Warning: this is a really long post you might need to read it over several days, or during one day in which you are really bored at work.
I hauled my butt into Manhattan (!) on Saturday, thinking I would be the first guy at Chambers Street Wines for the tasting. Nope. Packed already, and only 1:10 PM. And as a reader named Andrew pointed out in his comments on Spring Tastings in NYC, many of the people in the store seemed to have no idea what was going on, they were there simply because they walked by and smelled the wine in the air. Which is fine by me - the more the merrier, except that Chambers Street is narrow and there honestly just wasn't enough space this year. This is suggestion number one for the friendly and amazing people at Chambers: hold this incredible tasting somewhere else next year. You need more room to do this, and so do your customers
They had already broken the tasting into two shifts, early and late, and only some of the wine makers would be present at each shift. Suggestion number two: hold this incredible tasting somewhere else next year. You have some people come because they walk by, but lots of people who know and love your wines come specially for this tasting, and want to be able to taste them and meet the vignerons. Impossible in this venue.
Many wines listed in the flier were simply not being poured when I was there. As a regular customer who made sure to inquire beforehand so as to better plan my day, this was very annoying, I must say. No reason not to open the wines you say you're going to open, right?
So I helped them out by bringing this to their attention, and then by actually opening some wines for them and creating a little "self-pour" tasting table featuring the wines of Chidaine, Baudry, and Marechal...and this turned out to be a lot of fun.
My only other gripe is this: some of the people pouring the wine seemed confused. They were mystified when told that they were pouring only one Baudry wine, and the flier indicated that four would be available for tasting. They poured wines in a strange order sometimes, and explained things about the wine that I know are not true because Jedi-master David Lillie who partially owns the place had already told me differently. Suggestion number three: make sure that your staff are assigned to pour wines that they know about and can discuss.
Okay, griping is over. The tasting was amazing - the wines were for the most part just delicious and full of character. If you like Loire wines, you're not going to do better than this. Also, the vignerons poured not only their entry level wines, but their top wines, and this provided the opportunity to taste a $62 Cote Rotie without actually buying it, which is much appreciated if you are in my tax bracket and you want to sample the wares before investing.
I decided that for this tasting I would score wines from 1-5 with 5 being my favorites, 1 indicating a wine that I just did not like. Wines are presented so that my favorite in any group appears first, etc. I tried to write further notes after the tasting, but I want to say right now that these scores and notes in no way should be construed as a description of the wine during a meal, thoughtfully considered over a couple of hours with friends. In fact, I tasted one of the wines with BrooklynLady over dinner since then, and it was wonderful, yet I didn't love it at the tasting. Just goes to show you, there is probably a "right" way to taste wine...
2004 Eric Texier Cote-Rotie, $62 - This Northern Rhone Syrah was lighter than his other reds, incredibly intense nose of roasted meat and herbs, olives and soil. Complex palate of dark fruit, with great minerality and a lingering finish, still lip smacking in its youth.
2005 Eric Texier Vins de Pays O Pale, $16 - This is a sweet wine made entirely from Viognier grapes. Since all of the grapes are grown in Condrieu, why wouldn't Msr. Texier charge $95 for this bottle and label it Condrieu? Because wines called Condrieu must be dry wines, and this wine is fermented to only about 8% alcohol, leaving lots of residual sugars. But let us rejoice, because for $16, we can enjoy this glorious juice, smelling of peaches, orange blossoms and honey; with a soft and well balanced palate echoing the floral and orange blossom flavors, and also a confectioners sugar-yellow cake kind of thing. Just delicious, and a steal at this price.
2002 Domaine du Closel Savennieres les Coteaux Moelleux, $28 - this is a rare sweet wine from Savennieres, crafted only in certain vintages. So much better than it was when I stupidly opened my bottle two years ago. Deep yellow, almost gold. luscious nose of white flowers, honey, and minerals. Mouth filling but light at the same time, delicious!
2005 Marechal Pommard La Chaniere, $50 - who would have thunk it? The '05s from Marechal are now available, and the Pommard, the Cote de Beaune village with the biggest muscles, the one that might require the longest time to reveal its charms, it was this young wine that impressed me as the most complex and immediately drinkable. Dark purple colored and a little murky, this wine smelled like a flower shop, with smoky spices too. Fruit is faint right now on the nose. Beautiful, although obviously tight palate, with hints of earth, flowers, dark fruit, and spices. This seems to be something special.
