Monday, 27 February 2012

HDM Short Hoyo Piramides EL 2011

Having had one of the other EL's (Edition Limitada) last Monday, the Ramon Allones Extra, it was a good chance to now try another that had been sat in my humidor for a month or so - The Hoyo de Monterrey Short Hoyo Piramides EL 2011. I am a big fan of the Hoyo marque. It had great appearance with an oily dark wrapper, far darker than I associate with Hoyo in general. Lovely earthy aroma when cold. The draw was tightish but good, what I have heard referred to as a "Cuban draw" before. There was a spectacular aroma on lighting up, even being sat outside. The question it a real Hoyo, on starting I'd say a good cigar but more coffee and dark notes than I associate with Hoyo, more petit Bolivar in a way. First bean, almost espresso like intensity, rich flavour, medium weight, impressive nothing harsh despite the youth. Approaching half way the burn is brilliantly consistent and even...lovely white ash. It has notes of tea and shortbread, may be flapjack, coming in too...the coffee side of things all but gone, so more Hoyo in character, would be great with a Speyside whisky I recon, I'm on french regional Cabernet 2009 and a cup of tea. This was very enjoyable...not a heavy weight but very high quality classical cuban tobacco. I'd say it has good potential too, love to see this in 3-5 yrs. Through the nose there is a aroma of old leather, no spice to speak of. Into the final third, still good though not developing anymore, youth showing a bit but that's good not bad, still balanced. As noted earlier the aroma of the smoke is notably impressive, I'd love to walk down the road behind somone smoking one of these. Overall impression is of an impressive smoke. It is not a true Hopo in character to me but I don't know that this matters. Good to see the EL's really doing what they should - high quality and interesting. On the score front I'd say 91 now and potential, as other layers show themselves, to be up at 94. So 91-94.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Cigars, Wine & Photography all in a Nobleman's House

Last night was a truly memorable evening at a wonderful location - The House of the Nobleman - in which there is strikingly excellent Gallery space which amongst others currently houses several photographs from the renowned photographer Alistair Morrison.Yesterday was all about Cigars, Wine, Cigar people & photography. Alistair has a project on the go called Fuma Divina, a book of Cigar smokers portraits that you will have to ask about, it is very special, and also an exhibition of cigar related photographs more details here

The event was a combination of several peoples work and judging by the packed room one that will be repeated.Laurence Davis of Sautters of Mount Street ( great people with a similar attitude to cigars that we have to wine, spoke about the two cigars and I spoke about the wines.

What resulted was the most smoky and decadent room in London, a top Monday night! We had two combinations - El Rey del Mundo 'Choix de l'Epoque' a UK Regional Edition for 2009 with Macon Verze 2009, Domaines Leflaive. The cigar is essentially a short Robusto (50 ring gauge by 4 and a bit inches), a straw and hay like aroma and a just under medium body, it worked well with the Macon Verze which has great fruit but also a good texture. The 2009 is drinking really well know, a dash of opulence with acidity to keep it in check. I had never had the L'Epoque before and was impressed. After most people has tried the first pairing we moved on to Ramon Allones, Allones Extra a Limited Edition for 2011 with Psi 2009, Peter Sisseck. I had bought a box of these smokes on recommendation but never tried one and I was delighted. A rich stewed fruitcake character that I associate with Ramon Allones was there from the off, it started at just above Medium and came back after the first third to medium, these will age brilliantly as there is real complexitiy and clout. The Psi was a great foil for the cigar, Tempranillo often is, as it had a sweet fruit but very little oak and a rich palate coating texture that made for really balanced enjoyment. The 2009 Psi has started to hit it stride in the last month after arriving about 6 months ago, it’ll give a lot of pleasure. I must alos mention that there were some very high class ash trays and immaculate Humidors on display from Linley - very special things to own. My over-riding impression was of a room packed with fun and banter. The world of Cigar smokes is a broad church and all the better for it!

If you would be interested in similar events please let me know!

Friday, 10 February 2012

My first trip to 10 Manchester Street

My first trip to 10 Manchester Street last night, loved the place. Also a first chance to try a rather glaring ommission from my cigar smoking history - the H.Upmann No2. Really enjoyed the smoke. It was well constructed and mellow, having not eaten it was a wise choice. It reminded me of the profile of a Hoyo more than anything, it built a little towards the end but had a lovely aged feel to it. I wish I knew what the box code was. I think I'll buy a box at some stage as it is a good change of pace from my beloved Partagas.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Lunch at Otto's

Lunch yesterday at Otto's, 3 times in 8 days it isn't quite my new Zucca but is very good, was a catch up with a customer who shares my enthusiam for drinking "the good stuff" and has firmly shifted from customer customer to friend customer. There aren't many professions like this and it is a fundamental appeal of the wine world for me and I am sure many many others. The more automated wine becomes, websites, mass email offers, trading platforms etc the more I think the personal contact is essential, may be I'm just getting older...

Anyway the food at Otto's was great, mushrooms, steak, apple pie, just the job for a cold midweek february day. But this is about the wines.

