the top. A musty, wet-earth vibe to the nose makes it seem mildly tainted at the end. But it’s not TCA. Some floral and berryish accents on the nose. On the palate the wine is thin and stemmy, with some stoniness comng in on the short finish. A throwaway.
1999 Gérard Séguin, “Lavaux-Saint-Jacques,” Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru: Big, bold and ripe in a New-World kind of style. It almost makes me want to use the adjective “racy…” But no. A sturdy, simplistic fruit bomb is what it is.
Poured blind, a mystery bottle from the cellar of the ever-generous Dave Guimond proved to be the 1990 Mommessin, “Taille-Pieds,” Volnay 1er Cru. It smells very obviously of ’90 ripeness, but I could have never guessed it as a Volnay. Deep garnet-violet color. Caramel, Hermès leather, cardamom, cumin, clove, bread pudding and jammy cherry on the nose. Taut and grainily tannic. Good length and the promise of opulence for the future. A nice surprise.
After this, thanking our speaker and our organizers, we rushed off to Ann Arbor. Things had to be purchased and fat and carbohydrates had to be ingested in massive quantities (a Reuben at Zingermann’s) in preparation for the centerpiece of MoCool 2002, the Saturday afternoon picnic…
Saturday, 24 August 2002: Pandemonium, or, the MoCool Pinot Picnic
The first cut won’t hurt at all.
The second will make you wonder.
The third will have you on your knees…
-Propaganda, “Jewel” (1985)
The dividing line was drawn very clearly. As one walked into the large tent set up at the back of Clay and Cindy Johnson’s gorgeous country estate, one understood… This was “Pinot Envy,” sure. On one side you had the New World and on the other you had the old. The burning questions: Who envies whom? And what exactly is it that is envied?
Seem to you I’m taking a pun on psychoanalysis too seriously? Well, hardly… Freud and, especially, Lacan would have found this whole thing highly amusing, would have been the first three to holler “Let’s get it aaaawwnnn!!!”
On the face of it, the New World side of the tent seemed to be on top. Throngs of good folks went for the Pinots of California and Oregon like there was no tomorrow. The Old World joint, by contrast, looked rather forlorn…
Along with my good friends Camilo Suero, Jayson Cohen and Maureen Nelson, is was precisely for that Old World end of things that I headed. Jayson was going to take notes too. We agreed to publish his set and mine together, eventually, in a Siskel & Ebert sort of arrangement, but also conscious that as a twosome we could cover a lot more ground in terms of the wines being offered.
Of course, meticulous as the good Dr. Cohen and yours faithfully tend to be, we are also notorious europhiles when it comes to our wine. That presented a bit of a problem when it came to the “ground-covering” bit. Each of us made our own valiant attempts to head in different directions, but would almost invariably end up at the same place.
So, what happened in the process? Check it out… My double-barrel Spiegelau attack included a loooooooooot.
1998 Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir “Laurène,” Laurène Valley, Oregon: Yes, that’s what I did first… Humming the unforgettable refrain of Public Enemy’s “Don’t Believe the Hype,” I approached the New World sector, trying to look fearless. The ’93 sibling of this stuff had been more or less not-unkind to me in the past. Baby steps, baby steps… Banal from the first sniff, but, all things considered, it’s not blatantly offensive. A core of black fruit with earthy accents, plus a coffeeiish thing. Simple, medium-length finish.
1997 Ponzi, Pinot Noir “Reserve,” Willamette Valley, Oregon: Cherry jam with a smattering of dust. Too ripe for its own good. Unstructured. A spicy, bread-puddingy vibe on the so-called finish.
1999 Lange, Pinot Noir “Reserve,” Willamette Valley, Oregon: Slightly musty, hot-rubbery, cherry-jammy nose. Simple and monotonous, even downright dumb.
