Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ending the year with an aged Bordeaux

Over the past year, I have been slowly working through a case of 1996 Château Lanessan. This Cru Bourgeois class Bordeaux from Haut-Médoc is produced by the Bouteiller family. The 1996 vintage is generally considered very successful for left bank wines, especially those from Médoc and Graves. All wines based in Cabernet Sauvignon are supposed to have excellent aging potential.

The grape varietals going into Château Lanessan is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Francs and 5% Petit Verdot. At age 11, this wine has shed most of its baby fat and the secondary aromas has come together nicely. In 2006, Janice Robinson commented here that the prime drinking window of 1996 Lanessan is around 2008 to 2018. I will definetely spread out the consumption of the rest of my holdings to see if it matches Ms. Robinson's prediction.

This is the 7th bottle I have consumed from the case, and it is the best tasting bottle so far. We drank it over a 3 day period without any decanting and the best showing is the second day, though I should point out that it still held up well on the 3rd day.
ABV: 12.5%, Price: $20

Tasting notes:

Nose: Very perfumed notes of leather, tobacco, plum and lead pencil.

Color: Dark garnet core and slighty dusty rim.

Palate: Very balanced mouth feel. Not a fruit bomb but still has lively flavor of red fruits. Nice secondary aromas of olive, earth, leather and oak round out the back of the palate. Tannins already quite soft but the acidity is still sufficient to keep things interesting.

Body: Medium, classic claret style.

Finish: The worst part of this wine is the finish. It is quite clipped (medium at best) even though there are notes of earth, leather and some fruit. At times, there is also streaks of bitterness observed.

The 96 Lanessan may be in the middle of its prime drinking window at the time of writing. Uneducated guess is that it will provide good drinking for the next 5 years with proper cellaring.

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Older Gigondas moment on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a special time of the year. The stress of shopping is over and the last gift has been wrapped. It is time to sit back and relax to soak in that joyful holiday feeling. For this day, I decide to crack open a Gigondas that I have long waited to try. It is a 1995 Domaine Brusset Les Hauts De Montmirail.

Domaine Brusset was founded by André Brusset in 1947. He passed away in 1999 and is the Domaine is currently managed by his son Daniel, and his grand-son Laurent. This producer is also one of the largest land owner in Gigondas whose vineyards are nested behind the "Dentelles de Montmirail", the foothills to Mont Ventoux. Their Les Hauts De Montmirail is usually make up of 55% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah and normally can be aged for over 10 years.

Tasting an old wine is always a treat. One one hand, you are always fearful that the wine maybe over the hill but one the other hand, there is always an excitement to see how much life is left in it. All in all, It is very much like making love to an older partner when you know the lustful youthfulness is long gone but what remains is the seduction and the tenderness.

This bottle of Montmirail is also special that when I bought it, its original label is damaged beyond recognition and is replaced by a hand written label from the Burgundy Wine Company. Although the staff reassured me that it has been kept in optimal storage condition, there is no guarantee that this bottle has not been mistreated over the years.

ABV: unknown, Price: $35

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Sweet dark fruits, vanilla and a touch of flower giving way to aroma of caramel and roasted meat. Still very muted when first opened and it actually takes over an hour in the glass to open up.

Color: Dark ruby core with a slightly brick color rim.

Palate: Seductive in its light touch. It was almost weightless yet mouth-filling with flavor of mostly riped cherry and a touch of earthiness. Very silky tannins and lively acidity. So very smooth and inviting.

Body: Full

Finish: Medium but somewhat nondescript compared to the nose and palate. Clean dark dark fruit is supported by light notes of earthiness.

This may not be the best Giogondas from the 95 vintage but it is drinking really well at age 12. It is still lively with no sign of decline. All the elements come together seamlessly creating a beautiful wine. At this point, this Gigondas actually tastes better than a lot of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the market. Sadly, this is my ONLY bottle.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Celebration of Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice is a day on the Northern hemisphere when the day is at its shortest and the night is at its longest. It is also a traditional Chinese festival dated back 2500 years ago. In historic China, it is a big deal to celebrate this winter festival. Government officials would organize celebrating activities and the common folks would rest on this very day. In the modern era, with the changing of lifestyles, this day has transformed into a family gathering very much like the American Thanksgiving when special food will be served.

In our household, we still make the traditional 'tang yuan', which is small dumpling ball made of glutinous rice flour in a rich broth made of meat, dried scallop and daikon radish. We also cook other savoury dishes like the one pictured for this occassion. It is abalone with dried shiitake mushroom braised in their own juices and served on a bed of broccoli.

To go with these yummy dishes, we decided to open a recent BrooklynGuy's recommendation: 2001 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny Terres Chaudes. The bright acidity on this Loire Cab Franc works really well to offset the heavy flavors on the food.
ABV: 12.5%, Price: $16

Tasting notes:

Nose: Fairly fragrant nose. Aroma of dark fruit supported by cedar and vanilla in the background.

