Wed 30 Sep 2009
The friendly drivers of UPS and FedEx bring wine to my door, not every day of the work week but often three or four days, sometimes two or three. It varies by circumstance and weather; shipping drops off during the hottest and coldest months. Some weeks, I receive a couple of cases of wine altogether; other weeks only a few bottles. Without these samples for review, a blog like this couldn’t exist, just as newspaper and magazine book pages couldn’t exist without the copies of books sent by publishers.
On August 20, I received seven bottles of wine, one from Argentina, two from Australia, one from California and three from Oregon. Prices ranged from 8 to $105. Contemplating these wines and the enormous variety and variation they representeded, I thought, “Eureka! Here’s an interesting post for BTYH, reviews of the wines I received on a single day, whatever their origin or cost.”
The order is from cheapest to most expensive.
Black Swan Wines, which carry a South Eastern Australia designation, are imported to the U.S. and bottled by Barossa Valley Importers in Modesto, Cal., the mention of the town of Modesto telling us that Black Swans are Gallo wines. I received two from an extensive roster, the Shiraz 2008 and the Riesling 2008. Of this pair, the Riesling ’08 is the Bargain.
Not that I minded the Black Swan Shiraz ’08. Produced in 230,000 cases, it offers the definite character of a mass-produced wine, that is, one feels it as a “red wine” rather than as anything definably shiraz-like. Its mildly spicy black fruit scents and flavors are passably decent and it offers a pleasing texture, and if we were at a party and someone handed me a glass (or plastic cup, more likely) of this wine, I wouldn’t turn to LL and raise an eyebrow too noticeably. In fact, that setting would be this wine’s highest purpose, as a red vinous beverage to be knocked back when dozens of people are thwacked by loud music and have to shout in each others’ ears to be heard and the whole situation borders on the mindless. Fun!
The Black Swan Riesling ’08, on the other hand, makes a real claim to varietal character. The wine is fresh and clean, as we would hope, and displays sufficient hints of peach, pear and lychee highlighted by the grape’s requisite note of petrol (you may call it rubber eraser) that when I swirled, sniffed and sipped, I thought, “Well, shut my mouth, this is riesling,” not, I hasten to say, riesling of great intensity and purport, but certainly more than merely decent. The texture niftily balances crisp acidity with moderate lushness, and the finish brings in spice and limestone.
I rate the Shiraz as Good and the Riesling as Very Good. Each about $8.
Don Miguel Gascon is an actual winery, founded in 1884, with an actual winemaker, Ernesto Bajda. This, too, is imported by Gallo, though unlike the Black Swan wines, Gascon Malbec 2008 is made, aged and bottled in its home, the Mendoza region of Argentina. This is a great wine for the price; I have used several previous vintages as Wine of the Week.
Made from 100 percent malbec grapes and aged seven months in a combination of French and American oak barrels, Gascon Malbec 2008 is a dark ruby-purple color with a violet rim (that’s when you tilt the glass and look through the edge of the wine to reveal all the hues); the bouquet bursts with scents of ripe blueberry and blackberry, spicy oak and briery, brambly elements. Black fruit flavors are permeated by plum dust, hints of coffee and tobacco, a bit of cedar; the texture is dense and chewy, and though the wine is robust (and a little exotic), tannins and oak influence are kept to sensible supporting roles. We drank this one night with grilled pork chops, and it was a hit. Very Good+. About $14, Good Value.
The words no producer wants to read in a review are “disappointed” and “I liked the less expensive wine more than the expensive one.” Alas, that is what I must write today regarding three pinot noirs from Willamette Valley Vineyards.
The one I liked best, the one that seemed purest, most intense and unsullied is the Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Fermented Pinot Noir 2008. “Whole Cluster” means that the freshly picked and sorted grapes are placed, uncrushed, in stainless steel containers that contain carbon dioxide gas, sprayed with yeast and then sealed in. As fermentation slowly occurs, the weight of the grapes on top begins gently to crush the grapes below, releasing the juice. The result, as in this example, is urgent freshness and elixir-like fruitiness, first grapey and then redolent of black and red cherries and mulberries. In the mouth, this wine dips a delicate toe into the dark waters of spice and macerated black fruits; a few minutes in the glass manifest something slightly leafy, a little mossy and earthy. The texture is so satiny as to be almost viscous, but vibrant acidity cuts a swath. Utterly charming and delicious. Drink now through 2011. Very Good+. About $19.
I loved the bouquet of the Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007. A welter of cranberry, black cherry and sassafras, lilac and baking spice, it would easily seduce the most jaded nose. When you taste the wine, however, you find that touch of brown sugar and emphatic spice that too often characterizes West Coast pinot noirs. This element coasts on a tide of burly oak, and together they swamp the wine’s fruit, so that the finish devolves to wood and wood’s austerity. Very good. About $25.
My mantra is “If a wine smells like wood and tastes like woody, it’s too damned woody.” That’s my reaction to the Willamette Valley Vineyards Elton Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007. Yes, ’07 should turn out to be a fine year for Oregon, and, yes, the Elton Vineyard is highly respected, but vintages and vineyards matter little if a wine is over-manipulated in the winery. At first glance, one might think that the oak regimen for the wine was perfectly balanced, 14 months in French barrels, 20 percent new, but there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip, and for my palate the wine was insufferably oaky. I spent half an hour or so with this glass, swirling, sniffing, sipping, waiting for some nuance, some detail to emerge, but those pleasurable factors seemed not to have a chance. 410 cases. Perhaps a few years aging will make a difference, but I don’t have much hope. About $45.
Here’s the story: 14 years ago, young Will Jarvis, son of the owners of Jarvis Winery, had an 8th grade science project. It seemed natural to make red wine, for which he had to receive permission and made a two-gallon barre, illustrating the whole process. Ten years later, he and his parents tried the wine and thought it was so good that it inspired the present wine, a first release of Jarvis “Will Jarvis Science Project” Cabernet Franc 2007, Napa Valley. No, readers, this is not the original wine, but it’s certainly one of the best cabernet franc wines to be made in California.
