Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sporting Chance

It was very sporting of Peteski and Janski and family to host a dinner on the night of a significant football game. SWMBO and I had Radiohead in our company, and with the likes of AC Electric Man and The Relish on hand, there was plenty of conversation. Wine discussion came up against general chit-chat and gossip and of course the big game, but in the end, every topic was a winner on the night.

With the nibbles and starters, we had the whites. A 2009 Telmo Rodriguez ‘Gaba do Xil’ Valdeorras Godello wonderfully refreshing and zingy from the elevated acidity, nice tropical fruit notes, and a genuinely pleasant sipper, surprising a few drinkers. A relatively simple wine, but exactly as it should have been. A great contrast was the 1998 Marc Bredif Vouvray, easily more golden coloured and the most satisfying fresh waxy, but subtly secondary nose, and richly textured, slightly honied, but refreshing palate. A little reduction fitted in with the interest and development flavours. The Relish had enjoyed a range of these earlier and wasn’t quite as happy as I was on this. A treat for me though. The third was a 2009 Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay. I had been impressed with this earlier in the year, but on the field, it was still a newbie, with potential, but not showing as much as it could. Good ripe citrus and mealy fruit with nutty oak overlay, but no nuance yet. It’ll be better in another 18 months.

Marking half-time, AC Electric Man brought out his 2005 Craggy Range ‘The Quarry’ and it was a tight, brooding and firm beast. It gradually revealed its pedigree. Dark, concentrated ripe black fruits, massive, but fine-grained. A star in the waiting really, but it improved through the night.

Hearty chicken dishes appeared on the table, vegetables and salad, and it was onto the next phase of play with the wines. 1986 was a high-cropping vintage for Hawke’s Bay reds, but it was fascinating to see the 1986 Te Mata ‘Awatea’ alongside the 1986 Te Mata ‘Coleraine’. Both were faded garnet in colour and medium-light weighted, the tannins forming a residual line and thread through the palates. The former showed herby, sappy, blackcurrant leaf aromas and flavours, the coolness and low ripening exacerbated by acidity, the latter moderately ripened red fruits, but with sweetness and a harmonious mouthfeel. This is consistent behaviour for these labels, even when they were single vineyard wines as with these 1986s, and after, when they became blends of sites and made to a style.

Two other Bordeaux-themed reds followed. The 1980 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon was also in the cooler, elegant spectrum, but sweeter and richer again over the two New Zealand oldies. Juicy minty notes and a core of fruit made this a good wine. And the extraction of fruit provided the structure where the tannins here were now becoming fully resolved. This wasn’t the case with the 1982 Ch. Rahoul Graves. A solid, chunky wine with earthy heart and a hard edged palate, AC Electric Man enjoyed this, but SWMBO and I saw robustness and coarseness. In its favour, it was still very alive and vital, with no brettanomyces. So it had a good outing and could be counted as a player.

The final tipple was a 2005 Waimea Estates Noble Riesling. Dark golden mahogany and incredibly sweet and concentrated. Huge botrytis ‘flytox’ characters with burnished, broad caramelised and candied fruits. A sip was all that was needed. Over the top and good with it.
It was good to give these wines a sporting chance to show, and they performed as they should have, if not better than expected, making the night a winning one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Departure Lounge

Marking a departure, we set up in our lounge and set out to have a few drinks with the Young New Trader and AC Electric Man. It was a pleasant time reminiscing over good times and discussing plans for the future. We settled in and the bottles began to flow is we laughed and joked and solved the problems of the world.

We set off with a trio of 2010 Sileni Estates Hawke’s Bay Chardonnays, the ‘Cellar Selection’ quite light and simple but with a really attractive sweetness that made it very drinkable. Up a step was ‘The Lodge’, rich, citrussy, mealy and beautifully textured from the barrel-fermentation. This is drinking so well now, and is surprisingly elegant for all its richness packed in. However the ‘Exceptional Vintage’ was something else with its extra depth, concentration and weight. This wine spoke ‘potential’, because at this stage it was restrained in flavour.

The next step was to journey to Australia, and explore two classic styles. A 2009 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon had richness, softness and breadth, with a core of blackcurranty fruit. The palate was mouthfilling and sweet, and fully textured with soft tannins. This was a solid, but fleshy number. We went 30 years back in time to a 1979 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, a multi-gold medal winner in its time. Lighter, with herb and stalky notes and considerable acidity. Intriguingly this morphed into dark berry fruits and smoke, chocolate and toast in the glass, and then back to the cooler herbaceous side, then to the complex expression again. The good thing was that it was spotlessly clean with no animal or grubby characters. Then a relatively youthful 2001 Lowe Hunter Valley Semillon. Bright light golden, this flowed with waxy, toasty herbal aromas and a soft textured shy-flavoured lanolin-herb and floral palate that suggested it could handle another decade of bottle-age. This was much tidier than the previous bottle a few months ago.

The destination next in line was Europe. The 2006 Telmo Rodriguez ‘Altos de Lanzaga’ Rioja was extremely fine, tight and New Worldy with slick dark red berry aromas and flavours, ultra-smooth and fine tannins, and a healthy dose of cleansing acidity. It could have come from nearly anywhere bar a savoury sweetness that hinted of its origins. We were surprised by how grunty and fleshy the 2006 Ch. Leoville-Poyferre St Julien was. SWMBO was distracted by the detracting brett, but the rest of us were quite accepting of its influence. Ripe enough, with lots of bacony-charry oak that went gamey, then fruity. Another multi wave, multi-layered wine of significant presence.

