Sunday, November 12, 2006

Food and wine marriages. November 11, 2006

Marriages - What works

When was the last time a bunch of wine geeks got together with fabulous wine and the food just didn't quite go well. Sometimes we have fabulous food and it's just missing that wine to "complete" the evening. Food and wine pairing is an art - a marriage. When it works the sum is greater than the parts - that's a promise. Without some knowledge and experience both in wine and food - it's hard to pull this off. The other day we bumped into some very nice combinations with friends and thought it might be worth mentioning here.

Shanghai hairy crab & Old vintage Champagne

Every autumn between October and November, hairy crabs from Hangzhou are the rage among Chinese with it's sweet meat and abundant crab "miso". In it's purest form the crab is poached/boiled as is and accompanied by a special vinegar with ginger pulp in it. Well if that vinegar and ginger sauce goes well with the crab why not...... a mature vintage champagne?? It worked.. 1983 Charles Heidsick Brut in Magnum. Frankly, this marriage was dominated by the '83 Heidsick which was too good ( nutty, toast, smoothness, abundant mousse) while this year's crabs were a bit off.

Two '04 Burgs and two pairings.

2004 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru "Vaillons" & Oysters from Tasmania

The '04 Dauvissat Vaillons has a beautiful nose that is hard to say no to. It was "very Chablis" with sharpness, acidity and a sea salt/mineral finish. We decided to have some oysters on the half shell straight up with it. Whoever told you that Chablis and oysters are a natural match didn't mention the fine print. It has to have a) Sufficient sharp acidity (ever wonder why people squeeze lemons and/or have zesty tangy sauces with it?) AND 2) That mineral sea/salt undertone. In this case, the Dauvissat has it in spades. IMHO, on it's own '04 Vaillons is infaticide ( another ~5-7 years) but with oysters it was heaven. Next time we'll need to try this with other oysters to see if it can get any better.

2004 Roumier Morey St. Denis 1er Cru "Clos de la Bussiere" & French Epoisse Cheese

Epoisse Cheese from Burgundy. This is a hand washed cheese and is slightly soft with lovely earthy, spicy and PUNGENT aromas ( like dried Chinese salty fish - some of you will know what I mean). We heated it up a little ( ~20/30 secs in a Microwave..... ) and had it with some bread.

Urban myth #2 - Cheese and red wine is an automatic match. How many times have you attended a "wine and cheese" party and come away thinking if you had an impaired palate or just didn't get it? Wine and Cheese pairings are some of the trickiest to manage well. Bad wine/cheese pairings are like a marriage between 2 sumo wrestlers - ugly. A safer way would be to try cheese and wines from the same commune. It does make sense though, people living in those villages had to put up with it for centuries so it can't be that bad. Anyways, we aren't going to talk about ugly marriages here - this one works.

Don't just think any red Burgundy can go with it. It has to have depth, concentration and structure - otherwise the Epoisse will wipe it out. Go with a 1er or Grand Cru of some quality. The '04 Roumier 'Clos de la Bussieries' has that extra depth even though it wasn't an outstanding year. Again this can age for a few (~5-7 years) more years. With the cheese - why wait? It was quite lovely at this point.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Adventures in Italy

We only spent one night in Rome and that was the gastronomic low point of the trip. Thinking we couldn't go wrong by picking the most crowded joint in the vicinity.... oops bad luck. We just could not understand why there were so many people. Maybe they served the leftovers to the tourists? The fish was stale and the lamb was pretty sad as well. Sub-standard food, expensive and mediocre service ( restaurant pictured below).

One of the best places in terms of food was in the town of Lucca. Over lunch we went to this lovely little place called "Canuleia". The fresh vegetable salad with burrata cheese was lovely. Being quite creamy on the inside, the cheese liquids gets mixed up with the olive oil and vegetables outside resulting in a lovely dressing - I'm sure it was deliberate.

Last but not least, a lovely wine from Tenuta Campo di Sasso called Insiglio. You may not have heard of this outfit but this is where Lodovico Antinori went when his beloved Ornelia was sold. Seems that a few key staff went over with him. If Insiglio is their ordinary wine, I can't wait to see the premium offerings ( Supposedly it's out already and is called "Pino di Biserno"). The 2nd is '04 which was released in late '05 and the latest vintage '05 is supposed to be out ( I stand corrected). Give this about 45min of air - a decent wine for 20 euro ( at the restaurant) - 91 points and needs to go with hearty food ( roast lamb, beef stew etc...)

The next day we went on a tour of an estate called Valle de Sole which is an extremely small outfit, they make a lovely wine called Ebrius ( the 2 bottles to the left) which is their premium offering - 88 points. This was selling for 15 Euro. They also make a very good EVOO, by volume the price is the same as their top wine ( 10 Euro for 0.5L).

