Friday, December 23, 2005

Dec 23, 2005 - Holiday Drinking.

1994 - Vega Sicilia Valbuena No.5
Interesting fruit aromas on opening but acidic & sour notes coming through. With air grew progressively more acidic. Wine did not seem corked - storage conditions seemed decent. Might have been an off bottle but this is a poor showing especially compared to its big brother - Unico... 85pts??

1995 - Pichon Comtesse de Lalande - Puillac

Opened with very promising notes of black fruit - somewhat muted, short on the palate and length - served straight out of the cellar. Over time ( approx. 1hour ) with air and higher temperatures it opened up and showed more of the classic Puillac character and with a "feminine" soft character. Green peppers, faint hint of pencil shavings and tobacco. Mid Palate filled out and finish was better though still a bit on the short sight. Probably can do with 3-5 more years in the cellar. 94+ pts.

1989 - Chateau La Fluer Petrus- Pomerol.

Drink up. Its probably hit the maturity plateau and going downhill at this point. Fine , sweet tannins, liqourice and a bit of herbaceous. finish a bit on the short side. 88pts.

2002 - Alois Kracher #12 - Austria.

This was very promising on the nose and the viscosity of the liquid was like some honeys. This was almost painful tasting - hints of citrus/lemon/apricots but the sugar level and viscocity just overwhelmed and annoyed me a bit too much. There is very high acidity here but still not good enough to counter the sweetness and viscocity. 4% alcohol residual sugars through the roof. Ouch! - If there is something as too much of a good thing - this is it. Verdict => Unbalanced. No idea how this will evolve or improve in the future - probably will take 50 years. Right now its no fun drinking - 88pts. Probably deserves more from the point of technical achievement. Revisit in 20 years??!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dec 14, 2005. Misc. Tasting notes

December 14, 2005. Various tasting notes.

Its been a while since the last entry - sorry folks - the wine hunter has been bogged down a bit. Not very productive last few weeks as far as wine tastings are concerned. Here are a few assorted notes - no theme.

2000 - L'Interdit de Bandon

A VTD by law. It looks like the owner of Ch. Valandraud broke a few too many rules to produce this and was deemed "unworthy" of AOC designation ( same story for the L'interdit de Valandraud). This opened up early and was accesible early black fruits, dense and concentrated considerable tannin but tame and quite fine. Would have to say the after bouqet in the glass and aftertaste/finish was actually better than time in the mouth. Could use a few more years ( 3-5? ) 89pts.

1999 - Chateau Quinault - L'enclos

Lighter than L'Interdit but more complex. This had finese and better all round. Good now and requiring little air time 30-45mins. 91pts.

1997 - Rene Renou, Bonnezeaux Le Mellereses

Sweet wine with very good acidity. Not syrupy but lively and light. Had it with chinese hot pot and various seafood goodies. Went very well with the seafood - especially conch shell and fish. SAY NO TO GURWERTZTRAMINER for Chinese food. Whoever made that up is an idiot. I have found a Bonnezeaux or German Spatlese very nice matches. 90+ pts.

1985 - Chateau De Feslese , Bonnezeaux.

Had this a while ago but didn't seem to make it into the blog. "TRUFFLES".. Yes wonderful aroma of truffles, good acidity, apricots, honey, peaches and TRUFFLES. Had it with a Schezuan "saliva chicken" ( sorry folks no alternative tranlations here). I have to say I was very impressed with the combination of 1000 year old eggs with a Bonnezeaux. 92 + 4 ( truffles!) pts.

2000 - Ridge. Montebello Chardonnay.

This is getting better than first tasted 2 years ago. Californian Chardonnay but with a bit of Burgundian minerality and depth. Opened tight and took some time to "unwind". Rumors of this wine's death are greatly exagerrated and actually needs a few more years (3-5?). Hints of 2ndary flavors starting to appear. 92+ pts

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Nov 21, 2005. Dom Perignon Dinner

Monday night. We had a nice dinner at Petrus - the restaurant at the top of the Hong Kong Island Shangri-La hotel. The food was decent. The canapes were quite nice. The Jabugo ham was a bit of a disappointment. Anyone having had the real thing (i.e. 36month aged Jambon Iberico Pata Negra ) will feel the Jabugo came up a bit short as far as flavor depth goes. Next was the Lobster in the shell with spaghettini and oscietra caviar. Lobster was decent but I really enjoyed the spaghettini with caviar in tomato confit. The challand duck breast was quite good here - well executed. Good depth of flavor in the duck as well as a nice "fatty" layer right under the caramelized skin. hmm hmm.