The color is dark ruby-purple, almost black. The first impression is of immense minerality, like shoals of granite and shale, but the wine is immensely fruit-endowed too, bursting with scents and flavors of spiced and macerated blueberries and black currant jam. The wine exhibits tremendous heft and substance, breadth and depth, but it’s neither heavy nor obvious; it wears its size stylishly, legitimately. As moments elapse, the wine unfolds layers of smoke and charcoal, touches of loam and burning leaves, deeper hints of violets and tar. When you take a sip, it’s not only mouth-filling but encompassing. Yes, quite a wine. It was in all new French oak, but only for nine months; how reasonable is that? 391 cases. Best from 2010 through 2015 or ’17. Excellent. About — ouch! — $105.
Tue 29 Sep 2009
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Wine of the Week  Comments
Last night LL made tuna ceviche that we ate in tacos. This involves marinating sushi-grade tuna cut into little cubes for at least four hours in lime and lemon juices, salt, pepper and sugar. After the tuna has marinated, you mix it with chopped seeded tomatoes and red onion, slices of pickled jalapeno (and some of the juice), thinly sliced romaine lettuce, diced avocado, chopped cilantro and a bit of olive oil. Stuff it into taco shells and top with salsa. Absolutely freakin’ delicious, and pretty damned spicy, too!
Obviously, we needed a wine that was clean, fresh, brisk, crisp and fruity, and fitting that profile was the Starborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. A hint of spritz testifies to the wine’s appealing liveliness, while penetrating scents of lime and grapefruit and celery, thyme and tarragon and a hint of new-mown grass draw you in. Acidity here is so vibrant that it practically sings “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” in a very high, tiny voice. (You have to hold the glass to your ear.) Flavors of lime and pear with a hint of leafy melon and fig are nestled in a lovely texture that’s taut yet almost lush. The wine, though, is quite dry, overtly minerally in the limestone and chalk sense, and the finish is boldly austere. Very Good+ and a Great Bargain at about $15 (but often discounted to $11 or $12).
The back label says “Imported and Bottled by Starborough Vineyards, Healdsburg CA,” but this is really a Gallo product, and along, with the Gascon Malbec (more about which soon) and the Martin Codax Albarino, is one of the best of the Gallo imports.
Sun 27 Sep 2009
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Alcohol
, Zinfandel  Comments
Antoine Favero, winemaker for Mazzocco, specializes in risk-taking, by which I mean that he fashions wines, primarily zinfandels, that are very high in alcohol, usually towering at 16 percent and higher, while trying for some kind of sane balance and a revelation of single-vineyard characteristics. In the wines he produced though 2005, I was on board for this agenda; many of Mazzocco’s Dry Creek Valley vineyard-designated and reserve wines were thrilling in their combination of broad dimension and fine detail. The Mazzocco Maple Reserve Zinfandel 2005 was on my list of “50 Great Wines of 2008.”
I’m not quite as convinced by the renditions of Mazzocco’s zinfandels from 2006. Evidently nothing has changed in the winemaking process: the barrel regimen is still 18 months in French oak, the alcohol levels still hover from the mid 15 to upper 16 percent, and each zinfandel usually contains a dollop of petite sirah, that is, perhaps three or four percent. Despite that consistency, however, and despite some admirable qualities, I find that the Mazzocco zinfandels from 2006 do not embody, as the ’05s did, the principle of power balanced by elegance that has always been Favero’s rather paradoxical goal, by which I mean that creating a balanced, poised table wine at, say, 16.9% alcohol can be a Herculean task. The alternative is making a wine whose primary attributes reside solely in the “bigness” of its elements, that is, bigness for its own sake: big alcohol, big tannin, big (over-ripe) fruit. I’m afraid that a few of these wines fall into that camp.
>Mazzocco Warms Springs Ranch Zinfandel 2006. 16% alcohol. 450 cases. About $32.
Spice cake, dried currants and plums, cigar smoke, tobacco leaf; big, rich, jammy; port-like; wet dog, bacon fat, roasted and fleshy; very dry, austere finish. Serious and alluring. Excellent.
>Mazzocco Stone Zinfandel 2006. 15.9% alcohol. 600 cases. About $29.
Raspberries and blueberries covered with bittersweet chocolate; smolders with exotic spice and potpourri; pencil shavings and granite; inky, broad, strenuous tannins. 2010-’12. Excellent.
>Mazzocco Pony Zinfandel 2006. 16.1% alcohol. 500 cases. About $32.
Wheatmeal, fruitcake; pure, intense, concentrated; big, juicy, luscious; very dry, big, assertive, austere finish; pretty hot, fairly raisiny. Over the edge. Very Good, if it’s your style.
>Mazzocco West Dry Creek Zinfandel 2006. 16.3% alcohol. 150 cases. About $32.
Pure blackberry pie and blueberry tar, um, tart; very intense and concentrated; daunting tannins and minerality; very dry and austere, a real smoky afterburn of lead pencil, potpourri, bitter chocolate. 2010-’13. Excellent.
>Mazzocco Lytton Zinfandel 2006. 15.7% alcohol. 900 cases. About $29.
Very pure, very intense and minerally; rich and jammy, plangent acidity; granite, iodine, sea salt; luscious but amazingly clean; ripe and vibrant black fruit flavors. Like a beautiful wooden ship with a metallic keel. Through 2012 or ’13. Excellent.
>Mazzocco Maple Zinfandel 2006. 15.8% alcohol. 300 cases. About $40.
Bright, bold, brash blueberry and boysenberry, bitter chocolate and mocha; huge, dry, tannic, forbidding austerity on finish. Very Good.
>Mazzocco Reserve Warm Springs Ranch Zinfandel 2006. 16% alcohol. 200 cases. About $50.
Very ripe boysenberry, blueberry, blackberry; very spicy, rich and warm; balsamic complexity, ancho chili; a massive wine, combo of tannins and alcohol overwhelming; very dry, titanic finish. Very Good to Very Good+.
>Mazzocco Reserve Maple Zinfandel 2006. 15.8% alcohol. 170 cases. About $60.
Cigar smoke and tobacco, spice cake & plum pudding; intensely aromatic; penetrating tannins and minerals. 2011 to 2013 or ’14. Very Good+
>Mazzocco Reserve Smith Orchard Zinfandel 2006. 16.2% alcohol. 500 cases. About $50.
Rich, warm & spicy, but staggering immensity of tannin and minerals married to sweetish alcohol; finish is both cloying and Olympian. Difficult to judge. Perhaps for masochists. Very Good+ with a Big Question Mark.
>Mazzocco Reserve West Dry Creek Zinfandel 2006. 16.7% alcohol. 250 cases. About $50.