2004 Bernard Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissee, $29 - Baudry's top cuvee, from old vines in clay and gravel, aged in wood barrels. This was tough right now, tightly coiled like the red string inside of a baseball. But the purity and elegance of the plum fruit and dark flowers was evident, and the tannins, although not yet integrated, are sweet and fine. You watch, talk to me in 8 years about this wine...
2005 Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Clos Habert, $26 - Yum! I posted about this wine here.
2004 Domaine du Closel Savennieres Clos du Papillon, $26 - Closel's top cuvee, from the butterfly-shaped vineyard. This is still kind of closed, but the intense floral and mineral character shines through. White stone fruits too, and some quinine. I cannot wait to try this again (in at least 6 or 7 years).
2004 Cazin Cour Cheverny Cuvee Renaissance, $18 - Romorantin from the master, allowed to ripen longer on the vine, creating a sweeter wine than the normal Cour Cheverny. This might honestly be the best under $20 value that I know of in white wine...period. I posted about this wine here.
2004 Eric Texier (yeah, I didn't know about him either, but this guy might be a genius) Brezeme Domaine de Pergault Vieilles Vignes, $29 - I don't know what the name means, but this is Cotes du Rhone at its finest. 100% Syrah from the resurrected Brezeme vineyard, this is light in color, but intense with plums, herbs, and tar, and really well balanced with nice acidity and low alcohol. Has a long life ahead of it too.
2005 Desvignes Morgon Javernieres, $21 - Cru Beaujolais from Desvignes, always good. This one was really good though, from clay soils, with a lovely translucent purple color, a nose of violets, ripe red fruits, dark plums, and a little barnyard funk. Very smooth and elegant.
2005 Jean Manciat Macon Vieille Vignes, price unknown (about $30) - old vine Chardonnay from the Maconnais, a Burgundian region known for value whites. This wine was bright and fresh, with nice white fruit and citrus, and great minerals and acidity. I had zero expectations for this one, but I couldn't drag myself away...
2005 Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Les Bournais, $32 - sweeter than the Clos Habert, very sweet in fact. It seems to have enough acidity to balance itself out though. After another few sips, and this wine was warm, by the way - it was opened at my urging (read: nagging) it came into focus. Clean and pure aromas of white flowers and honey, sweet palate of peaches, some pineapple, and some honeyed minerals. This wine has some serious stuffing, and I will have to revisit in a few years.
NV Renerdat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Demi-sec Petillant, $16 - this is a low alcohol (~7.5%) effervescent rose colored wine from Bugey in eastern France. Made from Poulsard and Gamay, it is sweet, fruity, and funky all at the same time, and pleasantly bubbly. So low in alcohol, you could pour your grandma a few glasses and she'll have a ball without falling asleep. I posted about this wine here.
2004 Michel Tete Julienas Cuvee Prestige, $23 - not cheap for cru Beaujolais, but it's worth the money. Smels of flowers and plums, with a mouth filling velvety texture and sweet black cherry flavors. This almost doesn't seem like Beaujolais, except for the fact that it has almost no tannic presence. Just yummy.
2005 Domaine du Closel Savennieres la Jalousie, $20 - Closel's entry level wine meant for drinking young, although don't be fooled - this is serious wine.
2004 Cazin Cour Cheverny, $13.50 - surprised me by NOT being as bracing and acidic as the last vintage I tasted. Quite lovely actually, with melon and floral aromas, good acidity, but well balanced with a hint of sweetness. Definitely a $15 beauty.
2005 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone, $12 - fresh ripe raspberries on the nose, so nice! Fruity and clean on the palate, a bit hollow in the midpalate, but c'mon, it's $12. This wine is made mostly from Grenache, but includes 20% white grapes in the mix. Another $15 beauty.
2005 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone Brezeme, $16 - 100% Syrah from the Brezeme vineyard, this wine is tasty with dark smoky plums and herbs. A great value.
2005 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Clos des Briords Vieille Vignes, $14 - old vine wine from the musc-master Marc Ollivier. All of his Muscadets were just lovely, but this is my favorite. I posted about this wine here. This and the next two wines are unquestionably $15 beauties.
2005 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Cuvee Eden, $13 - a little more fruit than the Briords, less mineral character.
2005 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, $10 - briny and bracing, good citrus and melon flavors, nice texture. Incredible that this wine is $10.
2005 Jean Manciat Macon Charnay Franclieu, $17 - Manicat's Chardonnay for younger drinking, fresh, vibrant, and delicious.
