Sunday, December 29, 2013

A review of the best wines that we drank in 2013

This is the time of the year when I cast a glance backwards to remember those who have gone before -- the wines, that is. I enjoyed these wines while we were drinking them and it gives me great pleasure to revisit those good experiences. With the exception of the tastings that occurred in Spain, my good friend Ron Siegel was an active participant in each of these adventures.

The best Champagnes

The NV Krug Grand Cuvée and the 1990 Dom Perignon were paired at one of our tastings and they both performed admirably. The Krug had a light yellow color with a nose of lemon, hazelnut, biscuit, and green apple. This was very refreshing and the bottle was drained rapidly. The 1990 Dom Perignon drank beautifully. This wine did not disappoint. Nice medium bronze color that almost looked like a rose in the dim light. Some apple, pear, honey and creme brûlée with some mocha and a kiss of burnt orange and pastry dough. Really great stuff!

The best white wines

Two memorable whites were the 2002 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne and 2007 Didier Dagueneau Silex. The Corton had lemony and crushed rock notes and the great acidity had it drinking more like a great Chablis than a Corton Charlie. This wine had a more elegant and austere style than the fatter and richer style that I have gotten from this producer in other vintages. This is still a baby. The Silex was a real beauty, showing lemon, sea shell, grapefruit, and pear with a touch of flint. Really crisp with tart acidity. This wine is probably one of the best Sauvignon Blancs on the planet. 
We tasted a 1999 Raveneau Butteaux and a 2005 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc comparatively at a Capital Grille dinner in Orlando. The Raveneau had a nice color with a nose of lemon, seashell, saline, some honey, wax, and flint. Great acidity. Really fresh. It was almost like sucking on a lemon pebble that had been pulled out of the sea. The Domaine de Chevalier drunk really well. It had a rich, creamy mouthfeel, with lemon and honey notes. Nice weight and length. The density and the richness of the accompaniments (seafood dishes comprised of King Crab, Avocado and Mint and Fresh Bluefoot Shrimp with Crisp Bomba Rice) were perfect complements to the richness and acidity of the two wines.

The best red wines

After the Chateau Musar Orlando tasting we headed over to Terramia in Altamonte Springs to round off what had, up to that point, been a wonderful day. It only got better. The wines that stood out for us on that evening were a Langhe flight of the 1999 Rinaldi Le Coste Barolo and a 1997 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo. The Le Coste was a full-bodied, old-style Barolo which showed aromas of black cherry, strawberry, sandalwood, leather, tar, and rose petals. It exhibited good structure, bracing acidity, and chewy tannins to go along with sour cherry and leather notes. The Sori San Lorenzo had had a deep, dark coloration with cherry, raspberry, tar, and violets on the nose. A more modern style than the Rinaldi. This wine was rich and powerful with a firm structure and amazing balance. Ron felt that thus was one of the best Gaja's that he had ever tried.

The tasting and dinner at Andres Montoya of The Wine Barn was especially fruitful in that a number of great wines were brought to the table.  The first pairing was a 1996 Drouhin Chambertin Grand Cru and a 1999 Dujac Echezeaux Grand Cru. This was a pairing of contrasting styles of great Burgundy wine. The Drouhin was the more powerful of the two with an oily richness and tea on the nose. The initial feel was more Barolo than Burgundy with tar, tannin, rose petal, earth, and high acidity. As the wine evolved in the glass it transitioned to iron, blood, game, and more traditional cherry and strawberry notes. The Echezeaux was elegant and silky with strawberries, beef broth, leather, game, and a slight spiciness on the nose. This wine was perfectly balanced with lightness of feet on the palate and a lengthy finish.

The second pairing was a 1982 Beychevelle and a 2000 Clos l'Eglise. The Beychevelle had black olives, dill, smoke, vanillin, sweet tobacco, and cigar box on the nose. Drinking beautifully with bright red fruit and a long, sour finish. Probably another 15 years of life ahead of it. We found the Clos l'Eglise to be uncharacteristic of a Pomerol. It exhibited shoe polish, red fruit, exotic ripe fruit, and kirsch liqueur on the nose. Opulent, powerful. Tamarind on the palate. Long, drying finish.

At this time the penultimate course of the evening was served. It was a Grade 6 Australian Wagyu with homemade chimichurri. The dish was paired with two wines: a 1989 Jean-Louis Chaves Hermitage and a 1999 Chapoutier L'Ermite. The Hermitage showed mint chocolate, pine needles, cedar, and a lot of weight on the palate. The L'Ermite showed spruce, graphite, and silky tannins. Powerful but balanced.

