Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Selection of the best wines tasted during 2016: Part III, other venues

This is the final of three posts recapping a selection of the "best" wines I tasted during the past year. This post covers wines tasted outside of the Galloni or winery-visit environments. Of course, the list is both subjective and incomplete as one of the requirements for inclusion is documentation of my thoughts at the time of the tasting; or shortly thereafter.

Norman's Tasting
Juan David Valencia is one of the bright young Somms on the Orlando wine scene who had (i) recently passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier exam and (ii) taken the position of Assistant General Manager at Norman's, one of the most prestigious Orlando-area restaurants. I was extremely pleased with both of these developments as I have played the role of mentor to Juan. I told him that we would be there on his first night of work to lend support and enlisted Ron for this effort. Ron suggested that we each bring along a Champagne, a Bordeaux, and red and white Burgundies as dinner accompaniments. The wines from that tasting that made the "best" list are presented below.

Ron began the proceedings by opening a bottle of Jacques Selosse Substance. Substance always impresses me with its vibrancy. On the nose, honey, orange rind, nuttiness, and creme brulée. Weighty on the palate with burnt orange, bitter lemon, walnut, a syrupy tangerine, and a rich creaminess. As the wine matured in the glass, the sensation of floating on a tangerine sea. The 1999 Cristal that I took was yeasty on the nose with notes of golden apple. On the palate, rich and fresh with great acidity. Two radically different Champagne styles.

The 2007 Remoissenet Le Montrachet was sublime. It was pale gold in color and restrained on the nose with elegant, classic apple-pear notes and hints of baking spices. Lemon, orange, pineapple, faded lemon rind, and a hint of smokiness on the palate. Perfect weight. Perfect texture. Perfect balance. Tight focus. Elegant, lengthy finish.

The 1988 Echezeaux was rich and creamy on the nose with red fruits, smoke, baking spices, tobacco, thyme, and beeswax. Savory on the palate with a balsamic note. Balanced with a long finish.

The 1982 Pichon-Lalande exhibited green-bean, bell-pepper notes along with sweet spices, dried herbs, cedar, and mocha chocolate. On the palate mature black fruit, dark chocolate, and smoke. Drank younger than its age. A producer and vintage that Ron does not mind trotting out because it always shows well.

The 1995 Latour showed earth, soy, spice, nutmeg, squid ink, dried tree bark, graphite, roasted coffee, and black fruits. On the palate, saltwater taffy, butterscotch, black olives, soy, dark fruit, and a savoriness. Focused. Balanced. Long finish.

Cavallotto Barolo Winemaker Dinner at La Pizza Fresca Ristorante
At the conclusion of the formal tasting, a small group of hardcore Barolo fans refused to leave the premises. We stood around talking for a bit and then decided to order something off the vaunted La Pizza Fresca list. The wine we opted for was the 1964 Barolo Giacomo Conterno. This wine was decanted. When poured into the glass, it displayed a delicate golden color, as of a faded tawny port. Heavenly on the nose. First scent as of an elegant rose. The tar was also delicate and faded into a hint of molasses. Burnt orange. Savoriness and spice on the nose as well as on the palate. A textured wine with an exceedingly long finish. We meditated on this wine.

Rioja Blind Tasting
There is a group of young Somms here in the Orlando area who are at various stages of the Guild Of Sommeliers certification process and have banded together to hone their skills as they pursue higher levels of individual accreditation. From time to time I act as a resource for the group by facilitating focused tastings which allow the group to do deep dives into a region, variety, or soil type. Earlier this year we conducted a tasting focused on the wines of Rioja. In addition to the Somms, I had invited Ron Siegel and Andres Montoya to lend their expertise to the effort. The tasting was conducted blind. At the reveal, it was discovered that the wines that showed best fell into what we classified as the "traditional" category.

The 1994 Rioja Alta 904 was both Ron and Andres' Wine of the Night! "Gorgeous nose of mushroom, forest floor, pine needle, pickled fruit, beef broth (umami sensation) and great acidity. Drinks like a Gevrey Chambertin." 

The 1991 Lopez Heredia Bosconia exhibited coffee, earth, and great integration between oak and fruit. Intense pepper spice, great acidity, and an expressiveness on the palate. This wine was drinking beautifully. Andres tagged it as his second wine of the night: "dried flower, wet earth, forest floor, road tar, lovely aromatics, very Burgundian." 

The Cune Imperial 1994 showed barnyard, cherry, spice, fruit, herbs and flowers. Restrained, subtle, elegant. For Andrew, "Delicate, floral, pinot-noir-like intensity, gravel/mineral, chewy tannins.

Andres found the 1973 Valoria to be surprisingly youthful, exhibiting scorched earth, ripe cherry, and tobacco. Bold. He was extremely surprised at the reveal because he had had this down as a wine from the 90's.

One of the surprises for us all, and not necessarily fitting neatly into this category, was the 2011 Vivanco Maturana Tinta. It had an intense color along with black cherry, olives, and leather on the palate. Balanced. Northern Rhone character. Everyone liked this wine.