There was one other find which was not in Lucca but close to Montepulciano made by a small outfit called Palazzo Bandino. There they have a Nobile de Montepulciano called 'Il Morone' or old mill (I'm told). The latest offering is '03 and production is a small 5000 bottles. The price was 10 Euro which is a great value. Liked this a little better than the Ebrius. 89 points.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

September 14, 2006. Burgundian myth & history.

The wine hunter is back!!!

Instead of hitting the booze immediately, let's go back in time for some history lessons.....3 Stories and 3 wines.

In 1395, Philip the Bold, the duke of Burgundy decreed that the gamay vine was to be uprooted within 30 days or be slapped with a fine. It was decided that gamay was not well suited to the best qualities of wine, instead the Pinot Noir grape was recommended. 100+years later, Louix XI annexed Burgundy and the prior of Saint-Vivant had to file tax returns and declare his properties. 'Le Cloux de Saint Vivant' included 4 'clos' or walled parts. This included Le Cloux des Cinq Journaux. Around 1662, this Clos together with an adjacent plot of three ouvrees was renamed "La Romanee". In early 1700's the going rate for a good vineyard was 200 livre per ouvree.... Using some accounting sleight of hand this amounts to roughly US$13k per acre. On the faithful day of July 18, 1760, "La Romanee" was purchased for the unheard of sum of 2,310 live per ouvree or roughly 10x the going price. The purchaser was one Louis-Francois de Bourbon - the fifth prince de Conti; a cousin of King Louis XV. Thus was born "Romanee-Conti", always expensive and never was cheap even way back 246years ago.

On July 14, 1789 the Bastille was stormed and the french revolution was in full force. The Prince fled the country and his lands were seized by the new government along with other plots owned by the church. In 1790's the confiscated land was sold to the highest bidder at auctions. One of them offered on the auction block was "La Romanee de Saint-Vivant" owned previously by the Benedictine order. This was bought by Nicolas-Joseph Mary from Nuit and son-in-law of Gaspard Monge. The next picture should start to make things clearer....

Now fast forward into the 20th century. It was the 1930's and the economic depression was entrenched even in Europe. On August 31, 1933 the Liger-Belair family was forced by hard times and internal disputes and decided to sell of a parcel of their vineyards.

This plot of slightly over 1 hectare was purchased by one Edmond Gaudin de Villaine. Together with the existing land owned from inheritance through Jacques-Marie Duvault-Blochet and additional 4hectares of the adjoining Le Gaudichots was officially ruled by the courts under one appelation, a monople - the name was and still is "La Tache".

The times were difficult for the owners of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. So much so that one of the partners Jacques Chambon wanted to sell his stake. Initially, Maison Joseph Drouhin was approached as they had been a close business partner. Maison Drouhin did not take up the offer and the opportunity fell on a wine merchant from Auxey-Duresses by the name of Henri Leroy....

The story continues but it's time for bed.....

*References taken from Gert Crum's excellent book on the Domaine.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

July 21, 2006. Assorted wines

2001 - Balthasar Ress. Hattenheimer Nussbrunner - Auslesse.

Center stage of primary fruit aromas starting to move back a little to reveal petrol and slight flinty. Viscous, with lively acidity, perhaps doesn't have the concentration in the back end and finish to put it up there with the best of the best. However, it's more than adequate as an enjoyable summer drink. Alright this may be a bit sacreligious but why not. Wish I had some langoustines and scallops on the grill. 92(+)pts. Perhaps in a few more years ( 5-10) it may deserve a slightly higher rating.

1997 Henri Gouge - Nuit st. George - "Le Saint George"
On the nose promising notes of red fruits and typical pinot noir aromas. That was the best part. In the mouth it was angular, sand-paperishly tannic and well "unrefined". Okay no problem you would say we can give it more airtime to smooth things out. Well that would be nice if it had some concentration and this being 1997. It was not to be. 84pts.