Anyway on to the wines.

1998 Dom Perignon : Really forward wine, acidity perceivably lower than the '96. Nutty hazelnut/almond nose. Drink up fast - don't think this is one for the long haul. 92pts.

1990 Dom Perignon Enotheque : Much better. Nutty hazelnut, almond and toasty nose. Still very lively with numerous bubble trails. A champagne in adolescence starting to pick up maturity and 2ndary notes but not losing its youth. Probably needs another 5 years before it hits its maturity plateau. Good depth of flavor and smooth. 94pts.

1995 Dom Perignon Rose: Very different, nice pink hues. Nose throws off surprise surprise ... Pinot Noir aromas. Think the tannins a bit too dominating over the other elements. Not quite the complexity and depth to take this to the next level. I kept going back to the 1990 Enotheque. The '98 was by now almost flat at this point (~2hours). 91+pts.

Of the three the 1990 Enotheque was the winner. The '98 while less complex is drinking well now - hard to say if it will remain pleasurable later in life. Rose was not bad but maybe given my expectations and its price - got rated slightly lower than the rest ( the Rose costs more than even the Enotheque - figure that one out).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Nov 16, 2005 - Champange & bubbles

It’s getting towards year end and one can almost imagine the sounds of popping corks and fizzy effervescent wine just around the corner. Champagne is synonymous with celebration, elegance and abundance or at least that’s what the marketing wizards have many of us thinking. Spin city aside lets take a look at what Champagne is about.

Here is a short video ==>

Not all sparkling wines can be called Champagne. In fact, only sparkling wines conforming and grown in certain areas in the Champagne-Ardenne region are deserving of the AOC ( appleation d’origine Controlee) designation. Does that mean that all Champagne AOC are good? Not quite. In other parts of the world they resort to other names such as sparkling wine, Asti Spumanti, Sek and Cava - Champagne however is off-limits.

The essential grape varieties going into Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot meunier – usually as a blend. Some people would say – hang on that’s the same stuff that goes into other wines!! Well yes same grapes - different process. The key behind Champagne bubbles is Secondary fermentation brought on by adding sugars and a special yeast ( the initial fermentation should already have exhausted the initial sugar content). Until more scientific methods were invented in the early 1800’s, the control and measurement of the sugar level was a bit haphazard. Before then, producing Champagne was a bit risky as well as occasionally explosive. The by-products of fermentation is sediment and its removal requires special effort, time and expense. Traditional methods or “method Champenoise” require a gradual rotation of the bottle over time until the sediment settles directly above the cap with the bottle now orientated cap facing down. It is kept in this position until the wines are ready to ship. At this point a final process called “disgorgement” occurs. The wine in the neck portion of the bottle is frozen along with the sediment into an "ice plug". Expansion due to freezing causes the plug, frozen wine and sediment to fly out - voila clean Champagne. The wine is then topped up, adjusted for sugar level ( in certain cases) and corked.

Champagne comes in several varieties differing by the amount of residual sugar: Brut Nature (0-0.5% - very dry), Brut (0.5%-1.5%-dry), Extra Dry (1.2%-2%), Sec (1.7-3.5%), Demi-Sec(3.3-5%-very sweet), Doux ( >5%).

It is said that the Benedictine Monk Dom Perignon invented Champagne but that is debatable. Some historians believe he tried to get rid of the bubbles in his wine to no avail. Champagne houses of note: Moet-Chandon (Dom Perignon), Bollinger, Krug, Salon to name a few.

Fear not : Champagne review to follow soon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Nov. 7, Winehunter in Tokyo again - More '02 Burgundies

Dinner notes from a dinner in Tokyo with some friends.

