Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Clos Erasmus

Photo: Clos Erasmus

I started tasting wine with the intention to educate my palate starting about 1999.
In 2006 I was fortunate enough to be invited to a 11 vintage vertical of Clos Erasmus.

Clos Erasmus is produced from four vineyard sites, with a miniscule (total) vineyard surface of only 2 hectares (about 4.5 acres). All the vines are planted on deeply sloped terraces originally carved into the mountainside by the Ancient Greeks, for their cultivation of vines, olives, and almonds.

Las Escalas, the first vineyard site in the area that Daphne visited, became Clos Erasmus. The terraces were restored, vines planted alongside the existing old vines of Grenache, and in 1990 Clos Erasmus was born. Yields are only 18-20 hectoliters per hectare, and the number of cases produced has never been more than 140 per year.

The Priorat wasn't always a home to many of Spain's most exciting wineries, but with names like René Barbier, Alvaro Palacios, and now, Daphnie Glorian of Clos Erasmus, there is no denying how deserving it is of its current status as a "Spanish Darling."

A group of 16 people got together and menu planned a full evening around these terrific wines. A couple of nondescript Spanish white wines for the "starter" wine and then we proceeded to sample the vintages 1992-2002. Our host Scott Fitzwater and his wife, Karla were very kind to have shared these wonderful wines in their home.



Romesco (a Catalan dipping sauce) & Antipasto Cantalano
Catalan Tapas

-Side Dishes-
Catalonia Brecol con Nueces Y Pasas
(Broccoli with Walnuts and Raisins)

Catalan Aubergines (eggplants)
Pulpo en su Tinta
(octopus tossed in olive oil, garlic, squid ink and potatoes)

Catalonia-Style Spinach

Escalivada - Catalan Roast Vegetables


Venado Cazador
(venison stew with forest mushroom)

Paella a la Catalonia

Gambas Al Ajillo (Shrimp W/ Garlic) Catalonia

Pollo alla Catalana

Pine Nut and Almond Cookies (Piñones)
Crema Catalana

Needless to say, this was a marathon meal and we were eating and drinking for easily three hours. While we didn't blind taste the wines, we all kept notes and the following are mine from that evening. Notes and my Ranking # (though, this is like naming which is your favorite child).

1992 Clos Erasmus: Cedar on the nose with dried flowers, secondary fruit that gives way to leather on the nose and palate. 5th

1993 Clos Erasmus: A sweet and aromatic nose, good purple fruit and a nicely structured silky finish. 8th

1994Clos Erasmus:
A floral nose with dark Purple fruit with hints of hints of vanilla on the palate, silky tannins and dried fruit on the finish. 1st

1995 Clos Erasmus:
High alcohol on the nose, very ripe purple fruit that peels away to show some dried fruit as well, a bit of an "off" finish (slightly corked). 10th

1996 Clos Erasmus:
Purple fruit upfront that gives way to mouth coating tannins. Some acidity on the palate made this go well with the meal. 7th

1997 Clos Erasmus: Fruit forward wine with flavors of black olive and cherry liquor. Nice finish. 4th

1998 Clos Erasmus:
Sweet fruit that seems concentrated. Good structure. 6th

1999 Clos Erasmus: Dark cherry fruit with a layer of vanilla on the nose and palate, mouth coating tannins and a spicy finish. 2nd

2000 Clos Erasmus:
Dusty, fresh, purple fruit, mouth coating tannic finish. 11th

2001 Clos Erasmus: Soft cherry fruit upfront with gripping tannins, nice spicy nose and finish. 3rd

2002 Clos Erasmus:
Dried fruit on the nose with just a touch of fresh cherry. 9th

This entire lineup was pretty stellar. The wines from Clos Erasmus were selling in the early 1990's for around $30 bucks a bottle, unfortunately the Priorat caught the eye of Robert Parker and after some wine ratings in the high 90's the prices jumped dramatically. All of the above wines (if you can find them) are selling at auction for $150/bottle. Looks like this might be one of those "once in a lifetime " events.

The meal and the wines were wonderful and we added a
1975 Don Pedro Ximenz to put the finish on a great evening.

Be forewarned. It’s brown. And I don’t mean reddish brown. I mean flat Coke, plain coffee, or if-Tootsie-Rolls-were-a- drink-it’d-be-this-color brown.

But it’s soooooo good.

Don PX, as it’s called, is produced by Bodegas Toro Albalá, S.L. in the Montilla-Moriles Denominacion de Origen of southern Spain. Pedro Ximénez is a white grape with a naturally high sugar content. It’s particularly common in Montilla-Moriles, although it can be found all over Spain.

To make the wine, harvested grapes are dried in the sun — essentially making raisins — to concentrate the flavors. The wine is then aged in oak barrels — for a minimum of 25 years — until it develops the proper flavor profile.

Don PX has a nose that’s chock full of raisin and vanilla notes. Its smell reminds me of a cream soda or cream Sherry. In fact, Sherry hails from a nearby D.O. Don PX, however, is not a fortified wine. The high alcohol content comes from the naturally-high sugar content of the Pedro Ximénez grape.

In the mouth, Don PX is heavy, but not syrupy, and full of raisin, prune, fig and date flavors. It is sweet in a fruity sense, not a sugary sense, with a long finish. It’s definitely an after-dinner wine that would pair well with chocolate or chocolate mousse.

We finished off the night with Spanish Coffees down at Huber's