After a round of pizzas to soak up the savoury whites and hearty reds, we needed palate refresheners, so it had to be Mosel Riesling! The 2009 von Kesselstatt Kaseler Nies’chen Riesling Kabinett was a beautifully nuance wine with nuances of yellow flowers, and substance. An eye opener because this site usually provides delicacy, cut and steel. Sealed in cork, this may have matured a little more quickly than in screwcap. It overshadowed the 2009 Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, which was tight and a little reductive. That’s what can happen with scewcaps. However, the legendary slate showed through, and we believed this will come right in time.

The night was drawing to a close, so a forage in the cellar found a rare 1975 Cooks Vintage Port. Cabernet Sauvignon-based with a swag of gold medals behind it, this was more the sweeter Portuguese-family style rather than the dry British-family based style. Faded rose colour, with a very fine, elegant, ethereal-fruity nose, the palate balanced sweetness of fruit and sugar with drying tannin grip. The most faint secondary character was beginning to show. Was this still young, or was it just a simpler wine? A tough point to debate, but the essential conclusion was that it was very drinkable. So it was drunk!

It was time to close the departure lounge. The AC Electric Man hopped into a taxi and departed home. The Young New Trader lounged downstairs to retire. We headed upstairs and departed to the land of nod.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Edgy Drinking

This was not a session where we drank to the edge, but rather, a couple of edgy wines, edgy for various reasons. SWMBO and I regularly keep in touch with Lazza, but haven’t shared a few good bottles of late. It was the perfect opportunity to try out a few wines.

Opening the score was a 2005 Dirler Alsace Riesling ‘Belzbrunnen’, a rarely seen label here, but always worth the search. The Beret had obtained it in a recent visit to the family biodynamic domaine. This was the second bottle I have tried recently, this one broader and shyer than the first, with some toasty development and a touch of gentle oxidation. Quite soft and mellow.

So onto two Pinot Noirs from the same vintage. A 2008 Fromm ‘Clayvin Vineyard’ Pinot Noir, already showing plenty, and surprisingly so, as this label can be reticent, though not as quiet as the sister ‘Fromm Vineyard’ wine. Ripe dark plums, red fruits and dark red florals, with a plumpness and soft, roundness. Delicious stuff indeed. The 2008 Drouhin Griottes-Chambertin GC showed the cooler vintage with elevated acidity and fruit flavours with riper violet and dark cherry and some herb-stalk hints. It was the reduction that polarised us. Combined with the spicy oak, Lazza and SWMBO loved it. I was a little less impressed, but it grew on me. Certainly on the edge of ripeness, the 2008 burgundies need care in choosing.

Dinner was needed, and hearty duck, beef and venison made it onto our plates. Here we had a peppery, spicy, fleshy 2007 Heart of Gold Gisborne Syrah/Tempranillo. Its soft approachability and resolving tannins made it an easy pleasure. What a novel blend for N.Z. Followed by a tight 2009 Terrace Edge Waipara Syrah. This didn’t show much initially, but as usual, by the bottom of the bottle, it began to show aromatics and spiciness. There are some warm spots to grow Syrah down south, and Terrace Edge may be one of them.

Not needed, but opened anyway were two sweeter wines. The 2005 S.A. Prum Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese was everything good about Mosel wine. Poised with intense floral, slatey fruit, luscious sugar, creamy texture and cutting, refreshing acidity, all complexed with some toasty-kero. The bottle was drained with SWMBO as its champion. We did not disagree. Lazza gave a big plug for the 2004 Ch. Climens Barsac as well. Nougat was the overriding impression, and definitely more rich and fulsome than other Barsacs from this vintage. I love the 2004 Sauternes for the elegant proportions.

We all had a glass too much in the final analysis, but we were nowhere near the edge.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Going to Some Lengths

I had to travel across the length of the island to reach The Beret and Glam Pam, but it had been on the cards for a number of vintages. Joining us for the evening was The Master, and after a session involving tasting over two dozen wines where The Beret had spent an inordinate amount of time, we settled in for some well-anticipated food.

The call to dinner was NV Nicolas Feuillate Champagne ‘Reserve Particuliere’. It hit the spot, with its good size, good fruit depth and all the right amount of autolysis and fruit in combination. I tend to overlook the label, in favour of the more prestigious, and I shouldn’t.

The main food course was beef, and The Beret pulled out a number of reds he’d brought all the way back from France. Some people go to any length to ensure a good drink! First was a 2004 Rene Monnier Beaune 1er ‘Cent Vignes’. A light vintage, but pretty and delightful, still fruity and fresh to a degree, and with good tannin structure underpinning it all. Nice clean fruit, and all in balance too. A bit more serious was the 2003 A-F Gros Savigny-les-Beaune 1er ‘Clos des Guettes’. This showed the drought harvest with its bright dark red plum fruit aromas and flavours. It is said that the 2003s show the New World ripeness, and this did to its benefit, as Savigny-les-Beaune can be a bit rustic and earthy. Roll-on global warming? And to ensure a balance, there was the 2002 Ch. Sociando Mallet Haut-Medoc. Definite blackcurrant Cabernet Sauvignon at first, but then the growing appearance of horses and farmyard from brettanomyces. Underneath it was a big wine, and fresh and lively, but this was getting dry and grippy with it.

A treat was a rarely seen 2005 Stentz Alsace Gewurztraminer ‘Cuvee de la Premier Neige’, named after the first snow, and thus a late-harvest wine. Full, golden, luscious honey, Turkish Delight and spices on a rounded unctuously texture beautiful palate. Pretty close to decadence.

The Beret pulled another vinous treat to seal the night. 1985 Calem Vintage Port. Garnet and fading in colour with a lighter bouquet, marked by VA, but seamless and lighter, but really delicious drinking, with just enough spirit cut, resolved tannins and good acidity. It’s nicer to go to port, as it shows you’ve travelled the long way through a good dinner. I could go to some length to drink this again!