Some incredible wines were consumed by the Terroirists last week. I visited New York City for Berserkerfest; Greg popped open what’s long been one of my favorite affordable Rhones; and Jeff went hiking with some wines (that’s one way to hydrate!).
Check out our notes below.
This past weekend, I went to New York for Berserkerfest — a weekend when Wine Berserkers from across the country get together to meet and drink one another’s wines. This year’s event was at Peking Duck House, and nearly 100 bottles were open. I brought along three — a 1976 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah York Creek, a 1982 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel Sonoma County, and a 2009 Rivers-Marie Chardonnay B. Thieriot Vineyard.
The Freemark Abbey was stunning for a solid hour — several folks said it was their Wine of the Night. The Swan, too, still had lots of fruit and was incredibly approachable — it was a bit simpler than the ’76, though. And the Rivers-Marie was also delicious — much more elegant and mineral-driven than the ’08 bottling of the wine.
Other highlights for me included a 1994 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Selection and a 1997 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red. But there were so many other good wines that it’d be impossible to catalogue them all! I tasted all sorts of wonderful Champagne and Riesling, a stunning ’96 M. Chapoutier Hermitage (I’m not sure which bottling it was), several aged Burgs, and, well, the list goes on. It was also great to meet so many generous people.
Earlier that day, I attend the Chambers Street Wines memorial for Joe Dressner, where money was raised for Partners-in-Health. It was fun to taste so many of his selections — and I particularly enjoyed the whites.
I only drank two wines of note this week. The first was a 2009 Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone. I popped and poured, and this opened quite a bit after ninety minutes. Both nose and taste were quite tight at first but currant, plums, and dark raspberry paired wonderfully with some spice and even-handed oak. A wonderful daily drinker at ~$15, this should improve for the next couple years.
The other cork I pulled this week was a 2006 Sans Permis Chardonnay Cuvee Juliet. I got off on the wrong foot with this wine when I found out it was not made by Thomas Rivers-Brown (of Rivers-Marie fame, amongst others), as was claimed by the outfit that sold the wine. Turns out TRB made the two vintages prior to this bottling. Shame on me for not doing my homework, I suppose. On to the wine, which was interesting. The nose was classic new world chard. In the mouth, some lemon and butter up front which fades to a saline/salty caramel finish. The wine definitely lacks acidity which leaves it pretty flabby. The finish is long, the flavors are intriguing, but the total package is less than the individual parts.
I drank very few wines this week, and strangely, given the turn in weather, they were all whites–not the robust reds one might expect with the onset of frost. Both wines, incidentally, were consumed on hikes through the William B. Bankhead National Forest in northwest Alabama. If you ever have the chance to hike to Upper Caney Creek Falls and onwards to its lower sibling, do so with the following wines: the 2010 Domaine Grand Tinel Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc and the 2005 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Uerziger Wuerzgarten Mosel Riesling Spaetlese*. They were both spectacular companions.
While the white Chateauneuf was a bit taxing in the booze department–14% abv–it was enough of an acidic powerhouse to give that key sense of refreshment. I’ve often been flummoxed by the sea of white Chateauneuf that die on the palate, lifeless, oily and boozy. Without a spine, so many of these become almost caricatures of this last decade of California Chardonnay. But something wonderful is going on at this estate (Philippe Cambie consults…). This had real backbone, supporting a billowy frame of tree nuts, apricot, young honeydew and jonathan apple. There’s also a piney note to this as well–Pine-sol, if I may–with that twist of lemon twang to give that nice finishing touch.
The Mosel Riesling Spaetlese, while certainly sweeter than its picnic cousin, was still powerful in its own right. It’s clearly a product of its vintage; 2005 was a crop of towering, profound quality, producing wines of insane, almost monolithic concentration. In many respects, the 2005 vintage for both the Mosel and the southern Rhone Valley wasn’t too different. There are many Rhone 2005s that have yet to vacate such great heights. This Riesling, however, while still massive and full of extract, has started to unravel with loads of rich and hearty acid and sinewy layers of exotic tropical fruits, honey and lemon custard. Right now this is all about decadent pleasure, but it doesn’t slack on complexity either.
Catching up on last week, here are brief tasting notes from my Rhône adventure in wine class:
- 2009 E. Guigal Condrieu: Perfumed floral nose with sweet citrus, peaches and apricots. On the palate, more peach & apricot. Not a ton of acidity, but still interesting because of its textural richness and silkiness – but retaining a light and feminine profile. If this wine were a person, it would be Norah Jones.
- 2009 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhône: With something like 3 million bottles of this wine made, I had low expectations. However, I agree with another cellartracker reviewer: this is a completely serviceable wine. Cherries, spicy raspberries, and a hint of smoke. At $12 bucks, it’s a solid, cheap, winter wine.
- 2007 Ferraton Père & Fils Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière Dominated by green pepper, under-ripe red and black fruit, and asphalt. Really high acidity. Not my favorite wine, as I found it a bit thin.
- 2001 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle: My tasting notes (after already drinking the previous 3 wines) say, “DELICIOUS” in messy cursive font. So, this was pretty tasty – brick colored, flavor profiles of tobacco, cedarwood, gamey deliciousness, and still some subdued toasty notes and pretty red fruit.
- 2007 Michel & Stephane Ogier Cote Rotie: The wine newbies in class were in unanimity that this wine “tastes so expensive! Haha, I got some green pepper (again?), perfumed fruit and a little sweetness from the oak…great acidity and finesse.
- 1999 M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac: Dusty prunes and sweet earth. Not much time left on this wine. Would be great with a fatty protein or pot roast in your pjs.
Domaine Pas St Martin Saumur 2010: I loved the 2009 vintage of this Chenin Blanc from Saumur, which was well-balanced and slightly sweet with a nose of yellow flowers, honey and melon. The 2010 just came in, and was comparatively disappointing, though I could see it pairing well with soft cheeses. I found the acidity overwhelming and citrus notes dominated–much less complex than its predecessor.
Huguet Can Feixes Penedes Blanc 2010: This still wine from the Cava-making region of Spain is a perennial favorite. Made with Parellada, Macabeo and Chardonnay grapes, its racy acidity is well-matched by a yeastiness that makes this wine refreshing, yet gives it great body. Works equally well as an aperitif or with your meal.
Jose Pariente Verdejo Rueda 2009: This was the first 100% Verdejo I’ve had in a while, and I was expecting a vibrant, juicy, mineral- and citrus-driven white. This wine was much lighter-bodied and quieter than I would have guessed, and was dominated by citrus. At $23 a bottle, the lack of complexity was disappointing.
Luna Berberide Finca la Cuestra 2008: Castilla y Leon, a region of Spain better known for its cathedrals than its wine, is making major inroads in the US market. This wine is made from Mencìa grapes from the Bierzo appellation. It is currently showing its oak, but that should improve with time as the oak integrates and allows the wine to mellow. I tasted black fruit, licorice, cola, and a meatiness that will probably intensify with age.
Domaine des Miquettes Sant-Joseph Rouge 2008: I usually love Saint-Joseph, but this Syrah had a lot of red fruit, surprisingly weak tannins, and seemed over-extracted. The wine is made by a young up-and-comer using organic methods–it seems like his wines have promise but he is still finding his stride.
Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano 2008: Elizabetta Foradori is one of few Italian women to achieve success in the male-dominated industry, and makes killer wines in the Trentino region. This wine showed black cherries, black raspberries, violets, and great minerality. The grapes are grown in the foothills of the Italian Alps, but the inevitable acidity that comes with cool-climate grapes was mitigated by a moderate tannin backbone. Good to drink now, or could improve over the next year or two.