Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wine Review Wednesday: A Very Good Week

Martin Codax Albariño 2009, Rias Baixas

The sweet fruit jumps from the glass here, though it’s impeccably balanced out by a beam of minerality. There’s fresh and sweetened dried pineapple, as well as red and green apple and a touch of white summer flowers. On the palate, its zippy acidity is rounded out by a texture that’s surprisingly creamy, and shows hints of early-season peach and straw. Love the minerality here, as well as the fruit that's less lush and more high-strung than expected. Classic food wine, with elegance to spare.

Weingut Villa Sachsen Riesling Dry Rheingraf 2009, Rheinhessen

Nicely lifted aromas of peach, orange, and orange blossom float up from the glass, and though this is a dry riesling, there is a lovely sense of sweetness to these aromas. That perfume comes through to the palate, and is buttressed by a bright acidity that lends it a real sense of definition. There’s a density to this wine, a weight that I wasn’t expecting, and it renders it a fabulous riesling to sip alone as well as at the table with both lighter and richer white meats and fish. Excellent.

Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma County

Rather a dark shade for a pinot noir, but I’ve come to not be surprised when I see this from Sonoma. On the nose, it’s pure New World pinot: Effusive cherries, ripe cranberries, vanilla, and a touch of bacon fat that follows to a palate with flashes of cola and caramel sparking up between the velvety cherries. A hint of earth comes out on the finish, but this is generally a fruit-driven wine, sweet-souled and attractive.

Casa Silva Carmenère Reserva 2008, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Notable purple, glass-staining color leads to a nose of marked freshness--everything from green cigar tobacco to grilled romaine is here, with very expressive red-berry fruit and strawberry cream popping out. On the palate, it’s the linearity of the structure that you first notice, a minerality to the spice notes that underlie the red and black raspberry and touch of blueberry fruit. There are also violets and cedar bouncing around in there too, and all of this comes off as balanced and thoroughly enjoyable. Drink now or hold for a couple of years. Great value.

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Napa Valley Reserve

Very appealing sweet, smoky fruit on the nose, with lots of crushed blackberries, a bit of blueberry cobbler filling, and a chocolate lacing around it all. Remarkably fresh and fruit-forward for a six-year-old wine. On the palate, that fruit--still sweet and lush--is backed up by pencil lead, cedar, and, on the finish, more of that grilled character edging into warm sage. What a lovely wine, soft and elegant and drinking beautifully right now. Utterly irresistible. This makes me happy, especially at this price.


There are some weeks when the stars align and I have a chance to taste some remarkable wines alongside great meals in addition to my more formal daily tasting. These past seven days, between Vino 2011 and a number of other lunches and dinners I was fortunate enough to attend, have been filled with an astounding range of standout wines.

Last Tuesday night, the Sponsors’ Dinner on the Starlight Roof at the Waldorf=Astoria for Italian Wine Week featured nine wines brilliantly paired with a great menu that incorporated specialties from Lombardia, Apulia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Toscana, and Veneto. The Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino “Poggio alle Mura” 2005 was a truffly, leather-kissed beauty with well more than a decade of life left.

The next night, at the wonderful Enoteca di Palo, I was treated to a tasting of wines from the excellent Cantina Bergamasca in Lombardy. Their Valcalepio Rosso Riserva “Akros” 2005, a 50/50 blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, showed dark smoky raspberries on the nose and incorporated mushrooms, leather, and spice on the palate. Sipped next to the broad range of hams and cheeses and other specialties that Lou di Palo had set out, and after the Cantina’s bright, rich pinot bianco, it brought to an end a great day of tasting. More to follow on this producer.

Earlier that afternoon, I attended a lunch featuring the legendary Sonoma producer Flowers at Lure Fish Bar in SoHo. The Flowers Andreen Gale Chardonnay 2007 spoke of hazelnuts and spice and a hint of licorice and, with its creamy mouthfeel livened up with such excellent acid, found a perfect textural balance between Chassagne- and Puligny-Montrachet. I’ll have full tasting notes in an upcoming post on the other wines as well: The Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay 2007, Andreen Gale Pinot Noir 2007, Francis Thompson Pinot Noir 2007, Seaview Pinot Noir 2007, and the Perennial 2008. What a remarkable line-up.

Then on Thursday, the Wine Media Guild held its annual Bordeaux tasting and lunch at New York’s Felidia, this time featuring standout Right Bank producers Château Angelus, Château Figeac, and Château La Conseillante. This was the day after the last major snowstorm paralyzed the northeast, but Château Angelus’s Jean-Bernard Grenié managed to make it in--kudos to him for doing so.

More complete tasting notes will appear here in the coming weeks, but for now a couple of general observations will have to suffice. At this tasting and lunch, we enjoyed Château Angelus 2005 - 2008, 1989 (from 375ml and 750ml), 1995, 1996, and 2001; Château Figeac 2001 - 2006, 1995, 1996, and 1998; and Château La Conseillante 2000 - 2006, 1995, and 1998. Overall, the 2005’s more than lived up to their reputation for greatness, though some of them were starting to shut down. Best to wait before opening them; when they emerge from their slumber, however, they will be flat-out stunning. The 2001’s, so often in the shadow of the great 2000’s, were drinking very well, and gave great pleasure at this stage of their lives. The 2000 La Conseillante was one of the wines of the tasting, and, honestly, if they bottled it as a cologne, I’d wear it every day: Black raspberries, scorched earth, a sweet nose, impeccable balance: truly amazing wine. In general, the 1996’s were far more generous than the 1995’s: They just had more fruit, and a generally more giving character. Still, the 95’s worked better with lunch than they did on their own, but I definitely preferred the 96’s. And finally, I’m pretty sure that, when there’s a dinner party in heaven, they open 375ml bottles of Château Angelus: Mint, leather, forest floor, licorice, red raspberry, warm cream, and the sweet-earthiness of a wine at its peak maturity: Perfect. (The 750ml bottle, while full of potential, still needed several years to continue to settle into its mature self.)


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