You have to push through the alcohol here, as if you were wading through it as toward a shore; there you find an intensity and density of black and blue fruit so wild and ripe, jammy and port-like that it’s almost bizarre; tannins are mossy, briery and bountiful, the alcohol feels flammable. Maybe Very Good to Very Good+ but not to my taste or palate.
>Mazzocco Reserve Pony Zinfandel 2006. 16.1% alcohol. 170 cases. About $50.
Smoke and ash; jammy, plummy steroidally-ripe boysenberry and black cherry; powerful fruit cake component; throbbing, brooding tannins. Forget any concerns about the mythical balance of power and elegance; this is all leather boots and tire-burned asphalt, and if that’s what you want in a table wine, well, freakin’ good for you.
>Matrix Zinfandel 2006. 16.1% alcohol. 225 cases. About $45.
Matrix is a sister winery to Mazzocco, where Favero also makes the wines.
Big, heady whiff of alcohol; very jammy, very dry. The alcohol makes it difficult to judge except on that point.
My favorite of the Mazzocco wines that I tried recently is the Mazzocco Petit Verdot 2005, Monterey County. Coming in at a relatively mild and certainly more rational 14.5% alcohol, this is earthy and minerally, fleshy and meaty; flavors of black currants, black cherries and plums, flecked with mocha, are permeated by briers and brambles, dusty, cedary tannins and polished granite. The texture is dense and chewy, resonant with lively acidity. Best from 2010 through 2014 or ’15. 150 cases. Excellent. About $35.
Fri 25 Sep 2009
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Blind Tasting  Comments
Benito came over to the house a couple of days ago to taste wine, but before we got down to business, he offered a brown-bagged Mystery Wine for my amusement and perplexity.
He poured a tasting portion in my glass. The wine was a deep ruby-purple color; the bouquet seethed with ripe, smoky raspberry and blueberry scents, underlain by exotic spice, lavender and violets and a touch of fruitcake. Whoa, thought I, methinks this might be zinfandel. In the mouth, the wine was intense and concentrated, packed with soft, furry, briery tannins, with jammy currant and plum flavors, a touch of bacon fat and that granite-like minerality and foresty nature that sometimes defines old-vine zinfandel; the fruitcake element seemed a giveaway too. Despite this panoply of sensations, the wine was quite dry, the finish a little austere.
“So?” sez he.
“Hmmmm,” sez I. “I would pretty much have to go with zinfandel. I mean, the richness, the exotic quality. Yeah, zinfandel.”
“Region? You don’t have to be too specific.”
“Uh, could be Dry Creek Valley, but I’m going to go with Amador. It has that old-fashioned appeal, sort of puritanical and shameless at the same time.”
“So, you’re saying northern California?”
“How about southern California? How about way, way southern California, as in Baja?” And there’s a twinkle in the old Benito eye.
That’s right, friends, the Mystery Wine was from the Guadalupe Valley, Baja, California, as in Mexico. The wine was revealed to be the Baron Balch’e Reserva Especial 2005, a blend of cabernet franc, merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon. A friend of Benito had brought it back to him as a gift.
“I was about to say cabernet franc,” I said. Ha-ha, really though, this is a thoroughly New World, though not over-the-top blend. Made me wish for a veal chop.
The Guadalupe Valley, one of five appellations in Baja Norte, lies about 70 miles south of San Diego. Some 20 wineries are located northeast of the coastal city of Ensenada, a deep-water port and sport fishing and surfing center. While most of the long, crooked finger of land separating the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California is desert, the Guadalupe Valley benefits from a more moderate Mediterranean climate.
The alcohol content of the Baron Balch’e Reserva Especial 2005, by the way, was a reasonable and palatable 12 percent. One cannot help thinking that if winemakers in Baja can produce wines with this rational level of alcohol, then producers in Napa who are always saying, “Dude, it’s not our fault that our cabernets are coming in at 15.2, it’s the freaking global warming,” should shut the hell up and try harder.
Baja map from stanford.edu.
Thu 24 Sep 2009
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Cookbooks
, Cooking at Home  Comments
Here’s the way the week days go: LL has coffee for breakfast; I have tea and toast. Perhaps one or the other of us has a bowl of cereal. We sort of try to get through the day without eating much. LL seldom has lunch, unless she goes out with a colleague or to a meeting, and then it’s always something light. I, the stay-at-home guy, tend to snack through the day, a handful of nuts here, a slice or two of cheese toast there, whoa! where did those cookies come from? By evening, we’re ravenous, and to allay the hunger, we consume a large dinner.
To bring some common sense to our routine, last weekend LL announced a change. “I’m going to come home for lunch,” she said, “and we’ll have our biggest meal then, but not too much. At night we’ll eat something lighter. We’ll probably sleep better. We’ll probably be healthier. And we won’t feel as if we’re about to faint from starvation in the middle of the afternoon.”
One of the sources we turned to is a book called New Flavors for Soups, published this year by Oxmoor House for Williams-Sonoma ($22.95). Preparation levels range from simple to complicated; some of the soups are hearty and downhome-style, while other are more sophisticated. We chose three to start with: cumin-spiced shrimp and chorizo gumbo; spicy turkey and jasmine rice soup with lemongrass; and lentil and Swiss chard soup with Serrano ham and smoked paprika. I went to the store Sunday and loaded up on the ingredients for these soups, and on Monday, I started cooking.
Here’s how it went:
Monday morning, I made a very intense broth from a package of turkey wings. LL came home for lunch and made a salad of beet greens, tomatoes, radishes and some other salady stuff, with fried eggs on top. That was very satisfying but not too filling. We went to the Y after LL came home from work, and when we got home, we made the rest of the turkey soup. This calls for lemongrass, of course, fresh ginger, Serrano chilies — one seeded and chopped, the other thinly sliced and used as a garnish — garlic, carrots, white wine and the jasmine rice. Boy, forget the turkey and rice soup of your childhood! This soup was extravagantly fragrant and layered with complex flavors. The only problem was the lemongrass. Even following the instructions — you know, discarding the outer layers, cutting off the tops where they begin to harden and so on — we kept getting unpleasant, little woody slivers in our mouths. If anyone knows how to deal with lemongrass, I would be grateful for your advice, because we would like to make this soup again.
