Thursday, December 31, 2009


New Year's Eve is an ending and a wish for better things in the coming year. It certainly applies to us. A number of wines to see the change in were significant. The arrival of Gordy and his lovely wife Papua NG Pia also brought expertise to the dinner and some extravagant wines.

We started conventionally, with a couple of Champagnes. Lanson 'Black Label' NV was gentle, balanced and with everything there. The Veuve Clicquot 'Yellow Label' was bolder, bigger and with more intensity, though a little youthful, raw and robust. Nevertheless, they did the job.

Two mystery whites got us going. A 2007 Keller Westhofen Kirchspiel Trocken Riesling from the Rheinhessen was a revelation. Full-bodied at 13.5%, dryish, but full, musky and textured, both SWMBO and I thought it a Viognier. Super wine. Then a 2008 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, herbal on nose, delicate, fresh, cutting, How could this come from the Southern Rhone, yet retain such a cool approach? These were tough to pick. There is no end to the surprise of these different-from-the-norm wines. Then to end the whites, no mystery, the 2006 Church Road 'Tom' Chardonnay. Big, rich, flavoursome with gorgeous fruit richness and matching oak. A benchmark for us and Gordy too. Grunter saw a lot of oak, all good oak however.

Then, served to winemakers among us who think Pinot Noirs are wussy, the three 2008 'Calvert' Pinot Noirs from Central Otago. The style of each of the winemakers is consistent, and the acceptance of each wine dependant on the audience. Overall, they were good, but reflected the bigger crop of 2008 with their accessibility. This showing revealed a lighter weight, soft Craggy Range. Probably least preferred. Then the soft, broad and fleshy Felton Road. Very drinkable. Top on this night was the Pyramid Valley, with great aromatics, intensity, tightness and potential to go further. These were a lovely gentle ending to the wines and the decade, and saw the new year in without great drama.

Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lunchtime Blues

We said farewell to The Man-None-Other and Souther-girl and welcomed Grunter and Super Sue with a lunch of cheese souffle and salad. Sad to see the former two go.

Of course, a couple of wines. Firstly an odd-ball 2006 Rotier 'Renaissance' Gaillac made from Loin de l'oeil, an ancient white variety given less than a year aging in 15% new barriques. Somewhat linear and lacking satisfaction, but clean and clear. Then a pairing of Ch. Palmer from Margaux. The 1983s was always touted to be better in Margaux than the 1982s - against the general Bordeaux claret trend. And so it would have been with the Palmers. The '83 bigger, fresher, richer and sweeter. But our bottle was plagued by brettanomyces. The '82 was in the same vein as many of the other wines of this vintage we have tasted lately. Faded, dried, dead leaves, with structure and grip remaining. But at least it was clean.

It was a case of the blues with the wine at lunch.

Ties that Bind

It was a wonderful time to catch up with only The Man-and None-Other with the Souther-girl together for a quiet get together. We've known them for years and this was a kind of reunion and old times and things we shared came up constantly in discussion. As can be expected, bottles were opened, and they were all significant.

The evening started with a 100% Pinot Noir wine, the new Number 1 Family Estate Rose Methode Traditionnelle. The Beer Goddess turned Wine Goddess and Cycle Saviour Chrissie are there now, and this bottle was a gift. Florals galore on opening giving way to complex Pinot berries and autolysis. Gutsy, yet classy and very approachable. Each of these people have had turmoil, but life has come good. We love 'em to death.

Two U.S.A. wines next. They were a pair to work together, though from different sources. Firstly a 2000 Jayson Napa Chardonnay, by Pahlmeyer. Golden, rich, lush, mealy and broad. A touch of oxidation that was easily forgiven. Given to me by Graceful Cousin. It needed drinking, and who better with than Souther-girl, who gave us the 2005 Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. She worked for the Constellation people and we toasted Robert Mondavi again. He was the subject of my first blog. Dark, classic blackcurrants, mint and a little eucalypt, all on a plumpish and firmish palate. An international style.

Then onto to a 1982 Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere St Emilion Grand Cru Classe. An emerging superstar then, now a real superstar. Again, all the credentials for something special. We were all expecting so. This is what we are all on the same wavelength over, in wine. And all in agreement that it was light, dry, austere, green and resiny. Oh dear. That's life.

