Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dressner Portfolio Tasting Notes

So after the hard and wonderful work of the Terry Theise Portfolio tasting, we rushed over to the east side for Louis/Dressner tasting. There was simply no way to taste everything, even if this were the only tasting of the day. There were 250 wines, and I don't know about you, but I can't thoughtfully taste more than about 50 wines in one session.

I had to narrow the field, and so very sadly, I decided to taste mostly the new vintages of old and familiar wines. The Italian wines - I didn't taste 'em. Wines of the Savoie - didn't taste 'em. Burgundy, Jura, and Muscadet...nope.

Did I taste anything, you might be wondering, or did I just mingle with the wine stars? Oh, I tasted, buddy, and some great wine at that. I went for the Bubbles, the Beaujolais, the Cab Franc, and the Chenin Blanc. I had an hour - that's all I had time for.

First, I have to tell you about the 20 year table. In honor of their 20th anniversary, the Dressner folk dug into the cellar and set out a load of wines from their inaugural vintage. How thoughtful is that? And what a great opportunity for those of us (like me) who haven't tasted many of these wines with bottle age. I missed some of these wines, much to my dismay. Breton's Bourgueil Perrières, Chateau d'Oupia Cuvée les Barons, Pepière Clos des Briords...gone. And the Clos Rougeard Le Bourg - corked (but even so the fruit was young and lovely). The 1988 Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon was complex and beautiful, and the Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert and the Pinon Vouvray Moelleux were great too. And as far as I know, 1988 wasn't a particularly great vintage - just a normal working class year in the Loire Valley. I'm more determined than ever to let my bottles sleep in peace...

Bubbles first, and what bubbles! Larmandier-Bernier wines are so different from the wide open style of much of the Theise portfolio. These wines are not generous, they are cautious and they'll hold back on you. There is nothing similar in style in the Theise portfolio except maybe Gimonnet, and those wines, if I may say so, do not have comparable depth or focus. These are piercing wines of great definition, and they can seem like turtles, just their head visible underneath all of that shell.

The Blanc de Blancs was opened as I was standing there and needed time to come together. But this bottle of Terre de Vertus showed better than any other I've tasted - richly fragrant with broad mineral flavors and ripe fruit. A memorable wine, and well worth the price (about $75). The 2004 Vieille Vignes de Cramant was focused and lovely with floral notes, although quite closed. There was no Rosé de Saignée left, which is tragic, as I have never tasted this legend of a wine.

Right near the Bubbly table sat two unattended bottles of Dard et Ribo white wine, both from 2006, a Crozes-Hermitage Blanc and a Saint-Joseph Blanc. I've never tasted a Dard et Ribo wine but I'd heard very good things, and these were better than very good. Fresh and pure with beautiful fruit and floral aromas, and great texture - voluptuous without that viscosity that find distracting in white Rhone wines.

Next was Beaujolais. This is such an impressive aspect of the Dressner portfolio. We're talking about many of the finest producers - Desvignes, Descombes, Brun, Tête, and Roilette, all at the same table. The wines that I liked the most on this day were the 2007 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie for its grace and purity of fruit, and the 2006 Desvignes Morgon Côte du Py for its depth and brambly intensity. There were many other excellent wines, but these are the two that I wanted to take those home with me.

The 2006's from Chidaine are quite good, although if you're used to the 2005's they will seem light. The 2006's are probably typical and the 2005's are probably extra rich and intense. My favorite was the 2006 Clos Habert, a demi-sec wine that I also love in 2005. The 2007 Pinon Vouvray Cuvee Silex Noir is just a great wine too, and a very good value at about $25. It was the temperamental 2006 Anjou Blanc from Agnès et René Mosse that I liked best of the current Chenin Blancs, with rich fruit on top of a pool of minerals, and a great underlying streak of acidity. At about $23, this is another excellent value. Rich enough to drink with a hangar steak, relaxed enough to enjoy with a bowl of vegetable soup.

I took a brief Burgundy excursion at this point and tasted through the Philippe Pacalet wines. Pacalet has a cellar in Beaune proper and buys grapes from various growers, often tending the plots himself. His wines are made in the classic style, focusing on purity, grace, and expression of terroir (read - not overly extracted and dark). Although these are not among my favorite red Burgundies, tasting Pacalet's 2006's was as fine a lesson in terroir of the Côte de Nuits as I've ever had. The Nuits-St-Georges was earthy and had wild game on the nose. The Pommard was muscular and dense, almost a bit clunky. The Gevrey-Chambertin was also muscular but with higher toned fruit. The Chambolle-Musigny was silky and more elegant. The Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Perrieres (about $125) was in my opinion the finest of the lineup with great depth and intensity to compliment the ripe fruit and the firm structure. The Chambolle-Musigny was, as advertised, silky and more elegant.

And last for me were the great Loire reds, and what a way to end the day. I'm talking about Breton, Baudry, Raffault, Filliatreau, Clos Roches Blanches, and Clos Rougeard. I think the 2007 Baudry Les Granges is the best Les Granges since 2004. My first time tasting the 2006 Croix Boisée and I'm not sure where I stand. It had nice fruit, but it was so tannic and muddled that I couldn't decide whether or not I would buy it for myself. I need to taste this again. I was super impressed with how well the Raffault wines showed - all of them. The 2005 Chinon Les Picasses was ripe and expressive, but restrained and elegant too, and complex with herbal and earthy flavors. And under $25. The 2002 was a bit more awkward at this stage, but also shows elegance and balance to go along with the silky fruit. The 1990 was gone, but the 1989 was smooth and well balanced, and seemed quite youthful, nothing secondary about it.

All three Clos Rougeard wines were excellent - 2004 was an under appreciated year for red wine in the Loire, I think. Le Clos, the "entry level" wine, was ripe and delicious, and all elbows and knees right now. And by the way, this wine now costs about $60. Les Poyeux used to cost $50. These wines have become too expensive for most of us, sadly, as they represent some of the finest red Cabernet Franc wine from anywhere. Les Poyeux was delicious and oddly more accessible than Le Clos, and Le Bourg was your high school friend's huge but gentle older brother, more into math than football.

An amazing tasting that showcased the work that Louis/Dressner has done over the past 20 years to bring natural wines to the US. Next year if I am invited, I don't care if Barack Obama's white house tasting is the same day, I'm spending the day with Dressner.


Anonymous said...

You should have tasted the Radikon! (Interesting orange wines that others love but I don't.)

Unfortunately, out here we don't get to taste the Clos Rougeards, as Beaune Imports is the importer for the West Coast (rather than Louis/Dressner). I purchased 6 bottles of 2004s...K&L had them at a nice price.

"but I can't thoughtfully taste more than about 50 wines in one session." You are a lightweight! I can do 120+.

Joe said...

20-year old Clos du Papillon?! Nicely done. And I see you are picking up on the cork now... :) They're still selling the '04 Baudrys up here, but very few left which leads me to think we should be getting some new stock soon...

Amy Atwood said...

Bubbles and Beaujolais. Sounds like a date.
Am green with envy that you live in NY an got to taste the Louis/Dressner lineup.
Have mad respect for their portfolio.

peter said...

I'm very jealous. But I would SO go to the Obama thing.

Vinogirl said...

Would not go to the Obama thing.

Jim's Loire said...

1988 was a good vintage in the Loire with fine autumn weather helping. There are some very attractive sweet wines. It has been 88's misfortune to be overshadowed by the magnificent 1989 vintage and the very fine 1990.

(Jim's Loire: http://jimsloire.blogspot.com)