To go with the soup, I opened the Robert Oatley Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Western Australia. Made in stainless steel, this is exemplary for its style: clean and fresh and enlivened by lithe acidity and offering notes of peach, kiwi and mango with highlights of lime and grapefruit; a few minutes in the glass bring up touches of dried herbs and new-mown grass and a scintillating mineral element, all ensconced in a crisp yet slightly lush texture. Very Good+. About $18.
Much as we enjoyed this wine, though, it didn’t have quite the intimate relationship with the soup that we desired — a kiss is always better than a handshake, n’est-ce pas? — so on a hunch, I opened a bottle of the non-vintage Sokol Blosser Evolution “Lucky Edition” — it’s the 13th release, get it? — thinking that the tinge of sweetness that characterizes the wine would be both a supporting and mitigating factor vis-a-vis the soup’s exotic, spicy heat. And I was right. Also fashioned entirely in stainless steel, Evolution makes a somewhat humorous fetish of its eclectic blend: muller-thurgau, riesling, semillon, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, muscat canelli, chardonnay, pinot blanc and sylvaner. What, no chenin blanc or viognier? No viura or torrontes? Does the wine really require nine grapes? What if one, just one, were omitted?
Well, whatever, Evolution “Lucky Edition” is a charmer. The bouquet seems permeated by jasmine and honeysuckle, along with some astringent floral element and touches of pear, peach and lychee. Juicy flavors of roasted lemon and lemon oil dominate the flavors; the wine’s spicy and slightly herbal nature expands in the glass, with snappy acidity and a clean leafy sensation. The finish takes on some of gewurztraminer’s bracing bitterness. That, along with the wine’s sweetness, felt mainly on the entry, slid among the soup’s spicy elements and tamed them a bit, while the heat of the soup made the wine less sweet. A terrific pairing. Very Good+. About $17.
Evolution is designated “American White Wine.” The rare and extremely broad “American” appellation is generally used when grapes for a wine come from several states; as such, no vintage date is allowed.
So, Tuesday, before LL came home for lunch, I chopped fresh basil, thyme, flat-leaf parsely and a shallot, in anticipation of one of our favorite incredibly simple dishes, pasta with cold tomato sauce. Actually, the word “sauce” is a trifle misleading, since nothing here is cooked except the pasta. When that is finished, drained and placed in bowls, you take the chopped herbs and shallot and some chopped tomatoes, which LL did when she arrived, mix them together and spoon them onto the pasta, toss a bit with salt and pepper, and serve. The heat of the pasta gently warms the tomatoes so they’re not really cold. This is a wonderful dish, the essence of freshness, wholesomeness and spontaneity.
O.K., thought I cleverly, what we need is a glass — this was lunch, after all — a glass, I say, of a Beaujolais with some character. Fortunately, I had a bottle of the Potel-Aviron Fleurie 2007, from one of the 10 villages (crus) allowed to place their names on labels. Nicolas Potel is a meticulous producer, and his care reveals itself in this wine’s exuberant and layered nature. This Fleurie, which does indeed display hints of violets and roses, was made from gamay grapes taken from two vineyards, one 50 years old, the other 55 years old, and aged in small oak barrels, 25 percent new. It begins as an amazingly fresh and grapey example of a cru Beaujolais, but infused with red and black cherries and touches of smoke and black pepper. In the mouth, vibrant acidity buoys black currant and plum flavors with a spicy note of mulberry and dark chocolate-covered raspberries; a trace of minerals brings depth and density to a lovely, almost indulgent texture. This should age well to 2012 or ’13. Excellent. About $22, Great Value for the Price.
We had shrimp broth in the freezer, so I didn’t have to make that, as the recipe for cumin-spiced shrimp and chorizo gumbo calls for. That fact also meant that we could buy peeled and de-veined shrimp, since we wouldn’t need the shells for the broth. Saved two big steps there, but the prep work is intense: an onion, a stalk of celery and a red bell pepper, finely chopped, and four cloves of garlic, minced. You start the cooking by making a roux from flour and canola oil, keeping it going until it’s “the color of an old penny.” After that process, the dish is simple, just adding things to the pot, stirring, simmering for 20 minutes, more stuff goes in, and then another 20 minutes. The spices, by the way, include cumin and cayenne pepper; yes, this is an intense and spicy dish. The shrimp go in last, just to cook for about four minutes. This, Readers, is a world-class concoction. We loved this soup, with its luxurious pairing of mild shrimp and piquant meaty chorizo, its persistent heat, its complicated spiciness. I can’t imagine why I don’t have an image of this dish — I’ve gotten to be quite a bore about taking food shots — but, there it is; this time, I didn’t.
I took the easy way out for wine and opened the Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2008, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. You wouldn’t mistake this sauvignon blanc for having been made anywhere but New Zealand, yet the wine exhibits an admirable sense of restraint that many models from New Zealand can’t manage. Pure lime and grapefruit in the nose, then hints of kiwi and pea shoots; roasted lemon takes over in the mouth, with touches of pear and tangerine and a note of fresh grass. Spiffy acid keeps the package lively and vibrant, while a bit of limestone offers ballast. Oh, yes, this is also made in stainless steel. Not thrilling but well-made and enjoyable. Very Good+. About $15.
The ecologically-minded will appreciate that Wairau River is certified as a CarboNZero winery by the New Zealand government. This Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is the winery’s initial release under the program. Don’t we all feel better now!
So, two days do not a revolution make, and Wednesday we fell off the Wagon of Good Intentions and Reasonableness. It was a hideously hectic day — you’re thinking, “Um, FK, aren’t you unemployed?” — and in the midst of the chaos, LL came home and made sandwiches for lunch, sandwiches stacked with several kinds of Italian salamis, tomatoes, greens, er, other stuff, anyway they were fabulous and who cares? Then more centers not holding mid widening gyres and that evening we just said, “Oh, what the hell” and had a steak and roasted potatoes and sauteed Swiss chard (at least) and a fantastically indulgent and expensive bottle of cabernet, which I’ll get to in a subsequent post. (Oh all right, the Chimney Rock Tomahawk Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. Excellent. $110. So sue me.) Oops, that chard was supposed to go in the lentil soup. Back to the store.
Today it was bowls of the leftover turkey soup for lunch, and in a few minutes we’re going to make a bread salad for dinner. Onward and upward.
