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MWG March 21st tasting (6/6): Four “cuvées for cellaring”

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Well, that’s what Cellier called them.

Pessac-Léognan 2009, Château Larrivet Haut-Brion ($50, 11378341)
The estate is distant from and unrelated to Château Haut-Brion. Michel Rolland has been hired as a consultant. This 2009 is reportedly 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot from vines averaging 25 to 30 years old. Manually harvested and sorted. Fermented on a parcel by parcel basis in temperature-controlled (30ºC) stainless steel tanks, with daily pump-overs and rack-and-returning. Macerated from three to five weeks. Transferred to French oak barrels (50% new, 50% second vintage) for malolactic fermentation and maturation, which lasts a total of 18 months. Fined with egg whites and lightly filtered before bottling. 13% ABV.
Textbook Médoc nose: cedar, graphite, plum, cassis. Rich and suave in the mouth. Upfront fruit and dark minerals smooth the underlying tannins. The sweet-ripe finish has a lingering astringency. On the one hand, a balanced, well-made wine with some apparent depth, though pretty primary for now. On the other hand, it’s modern and a bit cookie-cutter. Wine of the flight for most people around the table. (Buy again? If in the market for a $50 Bordeaux, maybe.)

Priorat 2007, Costers Vi de Guarda, Genium Celler ($45, 11896527)
A blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 10% Merlot and 10% Syrah from nearly 100-year-old vines. A 48-hour cold soak is followed by 30-day fermentation (at 29 to 30ºC) and maceration in small stainless steel tanks. Subsequently transferred to new French oak casks for 14 months for malolactic fermentation and maturation. Bottled unfiltered. 15.5% ABV.
Complex, savoury, evolving nose: rubber, celery salt, dried salted plums, sawed wood and slate, then soy sauce and smoke, then candied red berries, cedar and Asian spice. Intense, dry and heady. Lots of character. Dense, even chewy fruit, 2×4 tannins and souring acidity. There’s breadth and length galore but not much depth, at least for now. Blackberry tea finish. Hidden by the extract, thick layer of oak and heavy structure, the alcohol is felt more than tasted. A monolithic mouthful, not for the faint of heart. (Buy again? Not my style.)

Ribera del Duero 2006, Finca Villacreces ($37, 11807547)
A blend of 95% Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. After alcoholic fermentation, maceration and clarification, transferred to French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and 16 months’ maturation. 14.5% ABV.
Cinders, plum, faint sawed wood. Sweet attack, darker finish. Ripe fruit, ash and slate flavours. Big but balanced, with bright acidity and fine firm tannins. Needs time to digest the oak and, one hopes, gain complexity. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

Pauillac grand cru classé 2009, Château Haut-Bages Libéral ($64.75, 11395909)
A cinquième cru classé, actually. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot from vines averaging 35 years of age. Manually harvested. Each parcel is fermented and macerated for 18 to 24 days in concrete or stainless steel vats. Matured for 16 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. 13% ABV.
Initially closed and stinky but developing cassis, cedar and sawed wood aromas with an unexpected floral note. Fluid and relatively supple, the structure cushioned by ripe fruit. Good acidity and integrated oak. Tannins linger through the menthol-scented finish. Primary but accessible. While it could be passing through a phase, surprisingly unnuanced, unlayered and undeep for a $65 bottle. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

While this was the most popular flight of the evening, it prompted comments along the lines of “I liked the wines but can’t see myself buying any of them” and “Not that I never drop $50 or $60 on a bottle, but these didn’t deliver the bang required for those kind of bucks.” Looking back at all six flights, others wondered whether such an uninspiring lineup didn’t imply that the Cellier concept had indeed run out of steam. In any case, RIP.

Written by carswell

April 3, 2013 at 16:27

MWG March 21st tasting (5/6): Quartetto Sangiovese

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Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva 2008, Il Moro, Tenuta Villa Trentola ($26.75, 11735766)
100% Sangiovese. Manually harvested and sorted. Crushed and destemmed, then fermented and macerated in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for two weeks. Matured in oak barrels for 12 months. 14.5% ABV.
Classic Sagiovese nose of black cherry, tobacco. terracotta and cedar. The impressively pure, ripe fruit is firmed by sturdy tannins and keen acidity. Background minerals linger through the finish. The oak and alcohol are discreet. The best QPR of the bunch. (Buy again? Sure.)

Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva 2008, Pruno, Drei Donà (Tenuta La Palazza) ($39, 11295473)
100% Sangiovese from the estate’s best vineyards. Manually harvested and sorted. Fermented in stainless steel tanks at 28–30ºC for 12 to 18 days with pumping over several times a day. After malolactic fermentation, transferred to French oak barrels for 15 to 18 months. Bottled unfiltered. 14.5% ABV.
Black cherry, cedar shakes, slate and a whiff of new sneakers. Sweet, velvety fruit, integrated tannins, bright acidity and an oak-sweetened if bitter-edged finish. Not particularly complex or deep but tasty and suave. (Buy again? Maybe, though the QPR seems low, at least at this stage in its development.)