First up was the white which I cruelly served blind, the stab at it was good with white Rhone the fact it was white Rioja - Que Bonito Cacaraeba 2008 from Benjamin Romeo - but I like to think I'd have said the same, the texture and waxy peach-like fruit reminded me of rhone. Either way it was a good start. The blend is Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca in what may as well be equal thirds. From white we were on to the real guests very kind contribution...Richebourg 1998 from Domaine de la Romanee Conti. I have tasted this before but not since release 11 years ago and certainly only to sniff back then.

The wine openend up over the hours or so that we had it in the glass. As an aside a wine like this between 2 or may be 3 people is perfect, you could miss some of the charm and evolution if you had one glass. Also having a decent amount of wine in the glass makes a big difference to the way a wine comes across. The colour was deepish and almost consistent to the rim. There was powerful, masculine texture and weight as you'd expect from Richebourg but an elegance too. Curried spice (it's a cliche but it is there) did develop and there was s nice bit of grip, also good acidity. I think it was geat now but certainly has legs. If you are in the nice position of having some then have a bottle soon, if I had one bottle I'd probably be tempted to drink it just before it's 20th birthday. A rare treat and a great bottle.
We finished with a half of a delicious Vin santo, I didn't catch the producer, after a DRC bottle is seems a little much to worry about however obnoxious that sounds...nearly time for a week off but first...a cigar at 10 Manchester street this evening.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

H.Upmann Royal Robusto - LCDH 2011 release

This was a stick I bought from Sautters of Mayfair, really friendly cigar shop/merchants, on recommendation. it was as the title of this suggests just produced for sale by La Casa del Habanos stores (that's the extra band too).

It had a great dark but not too dark wrapper, lovely construction, perfect draw, a touch too wide in gauge for me but it is what it is so that unavoidable. The burn was good , initially rich strong tea with a touch of cream. It than got fuller at end of 1st third, up to medium or just above. It tasted young but very good too, tea like finish with grass too. Final third, quite punchy and more tobacco.

Needs a bit more time...89 now potential for 92+, well worth seeking out.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Domaine de la Romanee Conti...the 2009's

Friday was the annual treat that is the Press Domaine de la Romanee Conti Tasting. I will write my views on the wines but clearly as I work for the agents I am biased, although when it comes to these wines what I think it is of little consequence.

My fear before this tasting was that the 2009’s would be too 2009ish and that the terroirs might not show as wonderfully as they did in the last few vintages. I shouldn’t have worried as they showed as much if not more than I can remember going back to the 1997 vintage which was the first I tasted on release. A small note for accuracy I tasted at 8.00am as I was also checking the bottles for the actual tasting. We always serve them very cool, as they would be served at the Domaine.

Notes, actually they are more comments, are in the order that the tasting was set up in:

Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Duvault Blochet - Crisp almost crunchy red fruit this was leaner and more pinot than I can ever remember, I wonder which Cru’s featured the most I

would guess not the Richebourg... good start, an open wine.

Corton Grand Cru -The “new comer”, the first vintage of this wine. One wine made from the Prince Florent de Merode holdings which are now on a (I believe 40 yr) lease to the Domaine. In the future there may be more than one wine (Clos de Roi, Bressandes & Renardes could all be made as GC’s in their own right) but not now. Colour was so much deeper with an almost blue edge to it. I have been no lover of Corton generally but this had the sweet fruitedness it can often lack and a silky texture. A good amount of Corton spice..very impressive debut.

So now we were into the “range” as everyone knows it:

Echezeaux Grand Cru - One of the two most impressive wines for me in terms of showing against the standard I’d now expect. Purely because it had almost the perfect Pinot nose, all feminine and elegant, no grunt or weighty pretense, Colour was exactly between the first two wines. Joyous.

Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru - A bit darker than the Echezeaux, almost to the Corton in colour. I always find GE the hardest to get my head around. There is a little orange rind on the nose, dash of spice too. Lovely texture...bit of a keeper I would guess.

Richebourg Grand Cru - Darker fruit here as ever, this wine always has the broadest of shoulders, the most masculine, the palate weight is very impressive too. The required freshness is there, very much Richebourg no mucking about.

Romanee-St-Vivant Grand Cru - The star for me for the reasons mentioned in the Echezeaux note. The startling rise of this Cru over the last 10years is quite something. A wonderful balance of pure red fruit but also real depth, a classic. Sets the standard for RSV for me. Just makes you smile. If this nose doesn’t excite you then forget red Burgundy.

La Tache Grand Cru - Back to almost the Richebourg colour, serious wine that whilst fruited has another layer that is hard to describe. There is the talked of asian spice but also a depth I’ve not often seen in Tache. As good as it gets if it wasn’t for RC.

