Sunday, 30 October 2016

Bonneau du Martray 2015s - the first of three mini blogs from Burgundy, October 2016

So last Sunday/Monday, with two colleagues, I made a bit of a "dash in, dash out" visit to Burgundy. Strictly that's not true as Guido stayed there all week. But it is amazing what you can get to taste in 20 hours in the Cote!

We arrived and about 3 minutes later had supper in Puligny. The three bottles in the picture.
Puligny-Montrachet 2012 from Francois Carillon was drinking deliciously, just PnP and crack on, good intensity. The Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot 2012 from Domaine Ramonet is clearly less ready, more focussed, tighter and may be leaner but classy, I didn't really have a favourite right now. Hand carrying a bottle of Bordeaux - Roc de Cambes 2009 - to Burgundy may seen a little odd but actually there are very few occasion when Roc isn't a good idea. The 2009 shows all the promise of never closing down (the 2005 though did)...what's not to like, our guest certainly loved it.
Up at the "crack of sparrows" and down to breakfast in the hotel in Puligny at 7am, first tasting, for which we were 1 minute early was 8am at Bonneau du Martray with the ever charming and often slightly mischievous Jean-Charles Le Bault de la Moriniere. We chatted and then went downstairs to the tasting room which is new since I was last there back in 2009. I'll never leave it this long again!
It is lovely to visit this Domaine, almost unique in producing solely Grand Cru wine - even Domaine de la Romanee-Conti sometime does a 1er Cru!! Having just two wines to concentrate on is a blessing when at some producers it can be tens of wines. Red then white (leaves you better placed for the next tasting from a practical standpoint) as the locals prefer.
Corton Grand Cru 2015 - Good colour, bright and translucent. Very primary and airy on the nose, good wine, nice crunchy fruit and a proper backbone. A good mineral aspect, cherry fruits and a little black fruit but behind the red. Vibrant, freshness. 17-18 out of 20 Drink 2022-2032+ (40% new wood).

Then a chance to re-taste the bottled (end of March 2016) 2014 vintage. This was the first certified organic vintage for the estate.

Corton Grand Cru 2014 - Nicely complete, melds together well. Some sweetness to the attack, then structure. A little leaner than sometimes, good structure and a cool fruit character which adds to the crunchy fruit expression. 17 out of 20 Drink 2020-2026+ 

FYI - Jean-Charles likes to always wait 8-10 years before opening the red. About the only exception I have found was the 2007. 

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2015 - In many ways this is the crucial wine of the visit. Bonneau du Matray is comfortably the largest landowner in Corton-Charlemagne. Lovely bright colour, waxy with some unctuousness, generous for the wines of this estate but some of that will be the ripeness of youth. A little grapefruit and great depth. Lemons and pears on the finish. This will tighten up and is very promising indeed. 18-18.5 out of 20 Drink 2019-2027

Then the 2014 which I have had in London a couple of times.

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2014 - A good whiff of subtle reduction. A little prickle of spice, such supreme tension, this is the archetypal "coiled spring" but not to the degree that means you can't see how good it is can! Savoury, intense, moreish and very long...18.5-19 out of 20 Drink 2020-2030+
A few words about the savageness of the production in 2016 here...well not as bad as many places is the answer. The 2016 Corton-Charlemagne is 40% down, the Corton is 66% down (usually 24 barrels, just 8 in 2016).

Bravo J-C!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Beppe Rinaldi...Brunate-Le Coste a vertical...

The first of a few posts I hope to nail today, a rather large, but good, backlog has built up. I was pretty knackered when this dinner came around but I was equally excited by both the prospect and the chance to see some of my very favourite wine folk - Eric, Mr Burns, Column, Mr Rafferty (jnr) and my favourite, but sadly on sabbatical, pumpkin chef!!
The venue was the Medlar Restaurant which is seeing a lot of action these days including these events. It came about through the wish to drink some Rinaldi, or Azienda Agricola Giuseppe Rinaldi to give it is full name, wines! Eric kindly co-ordinated this with Chris Delalonde at Medlar and everything was in place for a fun evening - expectation dangerously high.