1998 Flowers, Pinot Noir “Pisoni Vineyard,” Santa Lucía Highlands, California: Here’s where it all went South (in case you’re pondering the meaning of the epigraph to this chapter of my notes, here’s where the “on your knees” bit fits). On lifting the glass to my nose I was immediately reminded of the immortal words of Lenny Henry in his very mortal BBC series Chef! Speaking of the pong of a particularly vile Côtes du Rhône, Lenny’s character says: “This wine doesn’t promise, it threatens…” Well, the Flowers thing in my glass was so terrifyingly gobby, overcarpentered and weirdly cod-liver-oily of smell that I didn’t dare put it to my lips. Repulsed, I automatically spilled the contents of the glass on the grass. I swear I could hear the grass scream in pain, hailing venomous curses at the name of my mother in its grassy language, threatening to sue. I ran like hell…
1990 Weinbach, Pinot d’Alsace: Back in a safer place. Oh, that last thing was petrifying. Like staring deep into the eyes of evil… Initially, this Pinot Gris seems faded. But some swirling reveals major green apple, pear and rocks. Bright acidity in the mouth. The finish is slightly quiet, but on the whole it’s a fair drink.
1996 Louis Jadot, “Clos de Malte,” Santenay: Major poopiness on the nose, also leather, good dirt and spicy cherry fruit. Flavorful and succulent, with a nice bit of development to it. Good length.
1997 Écard, “La Narbantonne,” Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru: Stemmy, leathery aroma with hints of clay. Bold and tannic, but with a nice underpinning of red berries. Not bad for Écard, a producer that has proven iffy at best for me.
1998 Mongeard-Mugneret, “Hautes Côtes de Nuits,” Bourgogne: A lightweight mute. How defenseless can a wine get? This poor thing cannot survive, not on the Old World side of our affair, nor on the other. Coffee, dried herbs, stems, skins… Not worth bothering with.
1998 Jean Raphet et Fils, Bourgogne Rouge: Tough and raisiny. Decent structure, but a homely little creature I dispose of very swiftly.
1999 Trimbach, Pinot Gris “Hommage à Catherine,” Alsace: Exhuberant perfume of apricot, beeswax, pear, green apple, ginger and lilies (I was later informed by Sean O’Keefe that such dramatic aromatics in Alsace Pinot Gris usually indicate an addition of Gewürztraminer, since the Pinot doesn’t really smell like much). Fabulously succulent in the mouth, with spices, big fruit and flowers. Long and beautifully structured.
1990 Albert Morot, Beaune-Marconnets: Very pure aromas of cherry, raspberry and lilac. Good concentration. Very firm tannins right now and a finish that seems a little coarse. But it’s promising…
1996 Joseph Drouhin, Beaune-Grèves: Beautiful dirt on this! Ooooooooh, fabulous! Also, the nose has a some reductive elements, plus tar, chocolate, spices, and red berries with a bit of stemminess. Light, graceful and very complex. Great length, with the finish showing deep minerality. Another great ’96 from Drouhin for my personal list.
1994 Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris “Vieilles Vignes,” Alsace: Smells like river stones, beeswax and pickled ginger on a bed of peach preserves. Off-dry verging on mildly sweet, glyceric and rather out of sorts. A bumbling wine.
1996 Fontaine-Gagnard, “Morgeot,” Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru: Wet earth, dried roses, sage, black cherries and the freshest raspberries on the nose… A lot of sweet fruit laced with savory notes. A burst of plumminess at mid-palate, then earth. Long and delicious.
1998 Stone Wolf, Pinot Noir “Legend Reserve,” Willamette Valley, Oregon: A rarity brought to us by the ever amiable Bob Henrick, less than two hundred bottles of this were made. Jammy, reminiscent of those little guava-paste filed vanilla cakes sold at Cuban cafeterias in Miami, the ones called pan con timba. In the mouth it’s lighter than expected, with clean flavors of cherry, raspberry and red licorice. Unfortunately, some very raspy wood tannins kill it on the finish.
