Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February Confrerie Event

Greetings to all who attended the February Confrerie event held at the Oswego Lake House.
We all owe a huge "thank you" to Yvonne Smith (member and Sommelier at our February venue). We tasted Chateauneuf du Pape wines from the Southern Rhone region of France.
These wines are typically a blend of Grenache, Mouvedre and Syrah. In this appellation there are 13 grapes allowed to be used in the production of the wines. My understanding is that only Chateau Beaucastel uses all 13 grapes (Vaccarèse anyone?).

This month the tasting was a bit unusual in that we were able to sample these wines with food.
As is often the case wine goes hand in hand with food and it was a nice example of how to pair food and wine. The 2003 vintage of Chateauneuf du Pape was a very warm year and the wines should be ripe. The 2005 vintage is a top notch year and definitely a vintage to stock up on wines. Though the dollar is at a 30 year low, there are some good wines to be had from CDP in 2005 at a good value.
In case you didn't bring home the tasting notes that Yvonne put together I am including the professional tasting notes (with a few of my own comments in italics).

Wines tasted

2006 Vieux Telegramme blanc: Exotic, almost tropical of orange, white peach and jasmine. Very suave and well balanced. I thought this wine was very aromatic with a hint of sweetness. This label is the "second wine" of Vieux Telegraphe. There isn't much white Chateauneuf du Pape produced and this is a very fresh and lively example.

2005 Vieux Telegramme rouge: 2005 Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils: Fresh red berry and cherry aromas with a subtle floral quality adding complexity. This wine is also the "second label" of Vieux Telegraphe. Their View Telegraphe is 65 % Grenache with 15% Mouvedre & 10% Syrah with the remainder made up of the allowed "odd-ball" grapes of CDP. The Telegramme is 100% Grenache and is meant for immediate drinking. I picked up some tart cherry fruit along with some spice on the nose. The wine finishes with fairly rustic tannnins.

2005 Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils: Intensely floral aromas of fresh strawberry, red currant, lavendar and exotic dried apricot. Bright, juicy, and persistent. An excellent example of traditionally styled CDP. I picked up on the floral aspect of this wine along with the concentrated fruit and a savory component. This wine also had great structure and it should age very well. This was my favorite wine of the night.

2003 Chateau La Nerthe: Spicy, jammy aromas of blackberry, cassis and exotic spices. Round and velvety with sweet berry flavors and notes of chocolate, mocha and lavendar pastille. I picked up cassis and a concentrated, full throttle cherry fruit, maybe even leaning into cherry liquor. Great mouthfeel.

2005 Chateau Perrin et Fils: This is the second label for Chateau Beaucastel. This wine exhibits greater ripeness than the 2006 but a longer and more complete mouthfeel. Terrifically concentrated and richness for what essentially is a declassified young vine Beaucastel cuvee blened with another parcel. Rich fruit, good structure, not much character.

2005 Domaine de l Cote de l'Ange: A gutsy, structured style, with lots of fig, black currant, braised chestnut, bittersweet cocoa and espresso notes carried by robust but ripe tannins. The finish is long and smoky. I picked up a dried fruit-fig fruit character to go along with rustic tannins.


-First Course-
Chevre and tomato salad

-Second Course-
Salmon mousse crepe finished with dill beurre blanc

-Third Course-
Tenderloin pork roasted w/sauteed onions and Roquefort cheese sauce

A special bonus was that Yvonne brought out a selection of Red Burgundy wines from several vintages. These wines were remaining from an earlier tasting and were a great selection of village, single vineyard and Premier Cru wines

Once again, a big thank you to Yvonne Smith and the Oswego Lake House.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Willamette Valley Syrah?