To start, and after Burnsie had insisted on hugging everyone (is he really English), we had 
Louis Roederer Cristal 1999. It was an amusing choice as I had only been saying in the office that day that of the prestige Champagnes it is the one I see served least at wine dinners. It was mellow and a little honeyed but not OTT at all. More biscuity than nutty and with some citrus. If you had to be critical it could do with a dash more verve and length but that really is nitpicking, lovely.

Predictably we then all had the Crab Raviolo, Medlar's signature dish that has to be had. Alongside this we had Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Referts 2011 from Francois Carillon, here comes the usual bias warning but this is "a point" right now I think, in common with a lot of white Burgundy 2011s. A slight whiff of reduction  then easy yet rich fruit and lemon driven energy, a little spice on the finish...these two led us to the "work" at hand.

There are very few estates that I fearlessly buy totally "blind" - by this I mean I would buy more of these these Rinaldi wines than I can afford, at any chance I get. This doesn't mean to say they are all brilliantly faultless and perfect - wine isn't like that and arguably isn't meant to be. However, if I think of the top ten producer labels that lift the spirits immediately then this is one (others include - Soldera, Conterno, Coche, Rousseau, DRC, Chave etc - must do that list one day). I have only visited Rinaldi once but it was memorable in the extreme. Beppe's views and manor is well documented and long may it last. There will be a follow on to this post when we look at Barolo Cannubi S.Lorenzo-Ravera next month. The Rinaldi estate makes brilliant: Langhe Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera and Freisa but the focus tends to go to the two Barolo which I tried to explain at the end of the post here. Essentially from 2010 you can't have two Crus on the same label so in crude terms.

Barolo Brunate-Le Coste (65% Brunate and 35% Le Coste) has become (from and including 2010) Barolo Brunate (85%Brunate and 15% Le Coste) and...

Barolo Cannubi S.Lorenzo-Ravera (a blend of the two named Crus, sorry I don't know the rough balance) is now Barolo Tre Tini (a blend of Cannubi S.Lorenzo, Ravera and the remaining Le Coste that now can't now go in the Brunate).
To add some confusion there have been vintages when a Brunate alone has been made and also quite often the magnums have been pure Brunate (*see notes at end of post for clarity with thanks to Ken Vastola). Right, enough facts...the wines. We attacked them three by three, deciding not to work by age but my vintage type, often a more fun and logical way to do things.

Flight 1 - Brunate-Le Coste - The Warm vintages

1997 - A predictably more evolved and less pure colour than the others in the flight. Saline and deep fruit with some cucumber-water (sorry but I know what I mean). Spice and cherry fruit, deep, a shade powdery in texture which somehow works. Good. Perfect now, will last but in 5 more years will be old and whilst in 20 years it'll be interesting there is, for me, no real upside - enjoy now, degraded hedonism.

2003 - A little more cherry here and an almost candied note (that Monprivato and Cascina Francia both have in 2003 as well). There is a glycerol character here. If I had to draw a parallel with another producer in another region for this 2003 it would be Rayas, there is red fruited, Grenache like purity. When to drink is very tricky. If I had 12 bottles (as if!) I'd have drunk three by now, drink a bottle a year for the next six years or so, hold three just to see.

2007 - Tight, focussed, very fine, a shade muted on the nose, brilliantly saline on the palate. I know this wine quite well, a splendid 2007, does not show "warm" at all. Much as I would want to own more of this than any wine in the flight the 1997 is the wine I would drink most of right now. This is a 2007 to buy if you can find it!

Flight 2 - Brunate-Le Coste - The "should be a bit open" vintages.

Brunate Riserva 1986 - Ok so one of the exceptions I mentioned above and a wine I have had, and loved, once before in magnum also with Eric. A clouded texture, some frazzles and red fruit, degraded sweetness followed by a little bitterness. The mid-palate is a little quiet but the finish is super, a little herbal green drive at the end. Lovely. At it's peak.

2000 - A bit of a brute. The only wine in the first two flights where I thought this would be good alone but not in this company. It's a good wine, savoury and a bit adolescent right now. I feel I am being harsh but there is just a little sweetness missing. I'd love to try this again in 3-5 years.

2004 - Superb and universally the "wine of the night", not that one is needed. Power and poise, drive and precision. Not ready to show everything but is appreciably good. My note says "what wine is all about". Bold in density and structure but in no way too much. The nose is just sublime and the palate follows through. Don't open for 5 years I recon because if you do you will just drink the bottles you have.