2003- Boyd Cantenac - Margaux

Upon opening promising and enticing aromas of black/stewed fruits. Had an aroma of toffee and slightly burnt butter ( that 2003 type aroma again). The nose was very promising. Bottle decanted for about 45mins. In the mouth, it was well - a little disappointing. The tannins were very noticeable and the wine didn't seem to have enough viscositiy and "fat" to smooth this out. In fact the wine seemed a bit thin in mid palate and at the back end - lacking a bit of concentration. Not so optimistic on this one... 86-87pts.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

July 14, 2006. 2002 Corton Charlemagne

2002 Bonneau du Martray - Corton Charlemagne.
Impenetrable upon opening. Keep cool and air for at least 3 hours. Massive, elegant acidity - citrus notes, power and concentration without the weight. This will need 10 years to show its stuff. 93 points

2002 Louis Jadot - Corton Charlemagne
Lively acidity upon opening - powerful. Like the BdM needs air time to open up ( ~4 hours in bottle). As mentioned before acidity is high keyed, nice "punch" and like the other CC should not be served freezing cold ( please folks this is not a Chablis - even some Chablis shouldn't be served that way). Probably one of the better vintages in recent times but.... just doesn't seem to have as much going as the BdM above (to me less concentrated) - just a guess but possibly harvested at higher yields? 91 points.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

July 8, 2006. Heritiers Des Comte Lafon, value for money white Burgundies

In this day and age we all lament at how expensive wines have become. The days where one can easily find "good and
cheap" wines are gone. Back not too long ago, it was "show me what you've got and then I'll decide how much it's worth" - the consumer was boss. The tables have now turned Ladies and gentlemen. Nowadays its "pay first and then let's see...." Too often we pay up and don't see anything. As long as we can't turn back the clock - the only other way is to be better informed.

Comte Lafon of Mersault rightfully deserves its place in the highest ranks of white Burgundy makers. Some of their usual offerings have become frightfully expensive in the last few years. Well here's the scoop - there is a cheaper Lafon.

Since 1999 Lafon has conducted an operation in Macon delivering high quality and good value white wines
called Heritiers Des Comte Lafon. Situated in the Macon , the property covers around 35 acres and produces 6 or 7 white wines. The viticulture has now gone organic and harvest is done by hand. The wines sees a combination of tank, wooden tuns and barrels. Light filtration is performed.

There is 1 generic and 2 village Macons :

Then 4 "climat" wines :
Macon-Bussieres "Les Mansard"
Macon-Uchizy "Les Maranches"
Macon-Chardonnay "Clos de la Crochette"
Macon-Milly-Lamartine "Clos du Four"

The typical price of these wines are USD$20-$30 with the "climat" bottlings being a bit more. The last 2 cuvees are a bit of a step up from the village wines ( Clos de la Crochette and Clos du Four). I would challenge fellow readers to find a $20-30 bottle of similiar quality to "Clos du Four" or "Clos de la Crochette"- not impossible but not so easy I would wager. IMHO, there is too much swill in this price category.

From memory, the 2003 vintage was very good. The "La Maranches"
was more immediately forward, pretty and soft. The "Clos de la Crochette" being superbly balanced with fruit and minerality and more wound up power waiting to be released - the wine needed about 30-45mins to open up. The most current vintage is 2004 (bottles have been secured tasting notes to follow soon) and is one area in Burgundy which supposedly faired better than it's neighbors on the Cote d'Or. If you ever get the chance to try it, you may be pleasently surprised. Bear in mind that Cloudy bay (Chardonnay) from New Zealand is about the same price or slightly more expensive ( to me this is quite funny or sad depending how you look at things). Bravo Dominique Lafon.

2004 Macon Milly Lamartine. Forward, flowers, hazelnuts, lively acidity and a bit of sweetness. Open it for 20 minutes. Went very well with raw fish and sea urchin. Great Summer drinking. 87-88 pts.

2004 Macon Chardonnay - Clos de la Crochette
Much tighter, nutter, more power and with slight bitter/nutty tinge. Needs 45-1 hour after opening up to get some "balance". Marginally better than the Milly Lamartine 88pts.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

July 1, 2006. Burgundy Dinner (Mostly)

We got to try the following wines on the weekend.

Missing at dinner was the '61 DRC Richebourg which was opened ahead of the weekend. In it's place was '94 Bouchard La Romanee

1994 La Romanee ( Bouchard). Yuch - corked!.
Bad bottle - just not pleasant.

First up :
1969 Leroy Mersault Charmes.
For a 37 year old wine it had amazing livelyness and acidity. Charming however a bit short on the finish and aftertaste. 89 points

1996 Jacques Prieur Mersault Perrieres. For a 10 year old wine surprisingly advanced for its age - color was starting to come on golden, nuts and slight truffel & honied smells coming through. Fine condition with admirable acidity. It had just a few more elements than the Leroy Charmes, bit more power, longer aftertaste. Suspect it needs 1.5 hours to open and can age a few more years ( 3-5) but is drinking well now. 91 points

1999 Comte Lafon Mersault Charmes Just a baby. Very high and lively acidity belies the power and concentration underneath. This is nowhere near ready and probably needs a good 5-7 years more. A longer finish. 91 points.