Mon 21 Sep 2009
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Wine of the Week  Comments
In its making, the Justin Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Paso Robles, sees only stainless steel, so no oak interferes with its clean, fresh vibrancy. The first impression is of something eminently sunny and leafy; the second is of tangerines, yellow plums and quince infused with cloves, dried thyme and tarragon. Acidity that’s almost crystalline enlivens a texture that’s a little dusty, almost talc-like in its seductiveness, these complementary aspects supporting hints of roasted lemon, pear and fig with a bell-like ping of grassy black currant at the core. There’s a tang of bracing grapefruit bitterness on the finish. Absolutely lovely. Perfect for sipping on this last day or two of official summer or otherwise I’m thinking ceviche or crab cakes with Asian slaw or grilled shrimp with salsa verde. Bottled with a screw-cap for easy opening. Excellent. About $15, a Terrific Bargain.
Sun 20 Sep 2009
The Lodi Winegrape Commission was kind enough to send me 12 zinfandels selected by a “panel of experts” that chose these “outstanding” representatives from a field of 48; I applaud the panel for eliminating 75 percent of the candidates.
Still, I have to say that the palates of these experts must have been made of sterner stuff than mine; some of these zinfandels were so high in alcohol, so rife with jammy over-ripeness as to be untenable. It continues to boggle my little pointy head that bigness in zinfandel is equated with quality. People make these 15.9 and 16 percent alcohol wines, pack them with blackberry marmalade, thwack them with American oak and send them out into the world with macho names like Gargantua or Roadkill or Jackboot in Your Face and assume that we’ll all settle down like sweet woolly lambs and say, “Thank you very much, sir. Please, may I have some more.”
Having gotten that issue off my chest, I will say that I did enjoy several of these zinfandel wines from Lodi and bestowed Excellent ratings on four of them; two I found so unbalanced, unwieldy and overbearing that I rated them Avoid, which I don’t do often. Some real bargains are included here too. The sequence is from cheapest to most expensive.
Here’s some good news. The Talus Collection Zinfandel 2007, Lodi, is a terrific wine at an incredibly reasonable cost. Zinfandel grapes make up 80 percent of the wine; the rest consists of petite sirah (11%), merlot (7%) and 2 percent “blending grapes.” This zinfandel is remarkably intense and concentrated for the price. Scents of blackberry, black currant and plum are wreathed with brambles and black pepper. It’s a satisfying mouthful of wine, with good heft and vibrant acidity to buoy dark, spicy — mocha and cloves — black fruit flavors wrapped around a potent core of lavender, potpourri and minerals. Tannins are robust and slightly shaggy. The alcohol content is a comfortable 13.4 percent. Very Good and a Great Bargain at about $7.
Eola Hills Winery is a well-known producer of pinot noir in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. For the Eola Hills Zinfandel 2007, the company reaches down to Lodi for grapes picked, for a change, from young vines and aged 10 months in older American oak. The result is a zinfandel whose color is more a ruddy-magenta hue than the deeply extracted inky zinfandels we see so much. Interesting, too, is the bouquet, an amalgam of spiced apple, plums and blueberry with a slight mineral edge. As captivating as all this sounds, however, 15.1 percent alcohol gives this zinfandel a size that belies its initial impression. This is a mouth-filling wine, packed with big, dry, dusty tannins that dominate the ripe, moderately spicy black and red fruit flavors. I found this zinfandel to be oddly attractive and appealing, and at the price, one could hardly help experimenting. Production was 529 cases. Very Good. About $13.
The Oak Ridge Winery OZV Zinfandel 2005, Lodi, made from 50- to 100-year-old vineyards, comes in a hair under 14 percent alcohol, which feels like a blessing in the wine. This is classic, a bountiful basket of black currants and plums with one or two ripe boysenberries and an overlay of blueberry tart. In the mouth, we get raspberry and damson plum marmalade infused with port stuffed into a fruit cake with all that confection implies of dried cherries and citron and dates, chopped walnuts and baking spice. Lordy, you’re thinking, this sounds over the top, and it would be except that the strict contours of wood, from French and American oak, a sinew of vibrant acidity and the weight of dense, chewy tannins keep it honest. The making is interesting; the French and American oak comprises 60 percent of the aging, while the rest of the wine was kept cold in stainless steel tanks to ensure bright, crisp fruitiness. Excellent, and a Great Bargain at about $15.
The Van Ruiten Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel 2007, Lodi, made from vines “over 50 years” old and clocking in at 15.5 percent alcohol, is an earthy, funky wine that features aromas of cinnamon and Moroccan spices, roasted meat and wet fur, coffee and mocha, and dried currants and blueberries. One feels the imbalance in the mouth; velvety, iron-inflected tannins provide a texture so dense that it’s almost viscous, while black fruit flavors are stridently spicy and too roasted. A hot finish provides further evidence that this incoherent wine carries individualism to extremes. This is a blend of 84 percent zinfandel, 8 percent petite sirah, 5 percent cabernet sauvignon and 3 percent syrah. Avoid. About $16.
Now, here is what we want in a Lodi zinfandel and at a great price. !ZaZin Old Vine Zinfandel 2007 takes grapes from a 108-year-old vineyard, adds 15 percent petite sirah and ages the wine 15 months in French and American oak barrels (75 percent new). The result is a dark, intense and concentrated zinfandel packed with dusty tannins, earthy minerals and ripe blackberry, black currant and plum scents and flavors. Those flavors are smoked and roasted, a little meaty and fleshy, wrapped around a core of lavender, licorice and granite; there’s a touch of blueberry tart, but no boysenberry, no over-ripeness. The wine is sizable, robust, dense and chewy, permeated by briers and brambles, deep and long in extension and finish, which brings in more of a loamy, mineral edge. !ZaZin is made by Laurel Glen, well-known for Sonoma cabernets. Excellent, and a Great Bargain at about $17.
The Bargetto Old Vine Zinfandel 2007, Lodi, bottled with this nice “retro” label, is first characterized by what it is not: Not too big, not over-ripe, not raisiny. So, what is it then? A well-balanced combination of black and red currants and dusty plums, married to a touch of fruit cake, a whiff of black pepper, and a dense, chewy texture. The evidence of aging 18 months in American oak is mainly revealed in a firm structure and a mildly spicy nature. Well-suited to hearty pizzas and pasta dishes and burgers. The wine is made of 100 percent zinfandel grapes picked from two adjacent 100-year-old vineyards. Very Good+. About $18.