Brunate-Le Coste - "Classic or closed?"

1999 - Bricky, salt and orange spice, very serious, delicious, good astringency, already in third gear, may be a little more open than I expected. Nervously classical. Hold but try every two years.

2001 - In Piedmont I have found quite a few 2001s to be just that bit too serious, too heavy. This is not one of them though Eric was a little disappointed in it. Savoury, serious and dense. Tight, a slightly soupy structure but a good savoury Bovril like finish, a real food wine (aren't they all). I would take the same drinking approach as the 1999.

2005 - I almost didn't mention this, we figured there was some labelling error with this bottle. The juice was not Nebbiolo and was more like 3-5 years old. Nice but not Nebbiolo...

1998 - This bottle was opened at the beginning of the evening and put to one side as it was a shade disappointing but we drank it again at the end and whilst it is a weak link and, on this showing, a lesser wine than the 1997 it is still true to the Nebbiolo grape if a little prematurely aged.

We had a most bizarre Champagne to finish and clearly the level of conversation deteriorated rapidly but then that that was to be expected.

Conclusions, or what auditors always refer to as the "opinion piece". My feelings about this estate are unchanged...I will keep buying. There is so much character to these wines, a lack of compromise that I love. Is there more precision (in the same period of vintages), elsewhere in Piedmont? Yes for sure...but is better always actually better? The daughters are having more and more input and the precision is being refined. Recent bottles from 2008 and 2011 were simply stunning, moreish and intense without being in any way remotely a waste to drink now.

An iconic man? Yes. Iconic wines? They probably are but the thing is, I am not sure they want to be...drink them whenever you can.

*The labeling of Brunate with Le Coste  began with the 1993 vintage, when Beppe took over the winery from his father, Battista.  It was Battista  who (in the best vintages) bottled Brunate separately (and usually as a riserva) starting in 1964.  I think, but am not sure, that some Le Coste may have been in those old Brunates as well. Ken Vastola

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Roulot...a good look...

From the moment this was inked in the diary, and thanks to MS for organising, I had been looking forward to it. The format was a tried and tested one...bring a bottle of a producers wine, Roulot in this case, and we can taste and discuss the wines before breaking for a glass of Champagne then drink the wines with dinner. A few of us had taken a red so that we could  move to those bottles once our "work was done".

The whole show was orchestrated in the upstairs of Medlar which as these posts show is a spot I am somewhat familiar with. I just wish it could be nearer work (Tower Bridge) or home (Muswell Hill) but it is worth travelling for.

Those assembled are an experienced and satisfactorily opinionated bunch from the trade. Many of them where at a few of the below tastings, done over the last few years:

A fun crowd to be amongst, if demanding of wines. I am probably more easily pleased than a few but then that's just one of those things. We tasted the wines in six pairs. Squabbling as we went.

Roulot is not a producer I am overly well versed in. I know of it well, and of it's reputation, I have probably had six or seven of their wines but never done anything like this or visited. The Domaine is actually named Domaine Guy Roulot. Guy died in 1982 and Jean-Marc Roulot took over fully from 1989. This estate was, as far back as the 1970s, the main driving force behind bottling lieux-dits (non classified but specific plots) by themselves rather than everything that was not a 1er cru going into a generic Meursault Village as was the habit at the time. I have listed the Meursault holdings below. This seemed the most conclusive listing I could find, size, site, year of planting:

0.26ha  1er Cru Perrieres (1964)

0.16ha  1er Cru Boucheres (1980)
0.28ha  1er Cru Charmes (1942)
0.25ha  1er Cru Porusots (1959)
0.85ha  Tesson Clos Mon Plaisir (1961)
0.49ha  Tillets (1974)
0.26ha  Narvaux (1960)
1.03ha  Luchets (1948,'61,'74,'76)
0.95ha  Meix Chavaux (1929,'47,'57,'75,'83,'96))
0.67ha  Vireuls (1956)
Other holdings: Monthelie 1er Cru Champs Fuillots 0.19ha (1989), Bourgogne Aligote 0.77ha (1922,'96), Bourgogne Blanc 2.64h (1955,'88,'90,'92,'96,'99).