1996 Leroy Corton Charlemagne. Minerals, acidity, truffled nuances and more. Not a blockbuster in terms of power but the aftertaste lingers on your palate and throat for a long time. The previous wines seems like watered down bottles in comparison. Could use 5-7 more years as complexity is just coming out ( it needs 6 hours of air time). 94-95 points.

1972 Clos de Tart. Truffles and red fruits on the nose. In the mouth the mid-palate just lacks stuffing. 88 points.

1969 Leroy Echezeaux. Red fruits, stewed plums on the nose. Wide and expansive on the palate with a decent finish. Opened for 6 hours and probably needs 1-2 more. 93 points.

2001 Emmanuel Rouget Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Cros Parantoux
Massive nose of rose petals, earth and violets(??). In the mouth hard and angular tannins (this needs more time. However, the wine seemed to go downhill quickly (to me)- suspect this was slightly heat dmaged. 91 points

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

June 28, 2006. Simply Undeniable

STAY TUNED ..........

(Click on picture to enlarge)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

June 24, 2006. Favorite Burgundies - Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard (Chassagne Montrachet)

There is a domaine in Chassagne Montrachet which has really been on a roll in recent years (last 6-7). While the reds are fine it is the whites which deserve some attention. Prices are reasonable and relatively "good value" if this was possible in Burgundy. Fontaine-Gagnard was formed in 1985 after the breakup of the Gagnard-Delagrange properties. In size, it is approximately 20 acres. Traditional techniques and organic fertilizers are used. Partial new oak is applied up to and including Grand cru's such as the Criots Batard Monrachet. Not sure about the Batard or Le Monrachet but given the style it would probably exceptional to see 100% new oak ( this isn't Napa or Hunter Valley anyway).

Richard Fontaine's portfolio consists of the following ( list of white wines).

Chassagne Montrachet
Chassagne Montrachet "Clos St.Jean"
Chassagne Montrachet "Clos St.Jean - Clos de Murees" ( Monopole)
Chassagne Montrachet "Bouriotte"
Chassagne Montrachet "Morgeot"
Chassagne Montrachet "Chenevottes"
Chassagne Montrachet "Vergers"
Chassagne Montrachet "Maltroie"
Chassagne Montrachet "Grande Montagne"
Chassagne Montrachet "La Romanee"
Chassagne Montrachet "Cailerets"
Criots Batard Montrachet (0.33ha)
Batard Montrachet (0.33 ha)
Montrachet (0.075 ha)

Monday, June 19, 2006

June 17, 2006. More Burgundies Part 2.

Completely unrelated to wine but what the heck it was begging to be photographed!

1954-57. Mercedes Benz. 300SL Gullwing. Nuff said . 100 pts

An now on to wine........

1999 Ramonet Batard Montrachet
Minerality & acidity with a little punch. However to this mouth, this bottle seemed to lack a little of the vibrancy, power and edge compared to previous bottles. Not showing its best here. 91pts.

1983 Chambolle Musigny - Henri Felettig
Hints of dried figs and plums, tea colored, bricking occuring. Would say, it went very well with one of the hard cheeses. 87pts.

1983 Nuit Saint George - Clos De Forrets St. Georges / Cuvee Hors Ligne - Jules Belin
More closed on the nose, spicy, anise seeds. In the mouth coarser tannins than the previous Chambolle but a better finish (to me). Didn't not go well with the cheese but surprisingly well with salami.86pts.

1999 Michel Magnien Morey St. Denis 1er Le Chaffots
Not much on opening. Upon tasting in fact it seemed like it was about to go downhill. I was wrong and it gained weight and structure over 30-45minutes. Nose still reticent but the impression was one of very good balance and fine tannins. This should fare better with a couple more years 90pts.

2002 Frederick Magnien - Chambolle Musigny
Still closed, extreovert - Black fruits/red fruits, stones and stems. Tannins were more noticeble hopefully will ease out with age but a bit coarse. Nowhere near ready. 89ts.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

June 14, 2006. Some Recent Burgs

We try some more Burgundies to drown out those expensive '05 Bordeaux en primuer blues!!

1999 Marc Colin Chassagne Monrachet 1er Cru "Les Caillerets"
Upon opening, strong burst of sweet oak from the bottle. After 15-20 minutes this seem to balance out and one could smell the acidity coming through. Some bottle age evident - not so primary, well balanced, fresh, good acidity, nice finish - perhaps not enough minerality. 90pts.

2002 Dominique Laurent Gevrey-Chambertin. 1er Cru Petite Chapelle
Charming nose, but frankly very disappointed at the concentration on the palate. Almost as if it was diluted - bad bottle, high yields ?? Who knows - This is atypically pathetic showing for an '02 especially a 1er cru. Will blame it on a bad bottle. 87pts.