2005 Desvignes Morgon Cote de Py, price unknown - this one from schist soils, more tannic and mineral than the Javernieres. I am not familiar with Beaujolais as it matures - I tend to drink them young. Maybe this will improve, but currently eclipsed by its sister, the Javernieres.
2005 Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire Les Tuffeaux, $25 - sweet white fruit and honey, very pure, a little toasty, a bit disjointed right now but has promise to be sure. This wine is made from grapes from several plots.
2005 Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin, $26 - my first taste of Chidaine Vouvray (and their first vintage of this wine?). Interesting smells of citrus and kerosine hints, flavors of red grapefuit and stones. More interesting than pleasurable to me, but maybe with some time...
2004 Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Grezeaux, $25 - Baudry's other old vine wine, also made from grapes in clay and gravel soils, but without the new barrel aging. Tight still, but clean and interesting with smells of barnyard funk and dark plums and herbs. Will need a few years to shine, I would say.
2004 Mas de Chimeres Coteaux du Languedoc, $17 - mostly Syrah (I think), this wine has a rustic feel to it, in a good way. Herbal and smoky, some road tar, and nice dark fruit. Light feeling too, not too much alcohol.
2005 Marechal Bourgogne Rouge, $25 - disappointing, not bad, but disappointing. A great and undervalued producer, a great vintage, shouldn't this have been special wine? It certainly was floral and had sweet fruit a-plenty, but there was little complexity, not much to hold your interest. For 25 smacks, you can do better elsewhere.
2005 Michel Tete Julienas, $18 - barnyard city. I didn't like this the other time I tasted it, and that was at home with dinner. Maybe I'm missing something...
2005 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone Brezeme Roussanne, $20 - 100% Roussanne from Brezeme. The nose was wonderful, full of orange oil and flowers. The palate did nothing for me though. This may be because I just don't often drink white wines that are low in acidity, and I don't know how to taste them. This wine felt flabby to me, no vibrancy.
2005 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Cabernet Franc, $13. I very much like their Sauvignon Blanc, so I was surprised at how uninspired I was by this wine.
2004 Bernard Baudry Chinon Domaine, $15 - Hmmm, so much barnyard funk that its kind of hard to focus on anything else. Could it because I just opened it moments before tasting, and it hadn't yet blown off? I sure hope so. I loved the 2002 and 2003 vintages of this wine.
2005 Breton Bourguiel Franc de Pied, $20 - I know that Breton is kind of hip, and I usually like their wines. I was distinctly underwhelmed by the two wines I tasted here.
2005 Breton Bourguiel Trinch!, $16 - trinch, the sound of two glasses clinking, is a wine to drink young. Not this one though, not for me.
2000 Chateau Moulin Pey Labrie Canon Fronsac, $29 - You were right Joe, this is just nothing special. Deep cassis aromas, nice perfume - seems so promising, but a monochromatic palate of dark jammy plums. Not interesting enough to justify the price tag.
2005 Clos Roche Blanche Cuvee Cot, $19 - nope, not happenin'. I know that some people love this wine, some people whose palate's I trust and respect. But I'm going my own way here - I just cannot drink this wine. All Malbec, and all funky soil, all out of balance. I would rather drink seltzer, and I say that in the friendliest way. I welcome someone's teachings on this wine...
NV Pinon Vouvray Petillant Brut, price unknown (about $17) - maybe a flawed bottle. Tasted like cardboard and excrement. And after I primed Adam for how tasty it would be, too...If not flawed, than simply yukky.
Wines that I could not score because I could not figure out what the heck was going on:
2005 Marechal Savigny les Beaune Vieille Vignes, $39 tight, bland, tannic.
2005 Marechal Savigny les Beaune 1er Cru Les Lavieres, $50 red fruit hints, too tight to tell what's happening.
Wines that I did not get the chance to taste:
All of the Beaujolais wines of Jean-Paul Brun, Domaine des Terreed Dorees.
All of the wines of Franc Peillot of the Jura.
Eric Bordelet's Normandy Ciders.
Wines that were not poured when I was present, that I wish I could have tasted:
Domaine Belliviere's 2005 Coteaux du Loir and Jasnieres wines - such a shame!!
Breton's "better" wines, Les Galichets, Nuits d'Ivresse, and Les Picasses.
Pinon's 2005 Vouvray Tradition or Moelleux sweet wine.
Okay, that's a wrap folks. If you can still focus your eyes, and still have control of your mouse-finger, you may now click away from this page.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Warning: this is a really long post you might need to read it over several days, or during one day in which you are really bored at work.