1996 Jean Raphet, Gevrey-Chambertin: A bit stewed, ketchupy. Not significant heat damage, but just enough to become distracting (and who needs more distractions in this amazingly riotous assembly?). Brown sugar, berries and flowers… A decent, if unremarkable, village Gevrey.
1998 Joseph Drouhin, “Clos Sorbé,” Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru: Anise, cassis, excellent dirt (the French branch of Drouhin’s business has a wonderful way with this), hot tar and raspberry liqueur. An ample Sorbé, sweet and lush on entry. But it clamps down and gets serious soon thereafter. The tannins simply take hold of one’s tonsils and pull hard… Very long, with impressive concentration and structure. A baby… A mighty, beautiful baby.
2000 M. Pelle, “Morogues” Rosé, Menetou-Salon: A clean, very stony, herbal, berry-peachy, delicate drop of pink. Further proof that Pinot rosés from the Loire rock…
1997 Mittnacht-Klack, Pinot Gris “Schönenbourg,” Alsace: Intense, quartzy minerality on the nose, plus mossy stones, grapefruit and pear. Off dry, with solid structure masked by spun-sugary, flowery stuffing. Long, juicy finish.
1990 Domaine Bachelet, “Vieilles Vignes,” Gevrey-Chambertin: A bit too much oxidation on evidence from first whiff… Decent blackberry-cherry fruit with a tinge of orange zest on the back palate. Going downhill fast.
1990 Philippe Naddef, “Les Cazetiers,” Gevrey-Chambertin: A bad, brown smell, rotten and burnt. Dead, though it may not have been much to begin with.
1995 Davis Bynum, Pinot Noir “Rocchioli Vineyard,” Russian River Valley, California: Half of Maureen Nelson’s holdings of California Pinot, she offers it to us at the MoCool picnic. Aromas of raspberry jam, wintergreen, flan (well, eggs and vanilla…), wood… Forward and fruity. A simple drink that’s somewhat unstructured, but doesn’t partake in the bigger New World sins of excessive booziness and woodiness. Short.
A mini-vertical of a California Pinot Noir that I was told would “change my mind…”
1999 Mueller, Pinot Noir “Emily’s Cuvée,” Russian River Valley, California: Mint and blackberry jam on the nose. On entry it’s spicy and together, with glyceric heat and wood threatening the balance and revealing its precariousness. Quite sweet and jammy at mid-palate. Decent acidity, with a tang of orange peel and tart cherry on the medium finish. Not what I dig, but I can see how this is better than a lot of those other compost-heaps-in-a-bottle on the New World table.
1998 Mueller, Pinot Noir “Emily’s Cuvée,” Russian River Valley, California: Coarse and, ultimately, disjointed. Overripe and with its tannins going all over the place. At this point, the fine ladies offering me these wines start talking about what foods would “work” with these Pinots. The consensus among them seems to be that these wines need food that won’t conflict with them, that aren’t too fussy about anything. The words “Resistance is futile” come to mind when I smell what remains in my glass. A wacko of a wine, not to be “stood up to.”
1997 Mueller, Pinot Noir “Emily’s Cuvée,” Russian River Valley, California: Face-slappingly sweet aroma accented by new wood. In the mouth, it falls apart before I have a chance to even think about it.
The John Trombley introduces…
1976 Winkeler Hasensprung, Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Langhaflich Hessisches,” Rheingau (AP#2602302877): This is a bit scary for its deep toffee color and its murkiness (I think I may have gotten the dregs of the little bottle), but I decide to try it anyway. Given the jammy nature of the previous three Pinot Noir offerings, I decide that an openly sweet wine will not be too out of place in my space-time continuum. Hugely peachy, almondy, toffeeish and intensely earthy perfume of aging Riesling. Graceful sweetness and firm acidity. For those who dare go past the appearance of what was in my glass, a very rewarding dessert wine.