Sangiovese di Romagna 2008, Il Prugnolo, Tenuta Villa Trentola ($19.20, 11875890)
100% Sangiovese. Manually harvested, crushed, destemmed. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks with twice daily pump-overs lasts at least two weeks. Matured in stainless steel tanks. 14.5% ABV.
Powdered slate, wet ashtray, meat, plastic and a combination of cocoa, cream and coffee that one taster pegged as “tiramisu.” As ashy as fruity on the palate (odd since it isn’t barrel-aged). On the lighter side of medium-bodied. Without compensating fruit, the grape variety’s natural acidity and tannins leave an impression of sourness and astringency and the wine’s alcohol one of heat. (Buy again? No.)

Chianti Classico Riserva 2009, Tenuta di Nozzole ($24.55, 11881878)
The estate is part of the Folonari stable. 100% Sanvgiovese. Fermented in stainless steel tanks at 28ºC. Macerated for 12 days. After malolactic fermentation, transferred to large Slavonian oak barrels for 12 months’ maturation. 14.5% ABV.
Floral and sweet on the nose. Oaky in the mouth, the wood for now dominating the rich fruit. Moderate tannins and acidity and decent length. Needs more time? (Buy again? Unlikely.)

Written by carswell

March 31, 2013 at 13:52

MWG March 21st tasting (4/6): Bubbly, dry and red

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IGT Emilia 2011, Lambrusco, Monte delle Vigne ($16.50, 11873190)
100% Lambrusco Maestri from 20-year-old vines. Manually harvested and sorted. Fermented at less than 25ºC. Macerated on the skins a total of 25 days. Carbonated using the Charmat method. 11.5% ABV.
Black cherry, plum blossom and bitter almond nose (kind of Valpolicella-like, actually) along with raw red meat, slate and a dash of vinyl. Dry. Soft effervescence. The sweet-ripe fruit dries on the mid-palate, where it’s joined by sketchy tannins. Acidity runs throughout. A faint astringency and bitterness colour the finish. Opinions were divided over this but I liked it and look forward to trying it with salume; the producer specifically recommends pig’s trotters stuffed with minced pork and spices (be still, my beating heart). (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

March 29, 2013 at 12:25

MWG March 21st tasting (3/6): Rhône-ish

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Viognier 2010, Santa Ynez Valley, Zaca Mesa Winery ($20.20, 11882547)
100% Viognier. Began fermenting in stainless steel vats. Halfway through it was transferred to neutral French oak barrels for maturation. Not allowed to undergo malolatic fermentaion. 13.5% ABV.
Faint tropical fruit, peach/nectarine, honeysuckle, dried earth and straw. Dense and mouthfilling but with surprisingly high acidity for a Viognier. As minerally as it is fruity. Long though a little alcoholic on the finish. Unobjectionable but also unmemorable. (Buy again? Probably not.)

VDP du Gard 2010, Terre d’Argence, Domaine Mourgues du Grès ($20.25, 11874264)
Viognier and some Roussanne according to the producer. Roussanne (40%), Grenache Blanc (40%) and Viognier (20%) according to the Quebec agent. Equal parts Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc according to Matured in stainless steel tanks for six months (seven months according to the agent). An unspecified fraction is vinified and matured in oak barrels, at least according to the producer. 14.5% ABV.
Minerally, faintly floral, white grapefruit, a bit burned. Rich texture but ashy, acidic and acrid. Produced grimaces all around the table. Oddly, 24 hours later, the tail end was transformed: less heavy, better balanced, nearly ashless, the muted, peach-evoking fruit displayed against a minerally backdrop, with no off flavours – not great but quite drinkable, which no one said about it the night before. (Buy again? Only because I believe in giving second chances.)

That the Zaca Mesa was unexciting wasn’t a surprise; inexpensive Viogniers almost always are. The Mourgues du Grès was another story. The Costières de Nîmes estate’s reds have long been QPR favourites of mine and many other drinkers and the other whites of theirs I’ve tasted have always been enjoyable (I liked their private import white box wine enough at a restaurant to try to convince others to go in on a case with me). But at the tasting, the Terre d’Argence was virtually undrinkable – in sharp contrast to the generally positive reviews it received from local columnists – though it did improve greatly with extended exposure to air. Again, like the Nicolas Potel in the preceding flight, ours may have been an off bottle or may have been suffering from travel shock or from being opened just before being served. But if so, how odd that the Potel and the Mourges are represented by the same agency (and one of our favourites, at that). And how unfortunate that advance carafing should be required, as most consumers just pop and pour.