So on with the wines, which I have chosen to score out of 25, just to help set some sort of pecking order:

Meursault Meix Chavaux 2010 - Deliciously complete nose, very focussed and dynamic but with breadth too. Waxy, textured, white flowers, dashes of both spice and reduction but so complete, so moreish, slightly saline, very fine, long, excellent. 23+

Meursault Meix Chavaux 2011 - Very closed, almost muted nose then much broader and more extrovert on the plate, slightly apple fruit (not bruised apples!). The acidity and finish don't really match the nose. A couple of people wondered if this was a perfect bottle, certainly it wasn't corked. It struggled against the 2010 but I'd give it 18 on its own and on this showing.

Meursault Tillets 2009 - Salty, spicy, delicious, rich, quite decadent, generous green (ripe green) and white fruits...almost like a warm vintage but high class Chablis. Impressive. 20-21

Meursault Tesson Clos Mon Plaisir 2009, En Magnum - Lovely lovely wine, easy to enjoy, oily, waxy, long and persistent, a wine to make you smile, ripeness and just a hint of gold and sun. 21-22

Meursault Tesson Clos Mon Plaisir 2006 - Butter and lardons, a little lactic and creamy, nuts on the finish, very 2006, gourmande and generous. With the right food this could be a lot of fun, Drink soon though. 18

Meursault 1er Porusot 2009 - Clearly this domaine did very well in 2009. Citrus and zesty energy, lemon rather than lime. Still quite primary and I think there is more to come here. Be excited to own this. 20-21

Meursault Vireuls 2008 - This was very much an '08 to my mind, that dry honey character, old school style, lanolin and wax, cheesecloth, moreish though and my overriding impression was that I could have drunk a lot of it...always a good sign. 20

Meursault Tesson Clos Mon Plaisir 2008 - Toffee'd notes, rich, quite broad, slightly over-dry on the palate, good but more evolved. A little rancio character. Drink. 19-20

Meursault Vireuls 2007 - Zip, inviting and very '07 in character, nice focussed length, very pure, some citrus, a little muted. More to come. 20

Meursault Tillets 2007 - Apple acidity, lovely palate has an even more '07 crispness to this. An intense wine, may be tense is actually a better word for this. Serious, grown up. Long-lived for sure. 21

Meursault 1er Porusot 2011 - Good crisp drive to this, citrus and then some toastiness but all very restrained from its youth. Generous in flavour on the palate, a little green spice, lovely now but clearly quite some future to this. Very good. 22

Meursault Boucheres 2011 - Just a level behind the Poursots but that's no real criticism, moreishness to the fore, adjectives were clearly used up by now but this was a good to very good wine. 20-21

There was one last Roulot and that started dinner after a glass of good Champagne, the name of which I stupidly did not take down, and that was Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru 2013, this was a pure, open Pinot with red fruit to the fore, pretty but not with great depth, simple would be too harsh.

Conclusions: The Roulot tasting was fascinating. There were only two wines that I felt disappointed a little and those were Meix Chavaux 2011 and Tesson Clos Mon Plaisir 2006 neither of which were bad and drunk in insolation with food would have been decent bottles but this was not that format. Two out of ten in white Burgundy at the current time, reasons for which I am not getting into now, is a good showing. The general consensus post-tasting was that there weren't quite the highs people had hoped for. I can see this argument and the wines are expensive (we're in the £100-200 a bottle range) but two or three things hit me. Firstly, these are drinkers wines rather than show off wines, very little reduction and new oak so youth is not necessarily going to show them at their very best where age will add layers to the undoubted purity and drive that exists as a real strength. With food I loved them a notch more. Secondly, the one 2010 - Meix Chavaux 2010 - we had was stunning. Thirdly, the 2009s way outperformed the general perception of the vintage. Both these points are interesting in my view. 2010 is seen as an exceptional vintage with only a few 2005s, some 2012s and then 2014 rivalling it in my view (comments please). The 2009 "victory" is something that more and more producers seem to have done, those that picked early and made sure the winemaking was understated have clearly excelled in a vintage many perceive as three or four star for the whites. Anyway, I now feel I know what to expect and that Roulot is very much worth ageing. The finest white Burgundy producer not to have Grand Cru? If you look back to the 2004 post mentioned at the start then you'll see the note below which I hope helps my point about maturity and time:

2004 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir, G. Roulot
A little bit of brine on the nose, a tight and taut wine. I expected more of the 2004 whites to be like this. Very impressive. There was a grapefruit core with a long finish that had a very classical “proper” profile. Some people were less excited but I thought this had real class. 18.25 (out of 20 then)

Time now for the food and having gone off piste last time I was at Medlar I made sure to return to the straight and narrow and had the Crab Ravoli with several of the whites, it was absolutely perfect with the Meursault Tesson Clos Mon Plaisir 2009 which was convenient as that was the only magnum!.
The Medlar signature - Crab Ravoli
I then pretty much insisted on a blind red which was Contrada Porcaria 2012, Tenuta di Passopisciaro. 100% Nerello Mascalese from on Etna it seemed to go down pretty well. I almost hoped there would be more divided opinion but may be we were tired from squabbling over the whites. Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux 2006, Comte Armand followed which was sturdy, in a proper way, a little funk from youth, some spice, a wine to leave a few more years but a good one. Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Chaignots 2010, Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg is one of the very best NSGs I have ever had and certainly shows the vintage, simply delicious, if you don't like this sort of wine then red Burgundy is not for you. Purity combined with density, delicious. Echezeaux Grand Cru 2012, Domaine Coquard Loison-Fleurot was lovely too, sadly my note only extends about that far. More intense and tight now being a 2012, a vintage it'll be fascinating to follow, good good wine. Finally Flor de Pingus 2009, this might seem like an odd choice but it fitted in well at the end. I think the quality and structure of Flor means that other than at age 2-4 years it is best left for ten years, certainly the 2006 is a beauty now. The 2009 showed class in a slightly muted way.
A cracking evening all round, generous bottles and a lot of fun...what next for this group?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

The winning team...magnum mayhem...

A few weeks back I hosted a dinner at 67 Pall Mall that was a reunion of the "Winning team" from a dinner we threw at work for Clos de Tart Day. I say winning team because this was the table that had correctly tasted and deduced their way to spotting that a mystery vintage of Clos de Tart was indeed the 1988. As the hosts we committed to get a dinner together to drink said wine again. Six out of the eight, 75% being quorum in my view, managed to make it. The brief was a simple if dangerous one - bring a magnum. With a few emails back and forth we ended up with a splendidly balanced spread. At one stage a magnum of Port looked likely but that was sensibly, this was a Thursday night, "turned into" a bottle of Port and a bottle of Sauternes.

Stories flowed as they do at these things and we were eventually turfed out through a rather empty club. So to the wines.

Salon Le Mesnil 1997, En magnum, many of you will be aware that I know 
Salon rather well. Probably my favourite "recent" vintage for drinking right now is the 1997. It just has a lovely blend of freshness with the whiff of maturity, energy but not overly so, all in all a cracking start. Thank you Emlyn. Should all Champagne just come in magnums?

Chateau Laville Haut Brion 1996, Pessac-Leognan, En magnum was sadly the only victim of the night in terms of condition, ironic given that it came directly, in original individual wooden box, from the cellar of none other than blog stalwart Halifax. It was not corked and it was not undrinkable but a bright example of that it should be it wasn't either. Halifax being the man he is was straight into the list and got us onto a bottle of  Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Baudines 2011 from rising/risen star Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey. A nice tie-in as Fiscali and I (anonymously in my case) had visited a few year earlier during A very special trip - Burgundy May 2014 and the wines this modest man produces are getting every bit of acclaim they should. The wine was a classic example of a 2011 white Burgundy when the winemaking is refined, drinking now, very little oak influence and a lot to like.

The sommelier made a call next having tried the wines and suggested we go to Bordeaux with Fiscali's kind contribution, Chateau Leoville Poyferre 1996, Deuxieme Cru Saint Julien, En magnum. I think he was proved correct this is just delicious, certainly developed but not in anyway more than a twenty year old magnum should be. It was gentle and perfectly balanced, the classicism of 1996 with none of the over bearing tannins you can find. It seemed to rather fly down. It's a left bank Chateau that you can pretty much buy blind, never lets you down. If ever you see the 1990 you MUST drink it.

