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.