1996 Gentiet-Painsiot, “Le Poissenot,” Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru: Barnyard, dried thyme, cut hay, beef broth, soy, blueberry and blackberry on the compelling nose. Charming, in a serious and rather backward sort of way. Great structure and content.
Pre-dinner, I decide to go for a few whites and rosés. Just me, I guess…
(Image) "How beautiful you look, when the sunlight catches your eyes..."
1999 Ruhlmann, Tokay-Pinot Gris “Cuvée des Amoureux,” Alsace: A label I didn’t know. In fact, being so closely connected to the furniture trade, Ruhlmann is a name that attaches to the highest end of 1920s Art Déco, not wine. And matters will probably stay that way. Spritzy, off-dry and to simple. A sugar-watery little creature.
1999 Kuentz-Bas, Pinot Noir Rosé “Tradition,” Alsace: First of all, this is hardly pink. Really, the color is a medium Burgundy garnet, rather than anything even distantly resembling rosé. Forward aromas and flavors of black cherry, raspberry, pickled ginger and cola. Spritzy, fresh and very nicely structured. This could be a lovely food wine.
1999 Apostelhof, Pinot Gris, Lowberg-Maastricht, The Netherlands: Exactly. That’s what I thought, too… One learns something new every day. Maastricht I remember as a place where I got scammed out of some very good… Well, maybe it’s a story to tell in person. Suffice to say it was over a game of darts at a pub. Wine from there? Could hardly suspect it… Well, it smells like the tap water in certain towns I will not name: Bracken. But that not being a sufficient threat, I put it in my mouth. A nice surprise. Concentrated and sturdily built. Pear, lemon and grapefruit with firm acidity and very decent length.
1992 Fritz Haag, Riesling Auslese “Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr,” Mosel-Saar-Ruwer: Pronounced scent of petrol, Vidalia onions and apricot preserves. Shallow and disposable on the palate.
2000 Jean Reverdy, “Les Villots” Rosé, Sancerre: Shocking to smell pipi de chat in a Pinot Noir, but it’s there among the strawberries and the minerals on the nose. Pert and fresh in the mouth, with lots of delicate fruit.
Dinner consisted of Atlantic salmon on a fruity Israeli couscous bed, masterfully rendered by our own two chefs Alan (Kerr and Bree; I expect you guys to fill in the details of the dish, since I was too absorbed by wines to analyze it beyond “mmmmmmmmm!”), with a bevy of chain-smoking French elves assiting them. At the table, we drank…
1995 Jacky Truchot, “Vieilles Vignes,” Charmes-Chambertin: Truchot makes some of the purest, most untrafficked wines in Burgundy. And they usually take their own sweet time to be ready. Which is why I was surprised to see this Charmes at our table. Very, very tight. Plummy, cherried and with some extremely authentic dirt on the nose. Also, a pleasant stemmy quality. Lively and clean. Opens up briefly at mid-palate and shows what’s to come. Long and graceful. Needs time.
1996 Gentiot-Painsiot. Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru: Uppity, fresh and lovely. Still a bit primary. Violets and blackberries with a tarry mineral component. Good length. But it’s not for now…
1972 Domaine Leroy, Nuits-Saint-Georges: From Mme. Lalou Bize-Leroy’s kind father, a beautiful wine. The initial aromatic impression is of a beach with a lot of seaweed. Sage, black trumpet mushrooms as they cook, dark chocolate and fresh figs. Smooth and sweet in the mouth, with a lovely wave of cherry fruit and a citrusy zing to the long finish. Mature, but lively and delicious.
1999 Domaine Dujac, Clos Saint-Denis: Massive and penetratingly oaky, but also with a dramatic amount of black fruit on the nose. Rich and powerful, with great length. The only problem right now is the immense oak presence. That wood needs to integrate very well before I even begin to consider this approachable. At the very shank of the aftertaste, espresso, bitter chocolate and raspberry take a bow…
1996 Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot, “Les Suchots,” Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru: Very sweetly fruited, in a way that suggests how cold maceration can really be a good thing. Big and bold, if a little on the vapid side.