2002 Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin. Combe du Dessus
Completely opposite from the Laurent. On the nose much more concentration and power. Red fruits, earthy, good acidity. On the palate multi-layered, fine tannins and just so much more here. Decent finish though not ultra long. 92pts. 1er Cru material.

2003 Meo-Camuzet. Bourgogne
Concentrated and powerful but somehow did not have the richness and persistent of flavor compared to the Mortet du Dessus... This however is an unfair comparison. Harsher tannins, defintely from a hot year. 89pts.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

May 24, 2006 - Valandraud Wine Dinner

We had a chance to try some of the wines from this famous St. Emillion Garagiste during a dinner. Here are some notes from that night.

2001 Ch. La Dominique - St. Emillion
This property is just next to Cheval Blanc so it should be capable of better things in the future. Right now it is just in the drifting in the middle - not bad but not really a standout. Starting in 2005, Thunevin is going to have his hands in this so it would be interesting to taste the results. The '01 has a medium body, fruit forward although not in abundance, tanins which are okay but not really that refined - I didn't like the slight green/vegetal tinge ( just my personal prefs.) 88 points.

2004 Valandraud Blanc #2
The first vintage was in 2003 and is now overseen by his wife which used to be with Domain Leflaive; this is a typical 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Semillion blend. In reality, this is the 2nd wine of Valandraud blanc. Aromas are sharp, acidic, greenish. In the mouth pretty much the same, sharp acidic, thin side. Profound would not be the right word. 87-88 points.

2004 Valandraud Blanc #1
The best grapes, treatment, oak goes into this. The seconds go into #2 and you can tell the difference! From the nose it is more concentrated and there are aromas of sweet Vanilla indicative of a more generous oak treatment. The color hue is slightly deeper than #1, in the mouth it is more viscous and concentrated with a much better finish. You find it hard to go back to #2 after this. Much better. 92 points.

2001 Virginie de Valandraud
Though this is supposed to be the 2nd wine of Valandraud it really comes from another plot of land. Much more concentrated than the La Dominique and seems to have more of everything. Still some traces of green stems- you know the smell you get from tree sap when you break a branch. 89 points

1999 Valandraud
The aromas and complexity on the nose are just on another level compared to the previous wines. Ripe fruits/cassis, chocolate/cocoa, perhaps hints of coconut. In the mouth it actually had a bit less impact than on the nose. Ripe round tannins. Surprisingly forward at this point though it may benefit from a few more years of cellaring. 93 points.

2000 Le Interdite
This wine is actually a special experimental version of 2000 Valandraud but because of the interventionist methods - St. Emillion AOC appelation was rejected and it was classified as a Vin de Table!! This is probably the most expensive VdT I have seen. The interventionist measures included things like a canopy cover to shield it from rain and water bloat. A total of 10 barrels ( 250 cases ) were made in 2000. On the nose this thing was tight as a clam. Constant swirling brings no satisfaction - the trick that worked for me was to lay it done for 10 minutes and then give it a quick swirl and inhale. What I got was a super concentrated version of the '99 only so much more. Ripe berries/cassis, chocolate, leather etc... In the mouth this one did not disappoint what was hinted from the smells - the tannins are more refined and rounder than the '99. This wine is nowhere near ready and probably needs 10+ years. Right now it probably needs a good 4-5 hours of air ( maybe in a decanter ). 96+ points.

2004 Calvet-Thunevin 'Hugo'
From the Roussillon area known more for fortified wines than table wine. This is primarily a wine made from grenache. On the nose super ripe, fruit bomb, sweet and... alcoholic. For the first 30 minutes this is a bit of a "hairy" and animalistic wine. With a bit more time it tames a little - but just a bit. Impressed with the purity of the fruit and concentration though I don't know how much I can drink of this - I recall it being close or at 16%... Might be even more interesting with some bottle age. 90 points.

Oh yeah... and we had a guest at dinner too.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

May 13,2006. Weekend wines and more corkscrews

Some weekend tasting notes and notes on more corkscrews.

1997- Tenuta Ornellia. IGT
When this was first released years ago, I was perplexed about the incredibly high ratings bestowed upon it. Deferred judgement and finally tried it again. Is it very good? - yes! Is it oh my god amazingly good? - well that would be overdoing it. Hints of cassis, fruits, gaining complexity with age, some hints of tobacco, fine, smooth tannins and long finish with a slight minty touch. Right now, I would say it takes perhaps 1-1.5 hours opened and aired in bottle ( with a little air gap). Decantage may cut this time in half. One caveat ( to this mouth ) was it tasted better in more modest wine glasses. When switched to the more massive Bordeaux glasses, it seemed to get gnarled up a little. Perhaps it was the extra air or maybe it was later in the night?? Either way - good and ready now, might get slightly better in a couple of years but suspect the peak/plateau is inside of 5 years and should stay there for more. 95 points.