'02 Corton Charlemagne - Betrand Ambroise.
Some oak, hint of citrus, fat & buttery, some power. 89 points.

'02 Corton Charlemagne - Bonneau Du Matray
Very closed at outset. High acidity and structure yet not overly shrill. Made the Betrand Ambroise looked downright flabby. Around 2.5 hours later, very distinct minearal/flint/rocks aromas as well as hints of citrus & honey?. This thing wasn't even hitting its stride yet ( probably 3-4 hours) while the Betrand Ambroise was sliding downhill. This one probably needs 7-10 years to really show itself. One of the best from this domaine I have had ( back to 1992). 93+points.

'02 Charmes Chambertin - Charlopin Parizot.
Immediately upon uponing - wonderful distinct pinot nose of cherries and red fruits. Supple, soft, light. Find myself feeling guilty - not supposed to be enjoying young grand crus like this are we? This wine did not clam up with time and air as sometimes is the case - didn't have enough left to test this - all gone. Perhaps the finish is a tad short but we are splitting hairs here. 92pts.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

October 29, 2005 : Tasting Notes : Walter Hansel & A.Kracher

2002 - Alois Kracher #9 - Chardonnay Trokenbeeren Auslese (TBA)
Huge bouquet of honey, apricots, figs, oranges. On entering the mouth, thick viscous although retaining a good amount of acidity - nice finish. Liquid golden nectar. 94pts

2001 - Walter Hansel - Russian River - Chardonnay Cahill Lane.
On opening - not much of anything on the nose except a slight hint of toast/paine grille. After an hour a bit more hints of toast and a little bit more citrus notes - just barely. At 2 hours the wine start to fill itself out but was still closed. At 3 hours, the wine start to expand and fill out - again not by much. The dinner was almost over and people were having dessert wine. At this point it was recorked, put in the fridge until tommorrow....

....18 hours later. The nose was much more impressive, distinct aromas of toast, almonds, lemon and white flowers - more of the same on the palate. The finish did come off a little hot but might sort itself out in a few years. At this point, this was looking alot like something from Burgundy. In fact, Chassagne-Monrachet but minus the distinctive mineral/flint aromas not sure if it was covered up by other more dominant features. Heck, if someone said this was a Batard-Monrachet I would have believed it.

I would just like to point out that a white wine lasting 18 hours and still going strong (without gas injections or vacuum pumps ) is just amazing. Many red wines wouldn't make it lets not mention whites. My guess is this wine was probably peaking somewhere around 10-12 hours.

Grand Cru level without the Grand cru price. Believe this needs another 5-10 years. It should get really interesting at that point. Great value for money. Originally priced at ~USD$35 on release ( A quick glance at winesearcher shows it at $69 currently ). Total production ~700 cases. This is the real deal ladies and gentlemen - impressive potential! 94+ pts

Thursday, October 27, 2005

October 26, 2005. Vintage Whiskey in Tokyo

This is the Winehound's first report from a foreign country. I might just come out and state it right now I am a Whiskey novice. Having said that there have been a few revelations over the years and last night was one of them.

A good friend and I ventured to a non-descript street near Akasaka-Mitsuke in Tokyo ( Close to the Otani Hotel ). In the basement of a non-descript building was a bar which went by the simple name of Grace. At first glance this looked like any bar with an extremely long counter. Then we noticed the whiskey bottles. Macallan vintages going back 1/2 century and perhaps more. We didn't realize until much later that it had a similiarly impressive wine selection. You name it they would probably have it.

To start :

1972 Springbank. Frankly I was not very impressed. Good but not special.

1953 Springbank 8 yr. Whoa - they don't make 8yr like this anymore. Extremely smooth and almost caramel nose. In the mouth, very rounded, smooth as silk and incredible long finish. Wow!

Macallan 1985. Sherry cask. A bit harsh compared to the 1950's Springbank.

Macallan 1970. Caramel, peet, almost sweet on the mouth, viscous. Very nice.