We were out in wine country this past Sunday at a pre-Valentines Day weekend wine tasting event at Adelsheim.
David Adelsheim and his family are the "real deal" in the Willamette Valley. They are part or the original handful of of the Pinot Noir pioneers who took a mighty leap of faith 30+ years ago. David has been instrumental in grape clone development and clone importation to better match vines to soil and microclimate thus getting grapes that are fine tuned to our specific growing area. In a nutshell what this means is that in 30+ years Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has reached quality level that in Burgundy would be designated as "Premier Cru".
If you are familiar with the Willamette Valley you will know that when you talk about red wine then you are generally talking about Pinot Noir. I know that Dick Erath has experimented with Cabernet Sauvignon but i have come across a couple of producer who are making very interesting Syrah wines from the grapes grown in the Willamette Valley. At this point in time I believe that only Adelsheim with their Bryan Creek Vineyard and the Deux Verts Vineyard are the only two Willamette Valley vineyards producing Syrah grapes that go into commercial labels.
I have tasted the 2006 Adelsheim Syrah and to me it has a spicy nose with very intense purple fruit that shows itself in the glass to be one of the darkest purple wines I have ever drank (it actually tinted the inside of my glass purple). The wine has good acidity and it would be fun to set this down for a couple of years and see how the wine comes together. The intense color reminds me of Austrailian Shiraz, but the Oregon Syrah has better acid and is much more food friendly, just like a Northern Rhone Syrah, but with bigger fruit and no black pepper varietal component.
I have been exploring new world Northern Rhone wines this past year and to me the Adelsheim Syrah fruit has the acidity of the cool climate Syrah being produced along the Sonoma coast by producers like: Alban, Pax, Copain, Peay, et. al. The fruit profile of the wine is more akin to the Walla Walla Syrah. I would say if you are a fan of Walla Walla Syrah then you would love this wine. Heads up, if you want to buy some of this, they only produced 88 cases so better get it now!
The other producer making Syrah from Willamette Valley grapes is Elemental Cellars. This is the second label for Witness Tree, but as far as I am concerned there is nothing second quality about this Syrah. The 2004 Elemental Cellars has intense aromas of violets, white pepper and black fruit that gives way to supple black raspberry and cherry flavors. The wine has good acidity and is made in an old world style.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hey, Ho,Lets Go, Hey, Ho, Merlot!

After all the bad press that Merlot wine got from the movie "Sideways" all I can say it that Miles should have been a little more specific about what Merlot he wouldn't drink. I had a chance to taste eleven wines from St. Emilion last week. All of these wines were primarily Merlot with the second largest component being Cabernet Franc and a couple had a smidge of Cabernet Sauvignon.
St. Emillion is a gorgeous mid-evil village just outside of Bordeaux. The area is referred to as the Right Bank (as opposed to the Medoc and the Left Bank). Unlike the Medoc, the scenery is stunning and the village is a World Heritage site. This area was not classified in 1855 and thus there are no 1st Growth St. Emilion wines. The area finally classified itself in 1954 and to their credit they update the classification every ten years. Without a doubt the top wines from this area would have swollen the ranks of the 1st and 2nd Growth Estates had they been included in the 1855 classification.
We tasted wines from as recent a vintage as 2001 and as early as 1966. This was a rare treat to be able to taste this many wines of this quality at one sitting.
I will list the wines youngest to oldest and include my notes.

2001 Chateau Angelus: Perfume nose, very aromatic, some cola notes. Fruit forward and needing a little more time. This was my favorite wine of the night even if it was a baby.

1998 Chateau Gracia: Very new world in nose (big vanilla) and fruit (bright cherry). This could easily be mistaken for a California wine This is a wine that Parker loves and it is considered a Garagiste wine. The fruit is from a 4.4 acre Grand Cru vineyard and the wine is 85% Merlot & 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon which is aged in 100% new French oak.

1998 Chateau Pavie Decesse: Fennel seed on the nose followed by sweet Cherry fruit.

1998 Chateau Tour du Pas St. Georges: Black licorice on the nose with a hint of mint on top of red Cherry fruit.

1996 Chateau Beau Sejour Becot: Savory nose, smoky cherry fruit, a hollow middle but a decent finish.

1993 Chateau Cheval Blanc: Tobacco on the nose with a sweet cherry fruit. Nicely balanced and a strong finish. This is one of the "Big Boys" of St. Emilion and it is the first time I have had this label (thanks Steve and Kimberly) This is the wine that Miles of Sideways fame was drinking out of a paper cup while scarfing a burger. Did he know that this wine was 66% Cabernet Franc and 34% Merlot?

1990 Chateau L'Arrossee: Savory nose, concentrated cherry liquor giving way to a cola overtone.

1989 Chateau Grand Mayne: Smoke on the nose layered with fennel/cedar. Good fruit still left from what was a great vintage in Bordeaux.

1982 Chateau Larmande: Smokey nose, fennel seed, sweet fruit and seemingly slightly thin without much finish.

1982 Chateau La Dominic: Savory nose with a floral component. Secondary fruit character is starting to show.

1966 Chateau Troplong Mondot: Smoked meat on the nose, savory, red fruit with tobacco and a terrific finish. This is why people buy and age Bordeaux wines. The level of complexity showed itself as this wine sat for over and hour. Tasting after an hour the wine still had a nice concentrated fruit character but it was showing almost a caramel sugar on the nose-Too bad I didn't buy a case of this when I was 7 years old.