1999 - Alois Kracher #7 Nouvell Vague. Chardonnay TBA
Honey, apricots and figs. Massively thick and viscous, could use a bit higher acidity and finishes with a little bitter touch. 94 points.

2003 - Ch. Calon Segur - Bordeaux, St. Estephe
Impenetrable in the first 2 hours , stewed plums, dark fruits, fine tannins. Suspect it's already shutting down. 93points

1994 - Dominus - Napa Valley
No need for a decanter. 30-45 minutes aeration in bottle should be good. Tobacco, hints of leather as well dark fruits, great aftertaste. Perhaps the only criticism (and this is splitting hairs), is that the finish could be longer. This is the best showing I've seen yet. 96+ points

More Corkscrews

This time, we look at Chateau Laguiolle. In a previous blog entry, we dealt with Forge de Laguiolle corkscrews. Lets just put this in the front now, Forge de Laguiolle is better in terms of fit and finish. The fitting, polishing and opening/closing especially of the foil blade is sure and precise - less so in the Ch. Laguiolle screws. Unfortunately, Forge de. Laguiolle foil blade just makes a gnarly mess of the foil when cutting.

On the other hand, in my hands the Chateau Laguiolle feels better and is a real users' corkscrew. The size to my hands feels more "correct" - a littler shorter and less bulky, better balance. Finally, the foil blade actually cuts clean and sure.

Ch. Laguiolle - Sommelier Grand Cru Series.
The Grand Cru series has reinforcements making a sturdier corkscrew and costs 10 Euro more than the regular version - worth it IMHO.

World's Best Sommelier Series - Olivier Poussier Model
Each year they make a special model to commemerate the winner of the World Sommelier contest. The year 2000 model commemerates Olivier Poussier. The handle is cut from a fallen Yew tree inside the Versailles Castle grounds. Some of the proceeds goes to the Versailles Garden. This is my FAVORITE corkscrew right now ( yeah yeah I know I changed my mind but it's going to hard to beat this one - really!!).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

May 6, 2006. Some 2003 Bordeaux Tasting notes

2003 Pichon Baron - Pauillac.
Green peppers & Cassis,but to a certain extent possibly overcooked?Slightly alcoholic whiffs which blow off later - overall pleasing nose with some impact. On the palate however, it just doesn't come across as well even slightly light/thin in relation to the first impression from the nose. To me, the wine seemed a little disjointed and could have been due to the fact that we opened it a just few days after it arrived (~US$75-85). 92+? pts

2003 Lynch Bages - Pauillac.
Again that slightly overcooked Cassis & green pepperish smell. This one doesn't blow off with time and seems to be quite present - to the overall detriment of other elements. Huge lashing of tannins - folks this is not close to the 2000 by a mile(~US$48-50). 88points.

2003 Leoville Barton - St. Julien.
Black fruits, green peppers(slight) - at first has a little hint of the smells from the previous 2 bottles but a) goes away with time b) is not an overpowering factor and adds to the complexity of the bouquet. Very balanced with very nice tannins, multi-layered. Long, gentle and smooth finish with great aftertaste. About 1 hour opened in bottle and another hour in decanter. This one kept getting better (~US$85-105). 95 points

2003 Le Forts de Latour - Pauillac.
Deep dark cassis smells, again that aroma of burnt cassis/green bell peppers. This bottle already has sediment on the shoulder and in decanter. Decanted for 1 hour. The tannins are very present, deep brooding but a bit monolithic - this is no Latour. Surprisingly faded a bit quicker than expected and did not have the stuffing in mid-palate (~US$65-95). 91 points.

2003 Pontet Canet - Pauillac.
Pontet Canet is one a roll - this is probably their best vintage in a long long time. From the few '03s I have had - this one is atypical becaus it didn't smell of overcooked berries and burnt bell peppers. In fact it smells "normal". In the bottle this takes about 2 hours of airtime to unfold. Huge aromas of black fruits/cassis, balance of acidity, tannins, alcohol very good. Nice finish with long aftertaste. To me it tasted more like a St. Julien than a Pauillac but what the heck. Truth be told it is a bit monolithic and one dimensional right now, lacking the layered sensations of the Leoville Barton. Hopefully it will gain some with bottle age. Undoubtedly, this will shut down in a few months. Quality for price this takes the prize for the 2003's so far (~USD$45-$55). Why bother with New World wine at this price point? 94+ points.

Monday, May 01, 2006

May 1, 2006. 2003 Bordeaux - Overhyped and overheated??!!