1985 Joseph Drouhin, Charmes-Chambertin: Earthy, caramelly and very lively on the nose. Smoky and well-structured, with a juicy, plumy core. Yummy stuff.
After this nice wine, I am saddened to report about a lamentable after-dinner episode of MoCool-uncool. As most of us who have attended these delightfully excessive events know, each person brings bottles to the picnic on Saturday and they are tagged with the participant’s name. The purpose of this tagging is to ensure that each bottle is only opened and consumed at a time of its bringer’s choosing.
Well, what happened to the 1997 Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris Séléction des Grains Nobles “Clos Jebsal,” Alsace brought in by my new friend Maureen Nelson was truly shameful. Apparently, a certain man who had been at the dinner table alongside us was attracted to the trophy 375 ml. bottle in question. It was duly tagged with Maureen’s name and awaiting a postprandial moment for its opening. This man (whose name I shall not mention here, but whose identity is very well known to us thanks to witnesses of the sad incident), apparently chose to remove Maureen’s tag from the bottle, replacing it with a new one bearing his own name. This done, he proceeded to uncork the bottle and pour its contents at his discretion, allowing himself an immoderately “generous” portion.
The bottle’s rightful owner could not have a proper taste of the Zind-Humbrecht. The wine went quickly and all she found was a too-nearly-empty bottle.
If it seems to anyone improper for me to decry this unforgivable action here, understand that it violates the spirit of trust and the basic rules of the MoCool picnic. The perpetrator (who mysteriously vanished after disposing of Maureen’s wine), by greed and a complete lack of scruples, hurt many of us very deeply. And in this case it was not about the wine itself, but about the trust.
Like I said, there were witnesses to every single one of this man’s steps. He knows and we know who he is. I hope he never shows his face at MoCool again.
Personally, I feel sorry this had to happen to Maureen at her first MoCool.
Now, back to our regular programming…
1993 Jean-Jacques Confuron, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru: Cola, espresso, earth and masses of blackberry on the nose. Even-handedly rendered, even pretty. It’s remarkably restrained in the mouth. Nice acidity and tame tannins. The raspberry-blackberry flavors fan out happily on the finish.
For weeks before MoCool I had agonized as to what my main vinous contribution to the picnic would be. Then, about 36 hours before I took off for Detroit, it dawned on me that I wanted to put forth a horizontal tasting of the wines made by Domaine Amiot-Servelle in 1998, a vintage the press has knocked excessively, but which I find quite excellent. Here’s what happened…
1998 Amiot-Servelle, “Les Charmes,” Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru: Orange zest, anise, spices and very beautifully expressed terroir on the nose. Textbook Charmes with floral notes appearing and disappearing from behind blackberry andFuji apple aromas. It enters the mouth with a wave of sweetness, then clamps down quickly, becoming rather moody and tannic. The finish is very long and its salient feature is an ethereal mineral-floral vibe. This wine is a gorgeous baby girl that will one day turn into an adult that’s a cross between Bette Davis and Grace Kelly. Utterly lovely.
1998 Amiot-Servelle, “Derrière-la-Grange,” Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru: Backward. A much more tightly-packed and rustic wine than the Charmes. Nose of sweet plum, red berries, underbrush and rocks. On the palate it’s angular and a bit rough, but with very nice stuffing in evidence. Hugely tannic. Not to be messed with for a while.
1998 Amiot-Servelle, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru: From the other side of the Musigny hill… Very big and unforgiving for the disturbance of its sleep. The first whiff is a bang of violets, good-cigar smoke and primary black fruit. In the mouth it’s a monster that promises to become beautiful and gentle over many years. Long finish with mighty tannins and acidity, plus accents of raisins, licorice, rosemary and hot rocks.