Aged 18 months in new American oak and measuring 15.5 percent alcohol, the Mettler “Epicenter” Old Vine Zinfandel 2006, Lodi, is partly an expressive and classic Lodi zinfandel and partly an over-wrought blockbuster. Florid, penetrating black currant and plum flavors with a hint of boysenberry deliver a spice and mineral afterburn; these flavors take on more size, turning more macerated and roasted in the glass and offering notes of mocha and licorice. All of these aspects would be fine — there’s a pass at elegance — except that a pretty damned hot finish deprives the wine of final balance and integration. This is a blend of 91 percent zinfandel, 7 percent petite sirah and 2 percent cabernet franc. Very Good. About $20.
Here’s an amazement: An old-vine, dry-farmed, 16.1% alcohol-zinfandel that manages to be as fresh and clean and bright as some winsome young thing and yet retain proper gravitas for impressive power, purity and intensity. The Macchia “Oblivious” Old Vine Zinfandel 2007, Lodi, offers a purple/black hue; the nose displays remarkable minerals depths under generously proportioned, macerated and roasted black and blue fruit scents permeated by briers and brambles, forest and moss. This confluence of fruit, earth and minerals finds even more dimension in the mouth, adding rollicking spice, potpourri and an edge of smoke and charcoal. For all that, the wine is buoyant, lively and appealing. Production was 200 cases. Excellent. About $24.
Thank god for acidity, for without its keen and lithe electricity the Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel 2006, Lodi, from the 105-year-old Lizzie James Vineyard, would be unmanageable. At 15.6 percent alcohol, this zinfandel is very spicy, very brambly, bursting with scents of ripe blackberries, black currants and polums with a hint of boysenberry. The wine is deep and dense, rich and succulent, and its black fruit flavors, infused with lavender, violets, minerals and plum dust, stop just before the point of being jammy. A few minutes in the glass bring in notes of new leather, and the aromas shift to black fruit compote, black cherry and black pepper, all heightened by a wild, untamed, even risky quality. In the finish, oaky, minerally austerity takes over. We drank this wine with flank steak tacos, exactly the kind of fare it needs to accompany. You wouldn’t mistake this wine for anything made anywhere else in the world, and of course that’s the way it should be. Production was 221 cases. Excellent. About $28.
The m2 Soucie Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2007, Lodi, is an ambitious wine that doesn’t quite hold together. This is quite rich. dark, dense and chewy, a velvet-and-iron-filings wine, emitting layers upon layers of dark, wild, spicy exotic blueberry, cranberry and plum fruit. The wine is very dry but luscious, almost viscous, and with its 15.3 percent alcohol level, it bears an overlay of ripe, alcoholic sweetness and heat on the finish, as well as touches of pomander, dark and licorice. It ages 17 months in new and used American oak barrels. The Soucie Vineyard was planted in 1916. Production of this wine was 430 cases. Very Good+. About $28.
The m2 Artist Series Zinfandel 2007, Lodi, also taps in at 15.3 percent alcohol. The grapes derive from the Soucie Vineyard, mentioned above, and the Maley Vineyard, planted in the 1960s. The wine is a deep purple color; wild aromas of black currant and plum, mulberry and rhubarb burst from the glass in a welter of fruitcake and fresh-roasted coffee. The wine is dense and plush, packed with spicy black fruit flavors ensconced in supple, edgeless tannins. Still, there’s some heat on the finish that detracts from the wine’s purity and balance. The barrel regimen was 18 months in American oak, 60 percent new. 125 cases were produced. Very Good+. About $35.
At 16.5 percent alcohol, the Michael & David “Gluttony” Old Vine Zinfandel 2006, Lodi — they also make a zin called “Lust”; I’m waiting for “Sloth” and “Anger” — smells, feels and tastes like port, which would be fine if you wanted port, but not if you’re drinking this with, say, a steak. I mean, this is a scorched earth wine in its intensely roasted, smoky earthy nature and overwrought in its sheen of alcoholic sweetness, though dauntlessly dry from mid-palate back. It’s difficult to believe that this blowsy, boozy monster made the cut to join this roster of “The Best of Lodi,’ as well as winning gold medals at several wine competitions. I guess poise and balance are distinctly out of fashion. 950 cases produced. Avoid. About — and this is ludicrous — $59.
Fri 18 Sep 2009
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Cheap Wine
, Cooking at Home No Comments
That’s two things, the wine — Duck Duck Goose 2006 — and a dish, pork porterhouse chops, sort of super pork chop.
As she was going out the door yesterday, LL said, “Do something with those pork porterhouse chops. You know, marinate them in something.”
Well, who am I not to obey?
So, about 4:30, I took these thick, beautiful pieces of meat — vegetarians read no further! — and slathered on them the minced garlic from two cloves, a squeeze of lime juice on each, a sprinkling of Urfa pepper from Turkey, some dried Mexican oregano, a dusting of dried chipotles and, finally, from the mountains of Chile, some “Merken” mapuche spice, which contains ground Cacho de Cabra chili peppers and coriander. Pretty damned international if you ask me! (Urfa and Merken are available from Zingerman’s.)
When it was time for dinner, LL cooked the pork the way we usually do with chops, seared on top of the stove in the cast-iron skillet on each side and then put into a 400 degree oven. Since these porterhouse chops were so thick, they cooked a total of probably 20 minutes, 10 on top of the stove and 10 in the oven. They came out perfectly, moist and tender and flavorful and mildly spicy. That’s a picture of them (at top) in the skillet, right out of the oven.
Meanwhile, LL made a succotash from fresh corn, Lima beans, sliced Serrano peppers and chopped Nicoise olives. We sliced a tomato to add color to the plate. The pork, the corn and lima beans and tomatoes came from the Memphis Farmers Market, open every Saturday downtown from May through October.
For the wine, I opened — by grasping the neck and cap and twisting my hand — a bottle of the Duck Duck Goose Fine Red Wine 2006, South Australia, from Rocland Estate. A blend of 55 percent shiraz and 45 percent cabernet sauvignon, this wine defines the color “inky-purple,” and if inky-purple had smells and flavors, it would probably define them too. The wine is deep, dark and spicy, awash with minerals and humus and loam, bursting with notes of ripe black currants and plums with a earthy, slate-like edge. There’s a hint of cloves, of cedar, of blueberry cobbler, and before you say, “Whoa, F.K., this does not sound at all like your kind of wine,” let me add that all of these elements, so typical of over-the-top Australian red wines, are firmly held in check and balanced by vibrant acid, by the aforementioned mineral quality and by dense, cushiony tannins. And then come the violets and rose hips. Pretty is as pretty does, my friends, but this wine manages to be pretty and serious simultaneously. It ages 18 months in French and American hogsheads — large casks — about 10 percent new, so there’s no influence of toasty new oak, just a sheen of slightly spicy wood. Great with the pork chops, as it would be with other hearty (or hardy) fare. Very Good+ and a Real Bargain at about $13.