Stocks of 2003 Bordeaux are now rolling into cellars and shops at full swing. So far this wine geek has only tasted a handful. Initial tastings have been from Pauillac and St. Julien so far. The results have not been encouraging - I am pretty sure this vintage overall is nowhere close to 2000 - Caveat Emptor!!!

While not a comprehensive sample, the wines tasted so far have a disctintive aroma. It's hard to use words but this aromas is a mixture of overstewed/burnt cassis, a hint of tar and blackened capsicum/green pepper - like when you take your eyes of the saute pan for too long. In the better wines, this blows off or becomes very faint enhancing the overall experience. In other instances, it dominates and is a little annoying. In my limited tastings of Pauillacs so far ( no 1st growths yet), I get more worried as it seems, the core of the wine seems a bit diluted/thin especially in mid-palate (Pichon Baron and Lynch Bages) - this fills out a little with time as the tannins make their presence known. With regard to the tannins, I would have to say the 2000 vintage ( again in general) is rounder and "finer grit" and more elegant. Hopefully I can try a few more bottles before this vintage begins to shut down and go to sleep; still have a few months hopefully.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

April 23, 2006. Corkscrews that work.

Over the years, by trial and error one usually goes through quite a few corkscrews. Some are just horrible but others have worked quite well. If this saves you time, agony and undue trouble then it would have been worth it. This is what works for me and continues do to so.


This brand from france is probably the easiest corkscrew to use and works very well in 95% of the situations. The nice part is it requires very little training or "skill" to successfully open a bottle. Here are my two favorite versions.

The "deluxe" version. Guaranteed to wow your friends with the plunge action. Its also one which I find being used less and less because its just too darn big - overkill most of the time.

This particular portable version is my favorite portable screwpull - its a 2-piece with a "finger" lever. This provides more leverage than the usual single piece versions which have a smaller handle and effective leverage. The blade in this foil cutter is not exactly razor sharp but it works.


A must have whenever you have old crumbling corks. Priceless at salvaging corks which break halfway - corkscrews a pretty much useless at this point as further pressure with the corkscrew will just force the remaning cork into the bottle.

Laguiole - Sommelier series

The truth be told I don't use screwpulls much nowadays mainly because of this corkscrew. Its just a joy opening a bottle with one of these. This is not your normal corkscrew, the quality is very good and should last a lifetime. The downside is the serrated foil cutter - I would prefer a normal sharp blade as opposed to a serrated one. The cut is just not as clean. The current series of corkscrews come in various handle materials - my favorites is bullhorn tip as each corkscrew handle is just unique - like people.

Laguiole (pronounced "Layoll" ) is a village in south-central France. It was widely recognized for its knives beginning in the 19th century. Unfortunately by the late 20th century was in the doldrums. The name was resurrected in the late 80's and is currently seeing a revival throughout the world.

Bullhorn - Pale

Bullhorn - Dark

* In the center you will notice 6 metal rivets around a larger center rivet. The tradition was for shepards who were unable to attend Sunday service while tending sheep in the fields. The shepards would plant their Laguiole knives in the ground - cross upwards and pray in the fields.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Favorite Burgundies Part 2 - Domaine JF Coche-Dury

Domaine Jean Francois Coche Dury is a very small vigneron located in Mersault. While production levels are extremely limited, his reputation is anything but that.

The property holdings are about 26 acres. The yields are low with generally high vine age and plot density. The methods are about as traditional and "old-fashioned" as one can get. Careful selection of "Organic" fertilizers (i.e. manure) and avoidance of chemicals are practiced. First and foremost Coche-Dury pays attention in the vineyards whether its plowing, fertilizers, pruning, de-budding etc... The current portfolio includes Corton Charlemagne, Mersault Perrieres, Caillerets, Narvaux, Rougeots, Vireuilts, Chevalieres. There are some reds in Auxey-Duresse, Monthelie and even a 1er Cru Volnay ( ??!!) - the majority is Mersault however.

The Coche-Dury Portfolio (not necessarily comprehensive):

Corton Charlemagne - Grand Cru
Coche-Dury's plot sits in the center of Corton Charlemagne. The soild consists of limestone and clay. The production levels for this legendary bottling is under 2000 bottles annuallly; this stuff is supposed to be amazing. However this yours truly has not personally tasted it - partly due to the extraordinary prices paid for this one (>USD$1k per bottle). Having had some spectacular Corton Charlemagne from Leroy at 1/3 the price (not cheap already) - its hard to imagine this offers 3x as much stuffing - however, people are eager and willing to pay the price.

Mersault Perrieres - 1er Cru
Again miniscule production levels ( 3000 bottles annually). If there was a plot which deserves Grand Cru status in Mersault (there are none), it would be Perrieres and certainly Coche-Dury's bottlings. From 45 year old vines.