Finally, a 1989 J.J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese. We all know to have faith in this label. Always dogged by sulphide in youth, Prums come together after a decade. Glorious gold, honey, minerals toast and limes. Still tight and acidic, yet with a core of flavour and vinous depth. I thought it could go more time - 5+ years. The others felt it was for now.

It was truly a night that reminded us of our friendship, and through the medium of enjoying wine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Always Searching

Being inquisitive and looking for perfection are noble traits. That's what makes good people what they are. It's similar to finding the best drinking wine you can. Most of the time, you can't stop opening bottles to find that elusive wine that suits you and occasion. So it was with the arrival of The Dragon and Ha ha, and The Man-None-Other with Souther-girl, all good people, looking for a good wine.

We started off with the special Villa Maria Methode Traditionnelle NV, a robust Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the result of a project under Corey Ryan. Good bubbles with real character. Then onto a couple of classy Rieslings. A 2009 Coopers Creek Marlborough 'SV-Mr Phebus' coming across dry and very limey, with beautiful textures. This will improve. Then a 2007 Spy Valley 'Envoy' Riesling, medium in sweetness and with some toastiness developing, to me, curious in its balance, but The Dragon liked this.

Then onto a flight of 1986 N.Z. Chardonnays. Not expecting anything with these now, being too old, but in their time they were top quality. The Delegats Proprietors Reserve was on the edge of falling over. Big, broad and flat with no personality left. The Vidals Reserve was unripe with acid and oak still remaining. The surprise was the Villa Maria Reserve, from Gisborne fruit. Rich, toasty oak, some past matured fruit, drinkable if you had to. Then the super-duper Villa Maria Reserve Gisborne Barrique Fermented - unfortunately now too oxidised on nose and palate.

Some interesting reds were presented. Rather austere, dry and tertiary was the 1995 Jean Boillot Nuits-St-Georges 1er 'Cailles', along with the 1982 Ch. L'Evangile Pomerol, full of expectations for this, and starting off with rich, savoury plums but getting leaner and drier in glass. Nothing special in the end to me, but Ha Ha liked this. I liked the 1991 Wynns 'Centenary' Coonawarra Shiraz/Cabernet, still lively and with spicy dark fruits, mint and a touch of eucalyptus. It should live for ages.

The Man-None-Other knew that Ski-Man Sandy was in town alone, so he joined us. It was time to look at his wines. The 1999 Felsina 'Verardenga' Chianti Classico was elegant and extremely well-proportioned. Not quite the complexities of the top cuvees, but delicious. It was the favourite for SWMBO. And an unusual one, a 1994 Ch. Montus 'Cuvee Prestige' Madiran, dark and invitingly sweet, almost a lolly note, dense, then the Tannat tannins kicked in. Quite fine-grained in the end. Ski-Man Sandy was a welcome addition indeed!

Seemingly nearing the end of the evening, a pair of 1983 Alsace Vendange Tardives from Leon Beyer. The Tokay Pinot Gris slightly grubby and oxidised, without any varietal character or richness. Minerals and acid, with some weight did not deliver enough. The Gewurztraminer was slightly corked, but you could see the spices and florals still. Underneath, some richness and enlivening acidity. But again, not worth drinking up, leaving us searching for something drinkable.

Last chance....out came a 2005 Aime Stentz Alsace Pinot Blanc 'Rosenberg', a bottle given to us by The Lancer. Delicious with its clean and clear stonefruits and touch of honey and spice, plus a little residual sugar. Clever wine! It was a clear winner for most of us. The Man None-Other brought out a 2003 Abtei Muri Sudtirol Lagrein Riserva. Dark, sweet jammy nose and lush, dense, but supple palate. A surprise and another hit for all the drinkers. Our search for good drinking wine was over at that point.

And just in case, a 2004 Seresin Noble Riesling for those with a sweet tooth. Oddly sweet and sour on the nose, but lush and savoury-sweet on palate in a workable way. The botrytis not totally noble, but passable. Most of us stuck with the Pinot Blanc and Lagrein...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing On

The Christmas festivities always continue, and our growing tradition is to see the real Mr Parker and Lovin' Lorna on Boxing Day, who made the effort of visiting us for a change. As could be expected, a number of wines presented themselves for consumption, and it was a tough choice the make. We followed my heart, rather than Mr Parker's, so I trust he wasn't upset with that happening. Even with the number of bottles being opened held back a little, we tried to box on through the wine flood, but needed to call in the Neighbouring S.O.S. Group, to assist with the proceedings.