Romanee Conti Grand Cru - A shade lighter than La Tache. Often the RC has all the texture but somehow the La tache shows more on the day and only in age does the RC make itself known as the very peak. This year the RC was strutting it’s stuff more. It is exquisite and in some weird way manages to be extrovert and introvert at the same time. As good as I’ve tasted and with real life, will be very long lived but also a beauty in relative


And all over for me by 8.20ish in the morning! The tasting itself went very well. I was lucky to be amongst a few of us that went for lunch afterwards at Otto‘s (near Holborn). It is not often you find yourself next to Aubert de Villaine and opposite Hugh Johnson drinking Montrachet and I hope this is not seen as a boast. Both men are true stars, in the wine world at least, but actually couldn’t be less star-like, brilliant company and endless topics were covered. The Le Montrachet was the 2009, this needs time, not because it is piercing, Le Montrachet from the Domaine is never that, it just has more cards to play. The density of fruit you get from this wine is unbeaten by any other white wine to my mind and you would never think it is as young as it is because of that fruit. This 2009 I would put on a par or just above the 2006 but not as high as the 2007 or 2008. In time I am sure I may well be wrong but I’d be happy to find out...

An amazing friday, only 364 days to wait for the 2010’s

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Carillon 2010's...a tasting and dinner

Below is a blog I did for the C&B Blog, as it is my views I feel justified in repeating it here...

Last Thursday saw the launch of our latest exclusivity – Domaine Francois Carillon – Alison (Buchannan) has done a full offer (on C&B site) so I will not repeat that here but more give my view of the wines. The venue was Le Cerle near Sloane Square which gave proceedings a suitably chic feel.

The evening however was a focus on the beginning of what we, in our admittedly biased way, feel is a very exciting “new” venture. I say new but the name Carillon is anything but. What is new is that with the retirement of Louis Carillon the what was Domaine Louis Carillon has become two Domaines – Domaine Francois Carillon,with which we are dealing here, and Domaine Jacques Carillon. Francois and Jacques are both Louis sons, the mind goes instantly to what must have been a family feud and arguments but actually it is the opposite just good timing and a chance to set things up for future generations. Francois and Jacques both have large families so it makes sense to divide the former Domaine now and avoid any future difficulties. The parcels have been divided up or split.

And so on to the wines which Francois and Alison presented. 2010 is the first vintage of this Domaine and all the pre-dinner wines were from this vintage the first two were Bourgogne Blanc & Saint Aubin 1er Cru Les Charmois - the Bourgogne Blanc was quite closed on the nose and in many way the least expressive of the range, this may be due to the fact it is nearest to bottling, it was fresh and with great texture just subdued on the nose almost Chabliesque, 18 months and I have no fear that this will be singing. The Saint Aubin was stunning, I love this appellation, it has richness but also a spine, it sees a tiny (12%) of new oak, there is very little produced, so little in fact that it is sold out, I didn’t buy any and regret it. Next we moved to Puligny-Montrachet having the villages first and then the 1er Cru Champs Gains. Village was a step up, it sees 1year in barrel (15% new) with lees and is from a plot at an elevation of 230metres, very impressive, the Champ Gains, first of the 1er Crus was very pretty, fine honed and with real complexity.

Have moved into 1er Cru territory we now had a trio – Folatières, Les Perrières & Les Combettes – this was fascinating, all having their champions amongst the team, rather than describe the wines with my dodgy adjectives I will give my views on their personalities. Folatieres is more of a military man broader shoulders, bold. The Perriers a more steely, almost stern but not quite, aristocrat. The Combettes is the extravagant man about town who you know under a slightly brash exterior is the kind of guy you want on your side…think I better stop this now, getting carried away. If I had to have just one it would be Combettes but I feel guilty (a good sign) saying that. Our resident Burgoholic, Tom Bird, I know would champion the Perriers to his last word…

The last pair was two Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru’s Les Clos Saint-Jean & Les Macherelles – I have far less experience of Chassagne than Puligny so found this an excellent opportunity. The Clos St.Jean is from a vineyard only planted in 2003 and has exquisite balance when you take the recent planting into consideration this is a wine to watch. The Macherelles was to me a step up, very expressive, crying out for food (Lobster). The whole tasting had been brilliant with the differences from one wine to another pronounced. The overall style? It is one of minerality and finesse, these are wines for the medium to long term, the lack of oak is great to see.

With dinner that followed a glass of Delamotte Champagne we had wines from Domaine Louis Carillon as there is no “Francois” pre 2010. The first course of Seared scallops, fennel tatin, baby spinach and citrus dressing we had with Puligny-Montrachet Villages 2008 & 2009, the 2008 opened up in the glass with a leesy richness developing nicely the 2009 was to my mind less complex, straight forward and delicious but I tend to find 2009 a less exciting vintage for whites than 2008 and this showed here, 2009 will be delicious from the off but 2008 I feel has the edge on potential and complexity. The next course - Roasted Veal Filet, dulce glazed salsify, carrot pulp and bok choi was served with 1er Cru Champs Gains 2008 & 2009, I look back at my notes and notice I gave 2008 18points and 2009 17-18 points, this seems correct on reflection the 2008 as with the Villages before shading things.

The final two wines with Mini tour de France cheeses were Combettes 2007 and Les Perrieres 2007, my notes had by this stage got brief but I gave Combettes 19 which is high for me, the note says “rich but fresh, great” for the Perrieres I commented “as with 2010 more taut again”, given that 2007 is a taut vintage this is not a surprise. The overall feeling was that the dinner wines were delicious but the 2010 was where the excitement lies, this may be convenient for me to say but I feel it is the truth…exciting times ahead...