Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wines Only in Your Dreams

Every fall sees suppliers holding large portfolio tastings to show new releases and to spark sales as the industry moves into the busy Fall and Winter Holidays. Recently I attended Republic/National's 'Toast to the Trade' where they graciously open bottles of the legendary wines normally gazed upon by anxious eyes and read about in publications like Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate.

The first time my wife saw a copy of The Wine Advocate, she remarked that, " This is just like reading pornography!" She was absolutely correct. Reading Parker or any of his colleagues is to read about exotic, rare and expensive sensory experiences that most of us encounter only in our dreams.

Tastings like Toast to the Trade give us lowly wine guys opportunities to benchmark their palates by tasting some of those wines. From the many wines offered I've chosen just a few to reflect on here.

Two Champagnes

Taittinger Comte de Champagne 1998: Blanc de Blanc blended from several 100% Grand Cru rated vineyards, made only in the best vintages. Light notes of citrus float in the delicate foam turning to rich brioche filled with dry honeycomb lingering in the long dry minerally finish. Big, rich and delicate at the same time. Complex and delicious!

Salon 1997:  Blanc de Blanc from Salon's vineyard, Le Jardin de Salon and selected parcels from the famous Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, all 100% Grand Cru rated. Very similar to the Comte except that the flavors are richer and much more defined and precise. This would be expected as the fruit sourcing is limited to a single area. The finish has a deft touch of honey slipping down the back cleft of the tongue. Very sexy!

Four Burgundies

Raphet Pernand Vergelesses 2006:  Tight aromatics give little hint of the dark plums found in the glass. The wine shows promise, but seems a little closed today. Good producers making wine from vineyards in out of the way creases in the slopes can offer good value in Burgundy. This is one of those wines.

Raphet Pernand Vergelesses 2006:  From under the table comes a bottle of the same wine from 2002! Wow! The same dark damson plums that were shy and coy in the 2006 are strutting their stuff in this bottle. Undertones of soy make the dark fruit sparkle! The transforming miracle of bottle age is very evident.

Marc Roy Gevrey Chambertin 2006:  Classic Gevrey showing the sappy vitality of red cherries, berries and plums exploding before the wine closes in tannic darkness. Tasting this wine was just plain fun. Gevrey Chambertin has always been my favorite and it was enhanced by conversations with my son who had recently spent a Saturday wandering the vineyards of Gevrey. He lucked onto a Faiveley picking crew who shared their lunch and wine. He repaid the favor by taking shears and bucket and picking a couple rows of Premier Cru fruit! Domaine Faiveley is represented by Republic/National, but their wine was not shown today.

Domaine Com Vogue Bonnes Mares 2006:  Beautiful aromas of pungent berries and plums that can only be produced by great Pinot Noir jump from the glass. The wine has a rich texture full of ripe red and black berries and plums integrated into long dark earthy finish. The wine is very open and approachable in its youth with beautiful primary fruits bursting from the glass. However, it is ridiculously expensive!

A Big Bad Boy From a Big Bad Vintage

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2005:  This is a very nice surprice because RNDC opened the 2005 at last year's Toast. A year ago the wine resembled partially liquified espresso grounds. From very, very good espresso, I might add. But I don't think I've ever tasted a less evolved wine of such massive proportions. In one year's time, the wine has shown remarkable developement. Hints of fruit are starting to emerge from the massively dark espresso flavors. It has lost some of the grittiness and almost seems light on the palate. I suspect this apparent 'lightness' is just temporary. (Even I was skinny for a brief period in my life.) This wine has years to go before the flavors and weight are fully developed.

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