The day started with a 2005 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Spatlese. Still young, and a little reticent on nose and taste. As SWMBO and the real Mr Parker love the Jerries, they could see more than I could. It was nevertheless delicious. Still a baby, tight and with the famed Brauneberg concentration and fruit weight. Primary flavours, the Spatlese designation fulfilled superbly with its richness. Honey, florals, herbs and slate - in that order. We thought we'd go for a walk to get some credits, but they were quickly used up by an outstanding 1996 Pol Roger 'Winston Churchill' Champers. Complete in every way, with complex toastiness and autolysis. How does Pol Roger build in class and style with astounding power? It's their hallmark, for sure. My wine of the session, and one that Lovin' Lorna could sip on till the cows come home.

Rhone was the next region to come up on the radar. The session surprise for me was the 1999 Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc 'L'Oree'. Golden in appearance, I was expecting this to show the classic, and rather ugly oxidation that traditional Marsanne often has. But no. Wonderful poise and interest. More savoury, earthy acacia and florals allied to nuts. A nuance of oxidation, but it melded in with the character. Thoroughly modern and sleek for what can be a broad and flabby white. And stunningly versatile in how it matched all the different food from cheeses to crayfish! Then came the wine that improved all night. A 1990 Chapoutier Ermitage 'Pavillon' Black as, even after nearly 20 years. Tight and bound together. A touch of reduction peeking though the black fruits. Fine and firm tannins. Silky smooth and elegant for Hermitage. Over the course of the evening, it blossomed to show Hermitage terroir. Sweet and savoury, with spices and pepper with liquorice. One of the classiest Hermitage wines I've seen. The real Mr Parker loves Pavillon, as do I, and we are glad we still have some more. It needs another decade, and could handle another 30 years easily. Especially in magnum.

Then a brace of 1983 clarets, served with SWMBO's special chicken recipe. We suspected there would be no match, but what the heck. The Ch. Petit-Village Pomerol was a petit wine really. Still very alive, but its 10% Cabernet Sauvignon showing a profound influence - giving a cool leafiness and crisp acidity. The property has had its flashes of glory, but not in 1983. Then a magical Ch. Canon St Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classe (B, of course). Sumptuous and sweet black fruits, lush and plump for what is normally good old austere Bordeaux. 75% Merlot and a decadent expression for the variety here. A fine cut of meat would have been perfect. Canon has gone through a tough time since its period of glory in the late 70s and early 80s.

Then as a finale, a 1983 Hugel Alsace Gewurz Vendange Tardive. Corroded capsule giving way to a sound cork. Brilliantly bright and clear, light straw-gold. Pronounced aromatics of herbal spices, almost muscat in some ways. Savoury and bitter notes yet not decrepit in any way. Only marginally sweet in mouth, yet with luscious textures. The acidity was fabulous, and the wine was lively and spritely for its age. Quite wondrous I suppose. But the bitterness lent an ugly nuance which flawed the wine overall. I can't wait to try the 1976 Hugel Gewurz SGN I got from Harrods in another life.

Life boxes on, and meeting up with friends, both old and new, makes it all fun and interesting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New & Old

It's great to try new and old together. Not only does it provide a sense of continuity, but freshness is revitalising and old gives a sense of permanence. So it was with a meal with The Planning Man and his charming lady, the Planning Partner.

The new was a 2009 Millton 'Muskats@Dawn' , fresh bright, light and with plenty of the grapey fruit that makes these low alcohol (10.0%) versions so delightful as an aparitif. Very slurpable.

Then onto comparisons: Chardonnay. First was the magnificent 2006 Church Road 'Tom' Chardonnay, concentrated and dense, with amazing fruit definition of tropicals, citrus and mealiness. This was to go alongside a 1999 Moreau-Naudet Chablis GC 'Valmur', but this was oxidised. DNPIM material and a shame.