Photo Credits: Anne Ryan
Hipster Tasting
In Orlando, distance, consumer demand, and distributor choice conspire to restrict the types of wines available on the market. To combat this state of affairs, a number of wine lovers travel to the major metropolitan areas in order to stay abreast of trends "under the brighter lights." One such traveler is Ron Siegel, a good friend, travel buddy, and, in addition, one of the biggest collectors in town. We tend to drink mostly the five Bs but, over the last few trips that he has taken to NYC, the Somms have been recommending wines that are not normally on his radar screen.

Ron thought that this required further attention and had some discussions with Pascaline Lepeltier MS (Rouge Tomate) and the Wine Director at Jean-Georges to get a sense of some of these "new wines" that he should be drinking. At the conclusion of that investigation, Ron curated a number of wines for a Hipster tasting and invited a number of local Somms and friends to participate. The wines from that tasting that made the list are shown below.

White Wines
The whites were tasted in two flights, an approach grounded in convenience and ease of use. The order of, and within, the flights is illustrated in the pictures below.

The 2011 Antoine Arena 'Grotte di Sole' Blanc was the most interesting of the wines in the first flight and was so designated by the team. This 100% Vermentinu from Corsica had apple and smoke on the nose and a Montrachet-like quality (more Chassagne than Puligny). Weighty, waxy, and oily on the palate. Complex with a long, spicy finish.

The Moreau-Naudet Chablis 'Forest' 1er Cru 2012 destroyed all of my pre-conceived notions as to what a Chablis is. I approach a Chablis looking for that knife-edge, flinty sharpness but this wine did not exhibit any of those characteristics. It was more tangerine than lime. Excellent, rounder, fuller Chardonnay than expected. This wine is a result of the winemaker picking later than his peers in search of riper fruit.

The Stephane Cossais Montlouis Sur Loire 'Le Volagre' 2008 was the wine of the second flight. Barrel spice, vanilla, nutty, rich, waxy, oily, and lime. Lees character evident. Great acid level. Steve characterized this wine as lush and balanced.

Courtesy of Steve Alcorn

Courtesy of Steve Alcorn
Red Wines
Pierre Gonon St Joseph - "The epitome of hipster juice" according to one of our panelists. "I put this alongside Jamet Cote-Rotie with its hipster upbringing."  "Wow. Mind-blowing quality here! Extremely eye opening...This is what amazing Syrah is about." according to another.

Benetiere Cote Rotie Cordeloux 2012 - Fresh game (blood), orange rind, elegant and refined finish. According to one of our panelists: "Beautiful. I hope this producer stays under the radar because I could definitely see these wines doubling in price in the near future. I loved the finesse for a region that typically commands aging to be accessible. Jet black minerals, black olive, and dark brooding fruit yet it came with a snap and brightness I wasn’t expecting. This guy only owns 2.5ha. If I come across this wine, I will buy it."

Thierry Allemand Chaillot Cornas - Packed with layers of earth, game, spice, olive and fresh herbs. Very polished, very tight. 

Flight 2. Courtesy Steve Alcorn

Flight 3. Courtesy Steve Alcorn

Wednesday Lunches
On many a Wednesday, Ron and Bev Siegel and Parlo and I go to one of the local restaurants for lunch. We tend to bring nice wines to accompany the establishment dishes.

1937 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Riserva
This was an awesome wine. Had it at lunch at Dovecote. Evolved beautifully. Muted to begin, with a hint of maderization. Dried stewed fruit and olives with pine tar resin. Then moved to a cupric finish with blackpepper. Ended up with tar, roses, olives, and balance.

1983 Cheval Blanc
At a perfect place (Also at a Dovecote lunch). Very complex nose to include mint, chocolate, cocoa, plum, red fruits. Palate delivers with perfect balance.

2013 Louis Benjamin Daguenau Pur Sang
Assyrtiko-level acidity, intense lime. Stony, crisp minerality, citrus rind. Engages all aspects of the palate. Long, sour finish.

1967 Enrico Serafino Barolo
Impressive. Rose petal, tar, earth, sweetness, balsamic, mushroom, dry cherry, licorice, and moth balls. Great acidity. Linear. Orange peel. Drying character. Drying finish. Balsamic tang. The acidity keeps it going. Leathery finish.

2001 Romanée-St. Vivant
Also at a DoveCote lunch. Expressive on the noseDelicate rose petal along with soy, sandalwood, cinnamon, and blackpepper. Rose, charcoal, and beer on the palate. Drying finish with a rose-petal aftertaste. Elegant.

Ron's Birthday party at Bern's
The wine that stood out on this evening was the 1970 Romanee-St Vivant. Rusty nail strawberry initially, yielding to rich, floral pinot fruit. Alive. Drying tannins. Long intense finish. Beautiful representation of Burgundy. Vineyard owned by Leroy in this vintage but wine made by Romanee-Conti.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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