1998 Amiot-Servelle, “Les Amoureuses,” Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru: As much as I had loved that lithe young Charmes, this Amoureuses made me forget it in a snap. Complex, alluring perfume of raspberry preserves, toffee, licorice, ash, bacon fat, earth, thyme and rosemary. Chewy and rich in the mouth, with red berries, apples and deep minerality, tied together by a note of anise. Wonderful citrusiness to the acidity and huge-but-well-polished tannins. I love it and will buy as much as I can lay my hands on.
Moving right along, I found a horizontal sampling of 1999 Bonnes Mares. Can’t say we weren’t doing well… Oh, and by that time night had fallen and the Old World section seemed to be the place to be. Either the New World people had run out of wine or they simply sensed it was nothing but great stuff on the other side now.
1999 Roumier, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru: Massive; a very typical young Roumier. Aromas of cherry, anise and earth, blackcurrant and cinnamon. It’s a primary but delicious nose. Sweet and layered in the mouth, with a vague florality making things especially interesting. Smooth, with a wonderful mineral savoriness adding interest to the deep raspberry flavors. Great finish with powerful tannins carrying the day at the very end.
1999 Vincent Girardin, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru: This négociant has a way of making consistently nice (though sometimes a little bland) wines across his whole range. A lot of them are drinkable young, like this Bonnes Mares. Soft, sweet and accessible. Black cherry and blackberries on the nose, accented by scents of cardamom, cola, clove and coffee beans. Beautiful, silky mouthfeel. Great concentration, but without so much tannic grip. I have a feeling this could be a great food wine right now.
1999 Robert Groffier, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru: Quite oaky, but in an elegant way. The wood comes across as a spiciness that (at least to me) is complimentary to the cherry and raspberry aromas. Lively, fruity and floral in the mouth, with good length. It’s only at the very end that the wood wants to claim more protagonism than is decorous.
As calls were issued for the start of the infamous yearly “cellar stuffing” (a practice by which the gracious host of the picnic tries to fit as many human beings as possible in his home cellar, in order to raise its ambient temperature by about fifty degrees Farenheit; people flock and the overall effect is not unlike that of the clowns in the tiny car at the circus), I sampled a pair of sweeties and completely forgot to note their vintages. One was a Weinbach, Tokay Pinot Gris Séléction des Grains Nobles “Altenberg,” Alsace: Intense aromas and flavors of apricots, candied grapefruit, custard, honey and mossy stones (this last a subtle expression of botrytis). Very young and tightly coiled, with excellent acidity on the finish. The other was a Zind-Humbrecht, Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives “Rotenberg,” Alsace: An extremely citrusy, zippy Pinot with lovely aromas and flavors of grapefruit and apricot. Not too sweetand very balanced.
Now, could any of the fellow obsessive notetakers present fill in the vintages? These could have been ‘96s or ‘98s but I don’t want to play guessing games.
(Image) Entering Clay''s Cellar, I was seeing like this...
Invading Clay’s cellar, I was quickly made to forget libation. Speaking to John Wolf I got a highly distressing bit of advance info. The theme for the next MoCool had already been decided and would be “Go West, Young Man!” The emphasis, because John claims they “need to be honored,” would be on wines from the West Coast of the United States.
A shiver went up and down my spine. My whole body cringed as I contemplated… You know what. I tried to dissuade John from this folly, to talk him into convincing the rest of the MoCool organizational gang to give up this folly. He denied me. I could feel my hair graying…
I took a pour of 1982 Ch. Margaux, Margaux, Bordeaux and left the cellar, muttering a Cuban voodoo curse in Hebrew that would quickly turn Mr. Wolf into a cartoon character. The horror! All California and Oregon! I guess I will not be attending, since I no longer have the emotional equipment that deals effectively with such a swillfest.
(Image) Mr. Wolf as the Curse of the Latin Liquidator begins to take effect...