We returned to Burgundy next and had the bottle that brought us together - Clos de Tart 1988, Grand Cru Monopole, En magnum - Now it has to be said that the 70s and 80s weren't the sweet spot for Clos de Tart (that's being diplomatic) and the improvements made by Sylvain Pitiot who was in charge from 1996 until 2015 have been well documented especially if you look at 2001 onwards. BUT this was a delicious and "a point" example. There is a bit of everything here, sweet fruit, a little early development with secondary and tertiary elements but a good if melded structure, just spot on for now and as with everything we had this evening very moreish!

And back to Bordeaux but a property that slightly stands apart from the "Shirt and tie brigade". Those that have met Francois Mitjavile will know exactly what I mean. Tertre Roteboeuf 2001, Grand Cru Saint Emilion, courtesy of JT is one of those wines you just can't own/drink/buy enough of. It is vibrantly young but also delightfully ready right now. Degraded fruit and a tiny bit of sweet tobacco...a joy.  

Then we were onto two classic examples of wine styles that don't seem to get a fair bite of the cake these days. Both courtesy of MGC. Suduiraut 2001, 1er Cru Sauternes is both young and ready in much the way as TRB 2001 was before it. Energetic but complex, a delight now and will be with increasing richness for the next three to four decades (and beyond). Despite all the glorious wines before I had been almost the most excited about Graham’s 1970. For several reasons really, I love Port, I recently visited (staying at Graham's) as documented in Back to beginning Port and Douro magic and also you just don't get to have it as much as one could ("should" in my view). The 1970 is just perfect now, rich but mellow and developed, a little marzipan and some nuts but mainly mulled red and black fruit, balanced and persistent.

A splendid evening...thanks to all for their bottles...we need to find another excuse to do this again. Hopefully "Dusty" and "Cross-Channel" can join next time so we can be an Epic Eight...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Elystan Street - a first evening...

A rather splendid email arrived from Gary Birchtree (not his real name!) suggesting a dinner in the private room of Philip Howard's new restaurant Elystan Street on opening night. It was not a hard invite to accept. I have loved The Square (where he is now not involved) and Kitchen W8 (where he still is). The rest of the crowd was wine trade friends. The only disturbing part of the evening was discovering that I was the second oldest, only Mr Sherwood keeping be from the ultimate seniority.   
So we gathered, after a ten-minute stroll from Sloane Square tube for me, in the private room and were "treated" to 1992 En Tirage Extra Brut Russian River Valley Sparkling Wine. Our organiser who had sent this did two things one good (for him) and one bad. The good thing was that he arrived late having sent the wine on, the bad thing was sending three bottles. One would have been enough. An enticing nose but a dead palate, may be unfair in this company but probably better a while ago. Certainly not in the same league as the other "sparkler" later.
This was an evening about: Food, venue, company and wine. So to cover off the food it was all superb! There was no dish I would not have wanted more of (greed) or would not happily order again many times. The menu is below.

Ravioli of Langoustines with barbecue dressing, hispi Cabbage and sweetcorn.
Roast calf’s sweetbread with truffled autumn slaw, seeded nut butter and mimolette.
Rump of lamb with pesto roasted aubergine, garlic puree, green olives and balsamic vinegar.
Roasted figs with goats milk ice cream, lemon and thyme fritters and olive oil