Rocland Wine Imports, Calistoga, Cal.
Thu 17 Sep 2009
Posted by Fredric Koeppel under Champagne
, Sparkling Wine  Comments
Try singing that line to the tune of “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” the theme for which, as the musicologists or trivialists among you will know, comes from the Moderato cantabile section of Chopin’s — but, wait, no, you’ll just have to Google that for yourselves. Meanwhile, here’s a well-known rendition to watch and listen to as you peruse these notes on some sparkling wines and champagnes. The metaphor is not inappropriate for the most starry-eyed, evanescent and romantic of the products of the grape.
Jack and Jamie Davies founded Schramsberg in 1965, dedicated to the principle of making high-quality methode champenoise sparking wine. The site was a long abandoned historic property in Napa Valley that had been established in 1862. Their efforts included restoring the house and winery, replanting vineyards and renovating the old cellars. While it’s true that the competition from other (mainly French-owned) estates in California is more intense than it was 40 years ago, the sparkling wines from Schramsberg possess a sense of elan and gravity that make them not only unique but expressively Californian. Jack Davies died in 1998, his widow 10 years later. The estate is now run by their son Hugh; he makes the wines with the assistance of Keith Hock. Here are reviews of three recently released sparkling wines from Schramsberg.
The Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2006, North Coast, is a blend of 90 percent pinot noir grapes and 10 percent chardonnay. The products of Schramsberg usually consist of grapes from four counties; the proportion for the B de N ’06 is Mendocino 56 percent, Sonoma 20 percent, Napa 18 percent and Marin 6 percent.
This sparkler is a very pale copper color tinged with pale salmon; the glass barely contains its upward flurry of silver-flecked effervescence. Dried raspberries, orange rind and roasted lemon explode from the glass, along with touches of almond skin, jasmine and damp limestone. In the mouth, we taste red currants, lime peel and cloves, nestled in a texture that balances crisp acidity with moderate lushness, all leading to an elegant, slightly austere, mineral-laced finish. Lovely, delicious. Excellent. About $40.
Blanc de noirs means “white from black”; blanc de blancs, it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out, means — yes, class! — “white from white.” You’re thinking, “But F.K., a white wine is made from white grapes. Why bother to distinguish the whiteness of the white wine or sparkling wine?” Because, in Champagne, the traditional is to blend white and red grapes to achieve a consistent house style, whether in a vintage or non-vintage product; making Champagne solely from white grapes, that is, chardonnay, is much rarer.
So, the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2006, North Coast, is made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes, from these county sources: Napa 60 percent, Mendocino 22 percent, Sonoma 15 percent, Marin 3 percent. The wine is palest platinum blond; myriad tiny bubbles fling themselves upward as insistently as moths to a flame. The bouquet is all steel and stones, the texture taut and crisp, a bow-string ready to snap. Yet intimations of toasted almonds, spiced and roasted pears and lemons seep in, and that sleek texture is balanced by a note of lush creaminess that spreads warmth through the structure. The finish, not surprisingly, is spare, dry and minerally. A notably elegant and high-toned blanc de blancs. Excellent. About $36.
The third of this trio is the Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2006, North Coast. As is typical in Champagne, the Schramsberg model is made by blending red and white grapes, in this case 68 percent pinot noir and 32 percent chardonnay. The make-up by county is Mendocino 42 percent, Napa 31 percent, Sonoma 22 percent and Marin 5 percent; the emphasis is on pinot noir grapes from cool growing areas — the Napa contingent is Carneros — in order to provide piquant fruit and clean acidity.
The color is pale, ruddy copper-salmon, not as pale as the blanc de noirs; bubbles teem like a froth inside a tempest. Smoke, dried strawberries and raspberries, a hint of rhubarb waft from the glass. This sparkler is dry and crisp yet almost juicy, almost lush; with its snappy, close to audacious acidity, it offers terrific “point” and verve. A touch of yeast and buttered toast fills out the package, with a trace of roasted hazelnuts; the finish is like limestone with a squeeze of lime. Excellent. About $42.
Laurent-Perrier traces its origins to 1812. When the long-lived founder, Alphonse Pierlot, died in 1881, the house was taken over by his cellar-master and heir, Eugene Laurent; his wife was named Mathilde Perrier, hence the name that continues to this day. The Nonancourt family acquired Laurent-Perrier in 1939 — not the most auspicious moment in history — and managed to revive its fortunes after World War II. Bernard de Nonancourtwho assumed leadership of Laurent-Perrier in 1949, still runs the company.
The Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut (nonvintage) is bottled sans dosage, that is, without the final “dose” of wine and sugar syrup that establishes a Champagne’s level of sweetness. Champagne tends to be so high in acidity that residual sugar is often undetectable. Even a Champagne labeled brut — “dry” — may contain up to 15 grams of residual sugar per liter and be perceived as a dry wine. Helpfully, an “Extra Dry” Champagne is sweeter than brut. In any case, eliminating the dosage creates a sort of ultimately dry Champagne, the driest of the dry. Some consumers find such Champagnes forbiddingly dry, but I love them.
The Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut is a blend of 55 percent chardonnay and 45 percent pinot noir grapes. The color is platinum blond; a perfect storm of tiny bubbles seethes skyward in the glass. One could say that this Champagne is all steel and limestone, lithe and sinewy, a Chrysler Building of a Champagne in its sheen and elegance, except that hints of camellia and honeydew melon, yellow plums and peaches creep in from the crisp edges, making this not only dry, chalky and minerally but subtle, nuanced and delicious. Dry — to reiterate — it certainly is, and it brings assertive acidity to the point of brinksmanship. Yet it is ultimately, ultra-ly, serene, poised, whispery, a little detached. Were I facing a duelist’s pistol at dawn tomorrow, I would want this Champagne at my side. Excellent. About $85.