Macallan 1963. Oh my gosh. Much better proportioned amazing nose. In the mouth has a lighter less viscous feel than the 1970 but much more complex and SMOOOTHHHH... filling out the palate and a finish that lasts and lasts.. Going back to taste the 1970 Macallan - it was much less inviting or attractive - just no going back. This is one of the best Macallan's I have had so far this would probably be my #2 best Whiskey. The best would still be the 1947 I had several years ago which was just .... Unique, nothing quite like that one.

And to finish....

Taylor 1960 opened in October 2005. Figs, more figs, plums and raisins. Very nice on the Palate although just a little hot on the finish.

Taylor 1960 opened in July 2005. The fig nose is much less prevalent. Looks like the extended air time has taken this away to some degree. Still pleasant however. Finish better and smoother without that little hot streak at the end. However, I miss the fruitines of the October bottle.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

October 19, A Sauterne that is not - "Y" the dry Y'quem

A particular region in Bordeaux, Sauterne - produces some of the best sweet wines in the world. The grapes which tend to go into a Sauterne are both Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The difference is "noble rot" or Botrytis Ceneria - a mold. This mold tends to dry out and shrivel the grape - intensifying flavors and sugar content to get a Sauterne.

Perhaps the most famous or first among equals is Chateau Y'quem. What many people do not realize is that Chateau Y'quem also makes a dry white wine from the very same grapes - without the Bottrytis. This isn't made every year and when it is, total production is several hundred cases ( saw somewhere that it was around 700-900 cases but do not remember the source ). The result is "Y" or Ee-'grec. "Y" was first produced in 1959 and so far has had 21 vintages.

As it is a dry wine - it technically cannot be considered a "Sauterne" and therefore labelled as "Bordeaux Superior". Rest assured this particular bottling of "Bordeaux Superior" will live up to the labelling - can't say that for most. It also costs a fraction of the price of Y'quem and worth it. It is unlike any white Bordeaux that you will ever have from the Graves or Pessac-Leognan area of Bordeaux.

Drunk young it probably can be best described as a dry-Y'quem with just a hint of sweetness at the tip of your tongue - and it is POWERFUL. With time it produces additional nuances personally this is one which can be enjoyed young or mature - you will get to appreciate different aspects.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

October 15, Tasting notes from Dinner at Red Tavern

First time here and it is quite cozy. The food is quite good - standouts were the apetizers being escargots, baked crab shells and lobster bisque. At $380/pp its not too bad.

Anyway on to the wine.

2003 Les Heritiers Du Comte Lafon, Machon Uchizy - Les Maranchess
Very strong initially, suggest colder serving temperature, minor hints of flint - needs some air time of approx. 30min then hits its right balance of acidity, hints of white flowers and honey. Fades gracefully over time. At ~ $20 this is VALUE!~ 88+pts.

p.s. Okay okay so this bottle is not the Macon-Uchizy but its basically the same label and bottle save for the wording.

1994 Penfold - Bin 707
Upon opening, still has primary fruit flavor and odors but not like when it was young, starting to develop some 2ndary traits but not much. Don't give this too much air time - it started to become less balanced as the night went on becoming increasingly acidic & sour. I don't want to generalize but I have just had many similiar experiences with Australian Cabernet with a little bottle age. Not sure if it is the vinification process, my choice of wines, this bottle, the region or what. This one just doesn't hold it together like a good Bordeaux, and I have had similiar experiences with other Cabernet based wines as well . At what ~ $100/bottle for this vintage - I just cannot recommend it to people - there are better values to be had. Could imagine this to have been 93-94pts. on release now?... ~87pts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

October 11, 2005 : Tasting Notes

1995 La Mondotte, St.Emillion Grand Cru
Stay away! With the '95 vintage I cannot belive this is the same wine or pedigree of the later La Mondotte. The wine looked prematurely aged for a '95, cork condition was very good however indicating that it wasn't storage. Insipid, thin, no complexity, aromas or anything good I can ascribe to it. This cannot be La Mondotte - either the label was incorrect or the wine was. Oh 83 pts.