It was time now for a flight of whites. The first and last of which were from (two) bottle(s) the Drouhin being a magnum. The Chablis 1er Cru Montee de Tonnerre 1999, F.Raveneau bottles were both good ones, the first possibly just edging it for energy. Wax and lanolin with a very "proper" Chablis nose, a little of that dry-honey character. Mature on the plate but still with good vibrancy, a cracking wine in a good place. Beaune Clos des Mouches 1996, Drouhin was an imposing magnum and one might say a brave one. There was a dash of coffee on the nose, this was broad but not loose, I'd have been in Meursault if blind I think. Mature and with a decadent texture, nice wine. We then switched to the Loire with Pur sang 2011, Dagueneau. I don't know the Dagueneau wines all that well but have enjoyed what I have tried. This was expressive, quite broad and open, a little tropical but with enough of the nettle character though not sharp nettles, warm ones if that makes any sense. It was a splendid trio all in all.
Les blancs...
Interestingly we were not "packing any Pinot" on this occasion so we moved straight to Nebbiolo with an intriguing trio, three different sites and three different vintages all in magnum. Young Nebbiolo is something people should not, in my opinion, miss out on. Barbaresco Montestefano 2008 from Produttori del Barbaresco kicked us off. This had a more open and more warm vintage feel that I expected. It was very easy to enjoy from this underestimated vintage. These are such good wines. Barolo La Tartufaia 2010 from Giulia Negri was up next, a blend of Nebbiolo from two crus - Serradenari and Brunate - showing a good degraded fruit and easy drinkability even now though it will age very well. Barolo Cannubi Boschis 2011 from Sandrone completed the Piedmont trio. There is a tar and texture feel to this, it has a tiny hint of toffee from wood but is ultimately both rich and balanced. Good spices too, a wine with a broad drinking window, as could be said for all these.
The three Piedmonteers...
It was Bordeaux next and a good threesome. La Lagune 2001 got us started and I have to say La Lagune isn't necessarily an estate that I get excited about, have they made some lovely wines? yes definitely but I mentally file it under "dependable" rather than "exciting". This 2001, in magnum as were the wines that followed, was delicious and certainly exciting. Lifted with a good bit of sappy liveliness and then a driven and energetic, almost red fruited palate...simply lovely. The La Conseillante 1999 was darker fruited and from a clearly less great vintage, it was good and very true to the house but just a little muddied in comparison to the La Lagune. Tasted and drunk on its own it'd be splendid. The most different of the Bordeaux was Palmer 1976 (a BBR bottling). A very hot vintage, think 2003 but without the heat spikes just consistently hot and dry. The nose had a citrus element, sweet and tarry, mellow in tannin, gently moreish. A wine it was terrific to try and a good drink too.
As we moved towards pudding or cheese we had an eclectic last flight. Two bottles of Clos de Bourg 1989 Moelleux 1er Trie from Huet had that lovely combination of zesty acidity and generous sweetness...a sweet wine I could certainly just drink alone and as an aperitif or with food (both pudding and/or cheese). Zippy apples and a dash of honey. Then Champagne - Moet & Chandon 1978 “Grand Vintage Collection“ (Disgorged 2004) - which reminded me of dry honey and a rancio character with good energy, a little of that "late-disgorgement" cocoa character. A lovely toasty finish, a wine at its peak now I think, well to my style anyway. Champagne later in a meal is a good idea I think. I am not sure why a bottle of Ornellaia 2000 was opened but I am glad it was, quite savoury and bold, a little bit of Bovril, good darker fruits and enough acidity.
And that, as they say, was that...a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a lovely restaurant that I will certainly be returning too!! As for the company...well the wine trade remains a place for fun, often opinionated, folk...long may it continue.

Monday, 3 October 2016

A gift bottle...Sandhi...

I was kindly gifted, by a customer who I feel may well start to feature on here, a bottle of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2013 from Sandhi Wines last week. The remit was a simple one, to "try it and report back". Sandhi are an estate I am aware of but have only tried twice, appearing on here once but in both previous instances it was the Chardonnays.
The blurb on their site says:

Sta. Rita Hills Pinot NoirThis is our entry level Pinot Noir and is a blend of our vineyard holdings in the Sta. Rita Hills. Over half the fruit is from 40 year-old vines at Sanford & Benedict vineyard with the rest coming from our sections and younger vines at Rita’s Crown and Bent Rock. This wine showcases the exuberance of Sta. Rita Hills with bright, shiny red crunchy raspberry fruit that is layered with cola spices and tobacco. The wines are delicious now and will age gracefully for another 5-7 years. The appellation Pinot Noir also offers a great introduction to the style of our wines and will assuredly over-deliver for its price.

So here's my write up, I deliberately wanted to try it over 24 hours which was quite hard work as I would have happily drunk it down in one sitting - always a good sign!

Opened Saturday 7pm
Cool temp, has a mulled and slightly powdered darker fruit nose with good texture...there is a shade of overripe citrus rind as well. The balance of richness and freshness is super, deep with an almost softening strawberry finish...long. Then raspberry and saline comes through...this is moreish.