The 2003 Pegau Cuvée Reserve was also a victim at the aforementioned Capital Grille dinner at which we drank the Domaine de Chevalier and the Raveneau. The Pegau showed red and black fruits with lots of garrigue and lavender with earth and leather. This was a big, rich style of CDP that was in perfect balance and drank really well. This particular wine was paired with a thick, rich portion of Bronzed Ora King Salmon, Morel Cream, and Fava Beans. The next wine was the 1991 Vega Sicilia Unico. Unicos generally need lots of time and the 1991 is still a baby. This wine was popped and poured and showed a nose of red fruits, exotic spice, vanilla, and tobacco. Plums and chocolate on the palate with silky tannins. Very classy and elegant. This wine is one to buy and hold. The 1966 La Mission Haut Brion showed a kaleidoscope of flavors to include sweet black fruits, cigar box, black olive, soy, earth, and smoke. Very rich and opulent in the mouth with a finish that just goes on and on. The final high-quality red tasted at this venue was the 1999 Valdicava Madonna del Piano. Sweet red berry fruit, earth, espresso, and leather. Really a nice Brunello with good fruit structure and tannins. Over time developing a salty, toffee red berry character.

A second Capital Grille dinner yielded another bounteous harvest of great wines. We kicked off the reds with a pair of Bordeauxs. The 1990 Beausejour Duffau has always been a consistent RP100 wine. That night it showed a bouquet of blueberries, blackberries, licorice and exotic spices with graphite, forest floor, and mocha. On the palate full-bodied and rich with a balanced tannin structure that should allow this wine to drink beautifully over the the next 20 years. The second wine was the 1989 Cheval Blanc. This vintage was a lighter and a more feminine style of Cheval showing nice red berry fruit with floral notes of lavender, olive, green pepper, and soy.

The Rhone flight was started with the 2007 Rayas CDP. What a vintage? Sheer power that will eventually turn more to elegance and finesse but you could tell that everything is there for it to become one of the top vintages of Rayas. Kirsch liqueur and raspberry jam came to mind along with garrigue, lavender, pepper, and Asian spice. The 2000 Usseglio Deux Freres CdP had black cherry and violets dominant on the nose. Burgundian in style with some Provençal herbs, earth, and pepper. Very elegant and suave in style. The 1998 Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage was the final wine in this flight.  This vintage had a somewhat slightly muted nose of red fruits, game bird, earth and leather with some meat, violet and iron. This was a lighter and less ripe vintage for La Chapelle as compared to their 1989 and 1990.

The Pingus flight was next in line. The 2001 Pingus exhibited blue and black fruits, cassis, tobacco, chocolate, and pencil shavings on the nose. Classy and very Bordeaux-like, this wine could pass for a 1st growth. Andrew called it a very modern style in Ribera del Duero. I liked it's elegance and balance. The 2007 Pingus had some black and red fruits, spice and cola. It tasted more new world as it had riper and jammier fruit. Fatter and richer in style than the 2001 with a creamier finish. This will turn out to be an excellent vintage for Pingus, it just needs more time. While pricing has almost reached first growth levels the wine is extremely well made and it was a joy to taste these 2 vintages side by side. These were decanted 3 1/2 hours before serving.

Next up, and our official last flight, was Harlan. 1996 Harlan. Nose of blueberry and black currants with cedar, smoke, tobacco, and graphite. Nice length, and well balanced. Just starting to reach it's drinking window. I really love the elegant style of this vintage. 2003 Harlan. This again was a contrast in 2 styles where you had a more elegant style versus a riper and richer one. The ‘03 is off the charts with rich blackberry fruit. This is more full-bodied with  bigger and richer fruit than the 1996.  Showing sweet cassis and chocolate with smoke and graphite. I can see why Harlan is considered the First Growth of California, as they are extremely well made.

The Imperial 1976 Gran Reserva and the 1964 Gomez Cruzado were drunk at a late-night encounter at a Haro (La Rioja) hotel between a small cadre of DWCC 13 bloggers and the Gomez Cruzado winemakers. It was a wonderful experience made the more so by the excellence of the wines. The Imperial Gran Reserva was light brown in color with caramel highlights. It had an opulent nose with aroma notes of orange liqueur, wet leaves, iodine, tobacco, and hints of floral elegance. Silky on the palate with bracing acidity. Additional dried fruit aromas and flavors contributed significantly to this wines complexity. This wine was a blockbuster. The Honorable had a pale garnet color with an orange rim. It had generous amounts of dried fruits such as apricots and orange zest accompanying tobacco, leather, and sweet spice. There was a consensus that the nose was reminiscent of a good old Tokaji. Graceful and alluring yet exuberant and penetratingly rich. Still fresh and energetic, displaying well-layered flavors lifted by racy acidity. A long, zesty aftertaste.

The best Port wine

Kopke 375 Special Edition Porto Colheita 1940: This wine was produced during WWII and had been resting for 73 years in a 580-liter oak barrel numbered 10053. The number 375 indicates the number of years the company has been in business as well as the number of bottles made for the special edition issue. This wine was deserving of its packaging. It demonstrated that age is this wine's best friend. Petrol on the nose. The fruit is drier and less apparent allowing brighter freshness and more complexity to shine through. Dried fruits and walnuts. Long, delicate, harmonious finish.

Here is to more great wines in the new year.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme


  1. That's quite a list! Sounds like you had quite a 2013!

    1. We did have some fun during the course of the past year. Thanks for the comment.