Written by carswell

March 28, 2013 at 17:17

MWG March 21st tasting (2/6): Contrasting Chards

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Chardonnay 2011, Metallico Unoaked, Monterey, Morgan Winery ($27.10, 11896471)
A blend of Chardonnay from cool-climate vineyards in the Arroyo Seco, Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey AVAs. Whole-cluster pressed. Cold-tank fermented. No malolactic fermentation. Matured five months in stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped (though says cork). 14.1% ABV.
White lemon, minerals, faint stone fruit. Citric, chalky and green apply in the mouth. Crisp acidity and a certain presence but not much follow-through. Plus somehow it simply doesn’t cohere. (Buy again? Meh, especially when you can get a great unoaky Chard for $9 less.)

Bourgogne 2010, Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes, Nicolas Potel ($21.15, 11890926)
A négociant wine made 100% Chardonnay from 50- to 65-year-old vines in 12 parcels in the villages of Meursault and Puligny Montrachet. Manually harvested. Pressed, cold-settled for 24 hours. The resulting juice is transferred to oak barrels (30% new, 40% second vintage, 20% third vintage) and stainless steel tanks (10%) for alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. Matured ten months on the lees. 12% ABV.
Nose of slightly overripe tropical fruit and maple sugar evolving into lemon and pine needles. The combination of the rich, almost fat texture, residual sugar and mild flavours prompted the descriptor “rice syrup” from one taster. Smooth acidity and decent length but ultimately flat, unrefreshing, verging on cloying. Blind, I mistook it for the Californian… (Buy again? Only for research purposes.)

A disappointing flight. As an admirer of Nicolas Potel, I had high hopes for the Burgundy, especially as it has garnered positive reviews from local bloggers and from critics as reliable as Jancis Robinson. Maybe ours was an off bottle. Or maybe it needed to breathe more (I would have been interested in tasting both wines the day after but didn’t manage to snag the tail ends).

Written by carswell

March 27, 2013 at 12:00

MWG March 21st tasting (1/6): Two aromatic whites

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To mark the passing of Cellier as we know it, the tasting included only bottles from the Spring 2013 issue of the magazine, nearly all of them from the March 21st release. The still reds were double-carafed an hour or two before we got around to them. Time constraints meant the whites were poured within minutes of opening, which may explain some of the oddness we encountered.

Grüner Veltliner 2011, Wagram, Weinberghof Karl Fritsch ($16.75, 11885203)
The 20-hectare, biodynamic estate is located in the Wagram region, about 60 km west of Vienna. This 100% Grüner Veltliner is fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. 12.0% ABV.
Lime zest, chalk, quartz and the faintest hint of white pepper. Denser than expected on the palate. Ripe. Dry but not arid. Tingly acidity. The minerally substrate lasts through the long, citric finish. A bit simple but good clean fun. (Buy again? Yep.)

Colli Bolognesi Classico 2011, Pignoletto, Fattorie Vallona ($20.55, 11876041)
The Pignoletto grape variety is indigenous to Emilia-Romagna and common in the hills around Bologna. It may be related to Grechetto. Technical information on this wine is virtually non-existent. One or two websites claim earlier vintages contained 10% Riesling. In any case, my guess is that this is made entirely in neutral containers, possibly stainless steel. 13.5% ABV.
Candied lemon, rocks, faint dried herbs. Slightly spritzy, slightly off-dry, slightly weighty. White fruit, minerals, a hint of almond skin and a whack of acidity. The long finish is spoiled by an acrid note. (Buy again? Only to give it another chance.)

Written by carswell

March 26, 2013 at 11:05

MWG March 8th tasting (2/5): Two super-ripe Verdicchios

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Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2009, Podium, Gioacchino Garofoli ($22.45, 00711820)
100% Verdicchio from slightly overripe grapes. Gently pressed, clarified by cold settling, fermented at low temperatures. Matured 15 months in stainless steel tanks. 13% ABV.
Dried lemon, quartz, old straw and wood. Mouth-filling: extracted and intense. Some yellow fruit and dried herbs but more stones and tingly acidity. The finish is heady, saline and bitter. Less polished than the Casal but not without a certain rustic appeal. (Buy again? Sure.)

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2009, Vecchie Vigne, Casal di Serra, Umani Ronchi ($26.40, 11490341)
100% Verdicchio from vines planted in the early 1970s. The grapes are allowed to overripen slightly. Fermented in concrete tanks with native yeasts and matured on the lees. 14% ABV.
Straw, lemon, yellow stone fruit, almond, alcohol. Rich on the palate, stony and dry, with sotto voce fruit and high acidity. Long. Ends on a faintly bitter note. Overall, similar to the Podium but toned down a notch and all the better for it. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

March 16, 2013 at 12:36

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