2002 Pierre Gelin Chambertin Clos De Beze
Very closed on the nose though having hints of fruits and (flowers?). Decanted for 15 minutes. Body is relatively light, a bit of tannin, certain amount of acidity. Long finish and good aftertaste. Probably missed the "drinking window" upon realease and closing up. Whether it will evolve/resolve well later is the question - it may but do not think this is a long keep. Revisit in 5 years? 89+ pts.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

October 8. Magical white wines from a magical place

Lets talk about white wine.
Everyone and their grandmother is talking about red wine and somehow white wine gets left behind or is treated as the "less serious wine" - rubbish.

Lets look at Burgundy - the home of the most famous "Chardonnays" in the world. Probably the most famous and most expensive in the world is - Montrachet from the Burgundy region in France. What is Montrachet? - merely a plot of land. However, in the wine world that particular plot might as well be the center of the white wine universe. Consequently the hierarchy and pricing of a white Burgundy is a function of its proximity to the "center". Grossly simplified admitedly - but basically true.

Something has to be said of the quantities of some of these grand crus. Some of the most famous estates will perhaps produce 1-2 barrels of Montrachet or Chevalier Montrachet in a given year. This is roughly 25-50 cases per producer. Or basically 300-600 bottles of this mythical white wine in existence. Compare that with the annual Bordeaux First growth producer of approx 100,000 to 200,000 bottles per annum and you begin to understand how little of it exists in the world.

Map of Puligny :

The center of the universe is Montrachet which bisects both Chassagne-Monrachet and Puligny-Monrachet (kind of). Following that the Grand cru are :
  • Chevalier Montrachet : (18.1 acres): Often thought to be pretty darn close to Montrachet itself and depending on the Domaine could even be better. Refinement, delineation/acidity and minerals are its hallmark.
  • Batard Monrachet : Tends to be less refined and precise but does have some power to it (split between Puligny and Chassagne).
  • Bievenue-Batard Monrachet : Batard’s brother but sometimes wonder whether its even worth bothering with.
  • Criotte-Batard Montrachet : An extremely small plot of land and rather rare ( on the Chassagne side)
  • Montrachet (19.7 acres): Will have the best attributes of all the above and sits in both Puligny and Chassagne. Amazing and expensive stuff – nuff said.

In Puligny-Monrachet. We have the premier Cru starting with Le Pucelles which is a stones throw away from BBM and BM itself. Often the slowest maturing 1er Cru and usually carries a premium over the others (first among premier Crus). The others are Le Cailleret, Clavaillon, Le Combettes, Le Referts in order of increasing distance to Montrachet.

Now lets not forget the other side : Chassagne-Monrachet.

Map of Chassagne:

This tends to be the "forgotten" zone and hopefully it stays that way. Perhaps it doesn't have the refinement of a Le Pucelle but it can give it a run for the money. Of particular note are the Premier Cru vineyards of : Blanchot, Les Vergers, Clos-Saint Jean, La Maltroie, La Grande Montagne.

Favorite producers and vintage observations

My favorite Domains from this side of the fence are Domaine Leflaive ( , JM Boillot, Henri Boillot, Domaine Leroy/D’Auvenay and of course Domaine de la Romanee Conti which only makes one white – Montrachet (ouch!). On the Chassagne side Ramonet, Marc Colin and Fontaine Gagnard (dramatic upswing in quality recently).

The 2002 vintage is one where I have been rarely disappointed. From village cru to Premier Cru and Grand cru. This is one uniformly excellent vintage and has got to be better than 1996. 2003 on the other is much less uniform. Prices are high and perhaps even higher than 2002 but nowhere as profound. Stick to the village wine and perhaps occasionally a premier cru - value would be found there.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

October 4, Wine Geek Test

How many wines can you recognize by looking at the labels? ( Producer, cuvee, country etc...) If you click the picture and start reading the labels - that doesn't count. Its label recognition on sight here.

Instant 10 points for recognition of right 2 bottles on 3rd shelf. If you say "Romanee Conti" on 2nd bottle on 2nd shelf - congratulations - you instantly achieve rank of "Wine Name Dropper" and the quiz is over and .... wrongo dongo.

Score & Ranking
<3 : Wine Enthusiast
3-6: Wine Name Dropper
7-10:Wine Afficionado
11-15: Wine Trade Proffesional
16-20: Wine Geek
21-24: Wine Geek with serious problems.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tasting Notes from a recent Dinner at Chez Moi

Tasting notes from dinner Saturday night with a few friends.

