Viña Montes Purple Angel 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile
There’s real truth in advertising here: The deep, opaque purple is the first thing you notice, a shimmering, glass-staining color remarkable in its own right. It smells like classic carmenère with an added dose of intensity: Concentrated spiced plums and dark cherries are balanced out by notes of grilled green pepper, spice, blackberry, black cherry, cigar tobacco, and a touch of eucalyptus. For all the richness and palate-coating texture of the wine, it’s an almost salty quality to the attack that first jumps out, a mineral spine that runs throughout this otherwise black cherry- and cherry liqueur-expressive wine. With air, the fruit turns sweeter and more dominant, making this much more approachable right now than it implies right out of the bottle. This is one for the cellar, and with time, the oak, beautifully concentrated fruit, and spice and licorice notes will integrate to create a wine of even greater complexity. Drink 3 - 7 years. 92% carmenère, 8% petit verdot.
Montes Star Angel Syrah 2007, Paso Robles
On the nose, this reminds me of a particularly nice brunch: Toast and blackberry compote and bacon that, for all its depth, remains fresh and bright. The palate shows loads of sweet blackberry fruit, with a ripeness that stays focused and balanced. There’s also licorice and hints of star anise here as well, and this follows through to the finish where it’s joined by cocoa powder and black cherry liqueur with more black licorice and a touch of mesquite. Very well-made, generous and large in scale, yet still focused. Solid potential for short- to medium-term aging, but with this expressive fruit, I’d have a hard time resisting it sooner. Drink now - 5 years.
Montes Star Angel Red Wine 2007, Paso Robles
Darker color, but still not quite opaque. More subtle nose here, with garrigue flashing through here and there between the cherry fruit. There’s also a creamy note here that softens it up at the edges, almost like a nice bacon cream with a hint of sweetness. Again, very sweet fruit here, and the oak is a bit more apparent, with cinnamon and clove spicing it up, as well as Chinese five spice, cigar tobacco, cocoa powder, and hazelnuts. Dusty tannins and oak character that still need to be integrated more fully imply a long-lived wine, 5 - 12 years at least, but again, with the fruit here, it’ll be tough to resist for that long. Buy several and see what promises to be an excellent, interesting evolution. 94% syrah, 4% grenache, 2% mourvedre.
J Cuvée 20, Sonoma
Very attractive laser-point bubbles and a nose that speaks of toast with butter and lemon crème fraîche lead to a palate that sings with bright acidity and excellent concentration, as well as spun sugar, candied lemon, and bright minerality. Its yeast notes really come through on the finish, which itself is tinged with that lemony acidity of the mid-palate. This is a beautiful example of what California sparkling wine is capable of: Intensity, vinosity, and a promise of further evolution. Drink over the next 2 - 4 years, but it’s delicious right now.
Very subtle, unexpectedly transparent nose here that whispers of mushroom and raspberry and a bit of toasted brioche. The palate is creamy despite its bright acidity, and notes of concentrated raspberry, red cherry, and cream come through. This is all about subtlety and transparency, and it succeeds very well. Drink now, and definitely enjoy with food.
Porto Kopke Colheita 1986 (bottled in 2005)
The lightness and transparency of the honeyed amber color here is remarkable. On the nose, it’s gorgeously lifted, with spice and mushroom components that find their counterparts in a subtle florality, all of it carried along a rich, round layer of nougat: Amazing how this runs the gamut from masculine to feminine in just one whiff. This is astoundingly delicate on the palate, with spice and the barest intimation of red berry fruit darting in and out of the spotlight, and joined by orange, candied orange peel, brown sugar, aromatic spices, and flowers. This is a complex, seamless, endlessly evolving Colheita. The finish, all toffee and honey and dried apricot, goes on for a minute, and only slowly recedes first into even greater subtlety, then a whisper, then a beguiling memory of a remarkable wine. This Port is like a ballet dance of nuance--a sweet wine not defined by its sweetness--and shows that tawnies can be some of the most elegant wines in the world. Remarkable, and utterly delicious.
Finally, with New Years Eve just two days away, I’ve included below some highlights from the Wine Media Guild rosé Champagne tasting I attended in New York at the beginning of the month. [Thanks to Ed McCarthy for presenting a fantastic program, as always.]
Among non-vintage bottlings, the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé, as always, was a beautifully crafted wine with plenty of pastry crust, red berry fruit, and cream--perfect for starting off the night’s celebrations on the right foot. Ayala Brut Rosé Majeur, like the Feuillatte, delivered a lot of wine for relatively little money: The strawberry here is addictive. Ariston Fils Brut Rosé was a standout, its crystal-clear wild strawberry and raspberry character framed by an intense vinosity. Bruno Paillard Brut Rosé Première Cuvée, while a bit more money, was a winner: With deep, candied strawberry and cherry fruit, a note of warm brown sugar, and a long finish, it was great on its own and even better with food. Delamotte Brut Rosé showed a solidly integrated character that included mushrooms, flowers, and more aromatic truffles: Excellent. Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé Réserve was round, lush, and structured, with a beam of minerality providing backbone. Pol Roger Brut Rosé was a taut, elegant expression of pinot noir.
Vintage standouts included the Charles Gardet Rosé 2001, and exceptionally vinous wine whose maturity sang through with brown spice, leather, and truffles, and whose pinot noir character really came to the fore. The Gosset Célébris Brut Rosé 2003 was surprisingly--and charmingly--bright and structured given its vintage. Taitinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Rosé 2004, while still quite young and fruit-driven, demonstrated ample potential for development in coming years. Perrier-Jouët “Fleur de Champagne” Brut Rosé 2002, while expensive, was one of my wines of the tasting, a bright bubbly that reminded me of strawberry jam on whole wheat toast, and whose almost tannic structure promises a long life ahead. And the Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé 1999, with its graphite and mushroom notes, is just now hitting its stride and utterly impossible to stop sipping.