Sunday from 5pm (half full bottle had been kept cool)
More purity and red fruited-ness on day two, strawberries and cream on the nose, drier on the palate. Rosemary-like notes...not herbal generally, good grip, a little shorter than yesterday. There is a sappy energy. Then with extra air the nose became more and more balanced and melded..

Certainly rerady to drink but I would agree with the "5-7 years" comment above. 

Verdict - Very good if short of profound at the price a really lovely wine - an exciting estate!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Just a lovely evening…Medlar with five bottles...

This was a splendid Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago. Mr Magnum had organised a dinner for two of his merchants to meet. I always like meeting others in the trade, it's one of the things that sets the wine trade apart. I guess we all compete but really, and especially in this scenario, we agree more than anything. This chap (I am still trying to think up his potential "blog name" - may be that is for next time) has some lovely wines in his quiver none of which directly clash with those I work with anyway…
The venue was Medlar Restaurant which I have always enjoyed, if you've not been you should go, it features quite large on this blog, most recently with this 1996 dinner. It was apt therefore that Mr Magnum kicked us off with Bollinger RD 1996. This bottle being disgorged (Chris Delalonde the sommelier misses very little!) in 2006. It is a wine that is already on the developed spectrum in terms of the mellow, savoury, yeasty and serious aromas but this does not mean it won't age, it will. If a wine can be both young and tight and savoury and evolved at the same time this is it. Could I drink it every day? No, but then I don't have to stress about that. As a change of pace, serious, Champagne it is delicious. 

From there, and as the food arrived, we set about a (predictably) delicious Meursault 1er Cru Charmes 2007 from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey (PYCM to those in the know). Our fellow diner brings the wines in (so that's his cover blown). I was delighted (and lucky) to visit there once, anonymously as a guest of a customer, during 
a very special trip to Burgundy. Pierre, it is no secret, is doing some brilliant things and I am delighted to have started buying a few of his more humble bottlings. This Meursault was tight, refined, younger than 9 years but totally true to what 2007 should be, a focussed driven wine. There was a little reduction (which you'll know I love) and an almost total balance. On this showing there is more to come but then I'd drink it again tomorrow if I had some. Spot on.

We stayed in Burgundy for Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cherbaudes 2005 from Fourrier. The 2005's in Bordeaux are generally opening out, albeit slowly, there seems to be much less consensus in Red Burgundy. Some remain as muted as ever and others are showing their class. This is more the later than the former. The palate is still a shade meaner than it will be but in all other regards it was delicious. A nice fragant and inviting red fruited nose with the darker fruits in the backbone behind. The finish was a little saline (love it!) and had a severely moreish quality. Delicious wine, may be 2-4 years from peak but then it depends how you like it.

Soldera 2008 was the first of my bottles. I love this estate, I am biased as I get to visit a fair bit (we work with the wines in Asia but not here). It is a magical place and the wines I think sit slightly outside anything else. They certainly, to me, sit apart from Brunello as a whole. There is a persistent elegance that, to my mind doesn't exist in Sangiovese anywhere else. The 2008 is the last but one release and people often assume that young Sangiovese is unapproachable but that is not the case here. Red fruit elegance with a saline and wet meat mineral quality, it is a wine in balance that you can drink now or in 20 years (same could be said of all the above).

The last red was Barolo Brunate-Le Coste 2008 from Guiseppe (Beppe) Rinaldi. This estate is one of those who's wines I simply can't resist (whatever my financial state). It is grippy and savoury but with a terrific intensity of pure yet slightly degraded darker fruits and a good acidity. It was the one wine you "should" rather than "could" definitely be more patient with but what the hell. For those non Barolo-obsessed you won't, from 2010, find this label as the "powers that be" have decided that you can't have two Crus ("Brunate" and "Le Coste" in this instance) on the same label, why? Who knows. So the estate now make a Barolo Brunate (at least 85% Brunate with the rest Le Coste - so a similar wine!) and the other Barolo being called Barolo Tre Tini which has the previous other Barolo wine, Barolo Cannubi S.Lorenzo-Ravera (two crus again), with the remainder of the Le Coste holdings, so again not vastly different. I have had the 2011s and they are predictably stunning.

What a splendid evening, good food, good service, cracking company and deliciously vibrant, lively wines...