1992 Domaine Leflaive Batard-Monrachet. Nice initial burst of minerals. This wine now has secondary notes and starting its life downwards. Still some kick to the finish serve less than cold. Focus improves with colder temperature but not otherwise. Towards the end of dinner, final drops had a hint of flowers and honey which didn't appear before - lovely but the wine was flat by then. Don't think we will ever see all these components together. 90pts

2002 E.Rouget Nuit St. George. Closed unlike the Savigny tasted 2months ago. Needed some time to open up. Not a bad showing but the Savigny is probably better drinking at this point. Shutting down? 88 pts

2000 Claude Dugat. Gevrey Chambertain. The anticipation didn't match reality. Nose was extremely closed and times improved it marginally. On the palate and body extremely lean and angular initially after opening but improved with air time. Not exactly a refined Burg. - nice but had a lot of "sharp edges". 88 pts

1998 Emmanuel Rouget Eschzeaux. A bit more open than the Duga. On the palate defintely 1-2 notches up from the Dugat and improved with time. Best was 30-45 minutes after opening. It seemed to hit a peak during that window after which it thined out and became much more sour without other elements to balance it. 89+(?) pts

1999 George Brueir. Rudesheim Auslesse. Nice acidity to balance the sweetness. Worked great with desserts. Honey suckle and apricots - although missing that petrol smell to some degree. More time needed but a good drink otherwise. 93ptsUntil next time.

Tasting Notes - Vega Sicilia Dinner

This was a dinner event held at the Jockey Club Darby Room in May, 2005. The owner and winemake of Bodegas Vega Scilia ( Spain ) were here to introduce some of their wines. Frankly, the food at the Darby was so so. Conception and execution was not quite there so I won't bother... on to the wines!!

Pintia '01 : Nose somewhat closed good balance of fruit & oak with moderate tannins, high acidity, 88pts Pintia '02 : Another story - nose black&stewed fruits, hints of sweetness, coarse tannins, good balance, somewhat abbreviated/clipped finish. Probably needs ~5 years to tame some of those tannins. Drinking now - would require a couple hours of air : 91pts

Alion '00 : red fruits, good acidity, firm tanins:89 pts Alion '01 : Now we are getting somewhere. Slightly reticent nose of black fruits, occasional hints/wafts of alcohol, fine tannins, high acidity, finish is good though not remarkable. : 93pts

Valbuena '00 : Red fruits, nose somewhat closed, acidity showing through, firm tannins similiar to the Alion. To me seems more of a "classic" vintage than a fruit driven one. 92pts

Valbuena '99: Nose somewhat hessitant but defintely fruit driven concentration and contrast to '00 - this is much bigger so acidity not so noticeable. Took good part of the night to really start showing its stuff. 94pts.

Unico '94: Uhm wow, what can be said. This is an amazing one even among other vintages. Red/black/stewed fruits all in one. Expansive wine in mid palate, complexity mind boggling. Precocious even now with extremely fine tannins and great acidity, superb length and lingering finish. 97+pts

Unico '91: Still Precocious young and vibrant , fruit driven wine. Very balanced and proportioned wine. Would benefit from further aging to gain complexity and secondary notes. 94pts

Unico Reserva Especial ( blend of 85,90,91) : This wine is a chameleon and kept changing over time. At first not very impressive especially next to the '91 it felt a bit pale in comparison. Over time, it gained weight and the mid palate filled out. This one just kept playing tricks. 94 pts.

Unico '81: Well , well this is da stuff. 2ndary notes of leather, leaves, earthy notes along with the fruit ( not so dominant now). very fine tannins and great finish. Between the '91 and '81 is a choice between fruit and maturity/complex however - with food there is no question the '81 is the one I would pick. 95 pts.

Unico '53: Amazing Grace!! You could never belive this was a 52 year old wine if you looked at the color. Sheer mystical balance of fruit and 2ndary notes ( leather, leaves , earth , dried figs) , elegance, finesse, expansive and complex without being thick and syrupy.. Finish that goes on an on... 98+ pts