The Planners are Pinot Noir people, and they are working on a project with a difference, so watch this space - in about 4 years time, so Pinot Noir was a must. First was a 2005 Grivot Vosne-Romanee 1er 'Rouges'. Backward and tight, without the usual Vosne opulence. But then these 2005s will live a long time and cellaring is mandatory. Maybe the 2005s are entering a dumb phase? Anyway the Planning Man liked it very much, and he's no Burgundy slouch. Alongside it was a great bottle of 1998 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir. Some bottles are not as good, but this was rich and sweet in fruit, with lovely tertiary characters and decent structure still. A hot year, but this wine is remarkably fresh.

We were a civilised lot, so not too many bottles this night. But a 1982 Ch. Climens Barsac Sauternes continued the civility. Pale gold colour, with an intially reticent nose and hard palate, unfolding its richness with air time. The 'cutting' Basrsac nature dominating in the end. Lovely oily Semillon, almost with a Germanic 'cream and custard' note, rather than the open barley-sugar of Bordeaux. Not a great botrytis year, but a nice finish. This was the old, and it maintained our faith in longevity.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tall Order

Through the year, Mobsta and Kobsta have shown us much kindness. It's a tall order when you think that such kindnesses are difficult to repay, so we loaded up the wine bag to put some interesting drinks for an evening together. Over the night, some tall stories were the order of the evening. Our wines were only partly used, as our hosts had bottles lined up as well.

A special bottle had been kept for this occasion, a 1996 Deutz Blanc de Blancs Champers. A gift to Mobsta and Kobsta on their wedding. This was magnificent in its depth and developed complex autolysis. As Blanc de blancs do, this retained an elegance that kept it light on its feet. And yes, the 1996s are developing well. They don't seem to be immortal as initially thought.

Then a gorgeous 2005 Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett. This site can produce some lean, stony wines, but the wines come together, given a chance. Honey richness, toast and limes. Succulent and round juicy textures. The sweetness finishing it off superbly.

Mobsta and Kobsta tied the knot with Vouvray, so it was appropriate to have a 2005 Champalou Vouvray 'Les Fondraux', which turned out to be an extention of the Mosel wine in style. It was drier, and weighter, but essentially a sleek, sweetish goddess. Not austere, flinty and riddled with sulphide, but a wine of cleanliness and purity.

By then I was fading. SWMBO has the uncanny ability to be the last to leave a party, but she was sympathetic. We tucked into a 2006 Brown Brothers 'Patricia' Noble Riesling to go with a sweet strawberry dessert. This is a pretty drop. Complete, yet young. It has a feel of quality, and now having sampled this a few times reckon its a keeper. Loads of botrytis, yet with elegance and style.

We headed off, leaving a red or two behind, in a gesture of repaying kindnesses, which we still have not done properly. It seems a tall order to repay, but we'll do it with pleasure sometime in the future.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Girls Night Out

It was a pleasure to have Granny Annie and The Cafe Gal call in for a catch up. It's that time if year of course, and you pull ot the stops and try to fit it all in, if you excuse the double mixed metaphors. SWMBO was in her element and it was laughs all-round.

Cold, smoked meats, olives and cheeses first. We polished off a part bottle of Lustau 'Single Cask' Dry Oloroso, deepish coloured, powerful and very dry, but with good acidity. Complexity plus with nuts and rancio. A real mouthful of flavour. A touch of alcohol burn on attack, but it was 20% after all. Then a fully mature 2001 Te Mata 'Elston' Chardonnay. Lovely, brilliant limpid golden hued yellow signalled its glory. Full, integrated stonefruit and mealy aromas and only the merest drying on palate. Remarkable freshness and acidity still showing. At the end of its plateau, and a superb drop of wine.

Then a favourite chicken dish, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes and mustard in creme fraiche on pasta. You could drink anything with it. We had two 2004 burgundies. Burgundies are girls, of course, being feminine. The L'Arlot Vosne-Romanee 'Suchots' was faded in colour, but fantastically aromatic and sweet in fruit. Opulent as the terroir provides. And not showing the cool, wet, unripe vintage notes. Gorgeous now. However, the Dujac Clos de la Roche, darker, tied up with sulphides, but still firm with black fruits, was backward and needing more time. In the glass, it shed the stinkiness, and revealed its greater structure and fruit density. It will always be imperfect, but it will be interesting, always.