For Mother’s Day this year, I reviewed the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut, while the Laurent-Perrier Brut L.P. and Grand Siècle Brut were among my “12 Days of Christmas” selections in 2007/08.
Imported by Laurent-Perrier U.S., Sausalito, Cal.
Mon 14 Sep 2009
Readers may have been thinking, “So, F.K. went to the Douro Valley, and so far he has written about red table wines and white wines and eating cod innards, but what about Port, which is of course what the Douro is all about?”
Today we get to that, but first some history.
How Port Got Fortified
Trade between England and Portugal, which had been carried out profitably and peacefully since the 1400s, received a boost in 1689, when war between France and England cut off access to French wine. The hearty red wines of the Douro Valley represented an alternative; these were often shipped with a dollop of brandy added to the barrels to ensure their survival during storage and the sea voyage. In the early 18th Century, merchants discovered a monastery in the Douro where monks added brandy to the wine during fermentation, resulting in a wine that was powerful (“fortified”) and sweet, because the alcohol killed the yeast cells and left residual sugar in the wine. Thus was Port born and a whole area of manufacture and trade, long dominated by the English, established.
Nothing Is That Simple
It would take more space than we have to describe the intricacies of the history of Port and its making, and so let’s encapsulate.
>By the early 18th Century, Port was so popular in England that its manufacture had become corrupted though over-production and adulteration, leading to:
>The demarkation of the Douro and its best growing areas by the Marquis of Pombal in 1756.
>Ports were made upriver and than taken to Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from the city of Porto (Oporto) for storage in the manufacturers’ warehouses or lodges. The barrels were brought to the lodges on flat-bottomed barges. This practice was eventually codified into law, and shipping of Port from individual quintas upstream was forbidden, until Portugal’s entrance into the EU in 1986. Thereafter, quintas were allowed to by-pass Vila Nova de Gaia, and some quintas nowadays have no presence in that traditional site. In addition, in the 1950s and ’60s, the Douro was dammed in several places, making the boats obsolete.
>The styles and nomenclature of Port have changed considerably over the years. The most famous product of the Douro, Vintage Porto, represents at most two percent of port production, the rest being Ruby Port (now usually called “Reserve”), Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV), Tawny Port of various ages, so-called “crusted” Port, white Port and different proprietary branded Ports. Vintage Porto from a “declared” year, however, remains one of the world’s great wines and, compared to Burgundy and Bordeaux and the cult wines of California and Australia, a relative bargain. Remember that Vintage Port, aged in barrels two years, is intended to mature in the bottle, most not being considered ready to drink until 20 or 30 years after harvest. In youth, they are powerful, potent and monumentally tannic. Which leads to:
A Tasting of Ports from 2007.
Thursday, Sept. 3, our team of six regrouped at the Niepoort winery at Quinta do Napoles to taste 15 Ports from 2007. The trick was that we were tasting three examples of each Port, one bottle that had been opened two days previously, decanted and poured back into the bottle; one that had been opened one day previously, decanted and poured back into the bottle; and one that had been opened the morning of the tasting but not decanted. The idea was to give us some hint as to the wine’s potential for development and to counter-balance the immense difficulty involved in tasting very young, tannic Ports. So we didn’t taste 15 Ports; we tasted 45 Ports, AND we tasted them blind AND we did this between about 7:30 and 9 p.m. And that’s why we’re called Professionals!
My notes will try to trace the evolution of the Ports we tasted; remember that as we were doing this, we didn’t know which bottles of a particular house or brand were the ones that had been opened two days ago or the ones opened 12 hours ago, but believe me, when you take in a sip of wine and the tannins would strip the wallpaper from your mouth (if your mouth were, say, a living room), then you know you have the most recently opened example. As the tasting proceeded, and I realized that my notes on the Ports tended to run: 1. Opened two days ago; 2. Opened one day ago; 3. opened this morning, I sensed that there was a pattern, and indeed the pouring of the examples did not vary from that scheme.
These Vintage Ports from 2007, a year described as “classic” and “exceptional,” are just coming into retail markets in the United States. Prices will range from about $75 and $85 to $115 and $125.
These notes are in the order of tasting.
Churchill’s Vintage Port 2007. Massive tannins, searing tannins, followed by a clearing of the air, so to speak, broadly intense and concentrated and smoky; then, aromas of grapes, orange rind, spice cake and plum pudding; clean earth and minerals, deep, intense and concentrated, spicy black fruit, dense and chewy; walloping tannins; great presence and weight. Excellent potential.
Croft Vintage Port 2007. Very tannic but rich and succulent; coffee, mocha, cocoa bean, fruit cake, toasted walnuts and orange rind; cool, clean minerals; dark chocolate, smoke and tobacco leaf; plummy and jammy, mint and minerals; leather, briers and brambles, packed with tannins. Exceptional potential.
Dow’s Vintage Port 2007. Punishing tannins; then … big, jammy, minerally, slatey; bright, clean, black fruit infused with smoke and dark chocolate, dense yet almost buoyant tannins, tough and rooty, branches and briers. Very Good+ to Excellent potential.
Fonesca Vintage Port 2007. Powerful tannic structure, huge presence and substance; then rich, warm and spicy, fruit cake and cookie dough, currants and plums, toasted almonds; intense and concentrated, platonic plums; black pepper, bitter chocolate-covered raspberries; crushed gravel and slate; immense. Excellent to Exceptional potential.
Graham’s Vintage Port 2007. Fathomless tannins; then — fairly closed-in but hints of toast with orange marmalade or plum jam; grapey, alcoholic; clean, pure, intense, concentrated; tannins continue to build in scope and power. Needs 25 to 30 years. Maybe Excellent potential.
Niepoort Vintage Port 2007. Deep, clean, pure and intense, smoky and toasty, tightly focused on sleek and stalwart tannins but opens to bitter chocolate, tobacco leaf, lavender and potpourri, plum jam and black currants; very dense and chewy; a finish of briers and brambles and forest floor, and a burgeoning mineral element. 25 to 40 years. Excellent, possibly Exceptional potential.
Niepoort Pisca Vintage Porto 2007. From a single vineyard. Difficult to assess because of the massive tannins, though in the example that had been opened two days previously, decanted and re-bottled, the tannins felt smoother and more integrated. Clearly a Port that exudes self-containment, confidence and power, purity and intensity and concentration. 25 to 40 years. Excellent potential.
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