And then it hit me. I would start my own secession. These guys are incorporated, so no using of the name MoCool. I would call my “thang” Mo’ Cul and the first installment would be held in Ibiza. A dozen kickin’ DJs, only great wines and a very skimpy sort of dress code. The second one could be held in Punta Cana, down in my native Caribbean. Big beach bonfire for a picnic. Yeah, that’s right…
I went back in the cellar, told John and began enlisting good people for the project.
The I smelled that Margaux and pressed “pause” on the activity-planning side of my brain.
Someone had said this ’82 was already “mature.” From its aroma, I couldn’t disagree more strongly. It’s bold and full of roasted aromas and flavors. Nothing subtle in it, the cherry-cassis fruit packing quite a whallop. Very nice dirt, though the floral nuances I adore so in great Margaux are only there in a faint way. The acidity is not too high and the tannins are kind of grainy. But this wine is only giving off a tiny fraction of what it could. The finish is tight. It still needs to evolve for another decade in order even to begin showing some of its real stuff.
It was late when we left the house of Clay and Cindy. My mind was racing with the Ibiza plot, but also with the prospect of the after-party I had dreamed up. We were headed for room 126 at the Hawthorn Suites, Ann Arbor. A whole bunch of beautiful whites awaited… Did I say it was late? Whatever possessed me? It was only one in the morning…
Of course, a number of the invitees to this momentous post-event event wimped out. Sold out the brave quintet who convened in that hotel room and kept pounding at fine wine. Sean O’Keefe joined us. Jayson Cohen, Maureen Nelson and Camilo were there. And so was I. We had junk food and we had drink. We had the spirit with us and the deep, sweet, jazzy funk of the Brand New Heavies caressing us from the boombox Camilo brought. Unfortunately, Karl Wee, whom I was delighted to meet at the picnic, didn’t make it.
We opened with the 1995 R.H. Coutier, Brut, Champagne, which, tastewise, landed with a thud. Nose of croissants, almonds, apples, pears and lemon. Unstructured and unenergetic in the mouth. Broad fruit and some mineral savoriness, but the full package is a failure.
(Image) Jayson Cohen and Maureen Nelson kick back in Room 101, er, 126...
Next came something beautiful that is unavailable in Manhattan, as far as Jayson and I know, the 2000 François Chidaine, “Les Choisilles,” Montlouis. Having tasted the astonishing 2000 “Clos Habert” from this Loire producer very recently, expectations were high for this bottle. Herbal, seawatery, deeply mineral nose with accents of citrus, Granny Smith apples and rhubarb. A firm wine with a lively palate print. Mouthwatering, citrusy acidity and more rocks than one can shake a stick at. Long and complex. Quite delicious. A ine I could drink every day.
Maureen was first to go. Fatigue got to her. So it was just us boys left to hear Sean O’Keefe’s fascinating stories about his adventures on the Riesling trails of France and Germany. After a bottle of ’94 Müller-Catoir Rieslaner turned out to be severely corked, we opted for one more wine. Time had flown and we needed to catch a couple of winks before the Sunday ceremonies began (as Camilo so precisely put it: “Damn, these folks like to have their lunch early! I mean, noooooon on a Sunday? Fer cryin’ out loud!!!).
So, the 1999 Mittnacht Klack, Tokay Pinot Gris “Rosenbourg,” Alsace happened. Weirdly muted aroma, with nothing much beyond citrus and rocks. Quite sweet and rather disjointed in the mouth, with a buttery note and some odd rock-candy sort of vibes. A medium-intensity finish with honeydew melon and pear accents. Of course, these Mittnacht Klacks are famous for resolving themselves over the course of three days sitting in one’s fridge after being opened, so what remains in the bottle will have to be tasted again.
The rest of the case we had destined for this mini-occasion would end up on our brunch table the next day. Take the wine home? Unthinkable. It had to be consumed at Mocool…
(To Be Continued...)