Then a pairing of 1998 Hawke's Bay Right Bank style wines. The Sileni 'EV' Merlot/Cabernet was impenetrably dark black red and chock full of savoury, earthy berry aromas and flavours spoilt somewhat by the presence of brett. Not as bad as the last bottle we had tasted, and this bottle drinkable by way of its massive fruit hanging in. But starting to dry. In comparison, an Esk Valley 'Terraces' blend of one third each of Malbec, Merlot and Cab Franc was tight, shy, fresh and berryish. Clean as could be, and this opened up with air time. No hurry for this beauty.

A dish of summer fruits was the food finale. Wonderfully piquant and fresh. Out came an old girl, a 1982 Ch. Rieussec Sauternes. Golden in colour, and a beautifully elegant surprise. These 82s weren't as highly rated as the reds, but time has seen it put on flesh and harmonise. Barley sugar heaven. Lovely Semillon notes. Botrytis there, and oak way in the backround.

Must go out with the girls more often.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Visits Long Overdue

It was a time to catch up with many people and wine. So a dinner with the Little Aussie Battler and the Drama Queen was on order, to hear the goss and discuss what the coming year might bring. It was all very exciting and fun. The shared passion for good and interesting wines took the same path.
We all love the Rieslings from the Mosel, and this was a second look at a von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtropfchen. A few weeks ago, it was a 2001 Auslese. Tonight it was a 2007 Kabinett as our starter. Von Kesselstatt is under the radar here, even though it remains one of the great traditional producers. And Piesport with its Goldtropfchen site a little forgotten nowadays. SWMBO and I were there in 2005. A timeless place, and this was a classic Kabinett and representative of site - full-bodied for a Mittel Mosel, but still retaining freshness and class. A touch of sulphur that will pass. A great glass of wine.
Then onto Rene Engel. A burgundy producer I was introduced to in the early 90s, but not kept up with. The property was sold off a couple of years ago, so a bit of a farewell catch-up drink, overdue, and now a little too late. The 2003 Engel Clos de Vougeot was big, ripe and dark. Plenty of wine here, and still vigorous and very burgundy indeed. A great bottle and one to keep your faith in the 2003s, deemed to be atypical, and wines that may fall over quickly. We didn't see it that way. Glad we visited!
The LAB & DQ brought along a 1993 Domaine Tempier Bandol, the most famous wine of Provence. I haven't seen a Bandol for donkeys' years, and this was a welcome eye-opener. Talk about a trip down memory lane! This was a red wine of long ago. Still black red, dense on nose and palate, with what the DQ said had "waves of flavour sweeping over the tongue". Black fruits and secondary funkiness. Brett for sure, but in a robust wine like this, it all worked. Mourvedre is a beast, but Tempier make it look half-way noble.
Then in honour of the LAB, an oldie that was full of nostalgic memories, a 1977 Brown Brothers 'Koombalah' Cabernet Sauvignon. In its time, Brown Brothers and the cool-climate Koombalah' vineyard were revolutionary. They still are, but everyone's a revolutionary nowadays. Quite elegant and distinctly minty and herbaceous, tending green cedar, with pronounced acidity. It had come together and moved on some. Fruit faded, but not quite dried out. An interesting integrated character however.
We thought we'd continue the visit to Brown Bros. with a wee modern sticky. A 2006 Brown Brothers 'Patricia' Noble Riesling was rich and voluptuous, yet retained an elegance. On its own, it would be seen as a drink now. Those who visit the sticky domaine regularly would be able to suggest this wine probably had another decade ahead of it. We served this as a back-up to something we thought should have been visited a long, long time ago - a 1985 Petaluma Botrytis Riesling Essence in 375 ml. Only 9.0% alc., and an Aussie Trockenbeerenauslese. Bottled in brown glass, we had no idea of how it would be. Maybe we should have opened its door a decade ago? But no worries mate, it was glorious - the wine of the night. Dark mahogany hued gold. Dense, rich and concentrated on nose and palate. Unctuous and decadently sweet. No trace of oxidation, and in fact superb toast and kero intermingling with barley sugar, figs and creme brulee. Air time saw it come together with the slightlest nutty-resin note. But quite sensational.
Lesson learnt: Don't wait too long before visits. You miss out on delights and pleasures you surely deserve.