Mersault "Genvrieres" - 1er Cru
Started with the 2003 vintage. Thats about all the info on it - have not had it. Readers are welcome to send in their donations!!

Mersault "Chevalieres" - AOC
( No label image)

Mersault Le Rougeots- AOC

Puligny-Montrachet "Les Enseigneres"
Supposedly, this parcel is just below Batard-Montrachet. In some shops it defintely sells like a Batard Montrachet and perhaps even more!!

Bourgogne - Rouge

Sunday, April 09, 2006

April 9, 2006. Favorite Burgundies Part 1 - Domaine Bernard Dugat-Py

Whenever a bunch of Burg nuts get together. The inescapable question is "who are your favorite producers, domaines and negociants". Well here is my short list. It's a bit long but hope it helps.

Bernard Dugat-Py is a ‘small’ family operation located in Gevrey Chambertin. This operation’s first vintage was 1989 and produces outstanding examples of what Gevrey Chambertin is capable of. Prior to this, their wines were purchased by negociants for bottling under their own names. Total vineyards cover 8.06 hectares or ~20 acres. Much of these are old vines and therefore produce lower yielding smaller sized fruit berries. This reduces the need for a ‘green harvest’ – a common practice in Burgundy to restrain yields. The domaine essentially adheres to organic farming methods and eschews fertilizers and weed killers. All grapes are manually harvested with complete de-stemming. Wild yeasts are used and wines are neither fined nor filtered. The suggested bottle age by the Domaine are given below but frankly seems on the low end. Given these relatively new wines – only time will tell!


Harvested since 1997, the vineyard encompasses 0.06 hectares (0.15 acres). Vines were first planted around 1930 with extremely high vine density plantings. 200 liters of wine is made or roughly the equivalent of 260 normal sized bottles. 100% new oak barrels are used. 10-15 years bottle age is suggested.

Three plots in Mazis-bas amount to 0.22 hectares (0.54 acres). Average vine age is around 50 years old and the first vintage was in 1995. 100% new oak barrels are used. 8-10 years suggested.

Two plots of vineyards combine for 0.47 hectares (1.16 acres). One plot of 0.17 hectares is actually in Mazoyeres-Chambertin (French AOC law may allow this to be sold under its own climat name or Charmes-Chambertin). The two plots are combined to make one bottling of Charmes-Chambertin. Average vine age is around 30 years old. 100% new oak barrels are used. 8-10 years suggested.


Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru - Lavaux St. Jacques
Two parcels adding to 0.15 hectares (0.37 acres), one parcel averages vine age is 35 years old (can’t find information on the other). 100% new oak barrels are used. 8-10 years suggested.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru - Petite Chappelle
‘The small Chappelle’ is for its namesake situated right next to its Grand cru neighbor. Total vineyard size is 0.24 (thats about 1000 750ml bottles) hectares and was planted with extremely high density of vines. Supposedly this parcel was purchased in 1998 but I have seen bottlings from 1996 - perhaps it was leased at the time? 100% new oak barrels are used. 5-10 years suggested.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru
A mixture of several parcels. Fonteny (0.09 hectares), Corbeaux (0.17hectares) and Perrieres (0.09 hectares). Sometimes under special circumstances, these may be bottled individually. Most of the time, they are combined into a single wine. Average vine age is 50 years. 100% new oak barrels are used.


Gevrey-Chambertin - "Le Evocelles"
Plot amounts to 0.54 hectares. Some vines are over 70 years old with extremely low yields. 100% new oak barrels are used. The Domaine states that it can keep 8-10 years in cellar but drinkable after 2-3.

Gevrey-Chambertin - "Coeur De Roy"
A selection of best vineyards and oldest vines in G-C are used. Vine age is 50-90 years old. 60% new oak barrels are used. The wine needs 8-10 years of bottle age due to its tannic structure.

Pommard - "La Levriere"

A new addition to the portfolio, the first vintage was 2003 ( I think ). From a leased 0.8 ha parcel of 70+ year old vines.


Gevrey-Chambertin - Vielle Vignes
Selected from old vines in the appellation (vine age 30-50 years). 35% new oak. Needs 8-10 years.

Vosne Romanee - Vielle Vignes
Two parcels from Quartier de Nuits (0.22 hectares) and En Violette (0.11 hectares). First vintage was in 1999. 100% new oak.

Bourgogne - "Cuvee Halinard"
First vintage was 2000. From a parcel in Gevrey-Chambertin (0.4 hectares). 20% new oak. 3-6 years suggested.

From 1.13 hectares with average vine age of 25 years. 20% new oak.