Color: Dark ruby with tight purple rim.

Palate: Fully matured. Very balanced mouth feel. A bit thin by itself but really sings with rich food. Flavor of tart cherry and rhubarb, leather and cedar. No trace of any 'green pepper' notes associated with many other Cab Francs. Tannins is a already very integreated.

Body: Medium but very elegant at this point.

Finish: Mostly tart fruits, earth with a hint of black pepper. Not particularly long.

At age 6, this delicious wine is at its peak. The gorgeous fruit is still there but it seems to start fading already. Do not see this getting any better. Great juice to enjoy for the next 1-2 years.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WBW #40: Petite Sirah

The theme of Wine Blogging Wednesday #40, as selected by Sanadora at Wannabewino, is petite sirah. WBW was started by Lenn Thompson of LennDevours.

Wines made from the petite sirah variety are usually bold, pleasant to drink, although not highly distinctive; and can age slowly and have long cellaring potential.

Today, petite sirah vines are mostly planted in warm wine regions. Most of the petite sirah vines grown in the U.S. can be found in California. Until recently, this variety has been considered as the same as Durif, a French variety created by one Dr. François Durif in the 1870s. No one seemed to be able to pin point the exact origin of this grape until 2003 when Dr. Carole P. Meredith, a renowned grape geneticist at U.C. Davis, used modern DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify that 9 out of 10 petite sirah vines found in U.S. are actually Durif and the rest are peloursin (a southern France indigenous variety). She also identified that Durif is a cross of peloursin and true syrah. “Peloursin is the mother and syrah is the father.”, she explained.

I have mentioned in a previous post that both my wife and I loved the petit sirah produced by Guenoc. For WBW 40, I went back to the same producer and drank a 1998 Guenoc Petite Sirah North Coast. This vintage shows 14.4% ABV and cost us $17 at full retail.

Tasting notes:

Nose: Dominated by oak and roasted meat upon initial sniff. After considerable breathing, aroma of plum with hints of herb show up nicely.

Color: Inky purple with very tight rims, no sign of fading.

Palate: Still youthful, this bottle shows up in a rather feminine style with rich and jammy black fruits(plum and blackberry). Note of black tea also detected. Not powerful but shows smooth mouthfeel with a great balance of fruits, acidity and tannins.

Body: Full.

Finish: Fairly long. Notes of plum, vanilla and black pepper.

This bottle is a good example in demonstrating how durable a petite sirah wine can be.

In addition to Guenoc North Coast not being considered a top-level petite sirah and the 1998 vintage is just so so as far as CA vintage goes, this particular bottle was bought from a retail store with less than optimal storing condition.

Under the aforementioned unfavorable conditions, a lot of wines would have fallen apart, but this particular bottle holds up well and sees no sign of fading after all these years. As a matter of fact, it is still in peak drinking condition when we drank it for WBW.

Petite Sirah needs food. It is actually too thick and jammy to sip on its own. Paring it with braised lamb belly, the food and wine matches really well.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A really useful holiday suggestion for every oenophile

Marcus' recent article on dryer-resistant decanter inspired me on writing about the following item. As you can see, in his article, Marcus described a dilemma of certain type drying stands not allowing proper draining of curvier decanters.

After some Googling, I found this product, Oenophilia Fusion 16-Glass Stemware Rack, available at Amazon for $33 with free shipping.

How cool is this dryer rack? For spending merely 33 bucks, not only you will now be able to dry a decanter properly, but also able to dry up to 16 normal size glasses at the same time. One more advantage of this rack over others is that the legs can be folded flat for easy storage.

(OK. OK. If you use the Riedel Sommelier or the “O” series glasses, then this rack won’t work for you. However, if you plan to use these types of glasses, then you are into another drinking league anyway)

So there you have it, please add this useful tool onto your holiday wish list.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

2006 Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto D'Acqui D.O.C.G.

Recently I had an opportunity to taste this unique Italian sparkling wine made from 100% Brachetto, a rare grape variety indigenous to southern Italy. Wine made from Brachetto is generally medium in body, lightly sparkling and can be slightly sweet to semi-sweet. These wines are usually fruity and floral with aromas that may include black raspberry, black cherry, notes of tar, clove and flowers such as violets or orchids.

By now, you may ask why these sparkling reds are so special? Let me tell you: the uniqueness about these wines is their alcohol content, which generally ranges from 5.5% to 7%. – A real wine with ABV of a beer!

Brachetto wines can very versatile. It can be drunk as aperitif (with mild cheese or salami) on a hot summer afternnon, as dinner wine (with turkey, mashed potato and stuffing), and as desert (matched with dark chocolate). Besides being yummy, is low alcohol content is especially appealing to those people with low or no alcohol tolerance.

Rosa Regale is produced by Vigne Regali from Strevi, Piedmont. It is owned by the U.S. importer
Banfi Vintners. All the grapes are harvested from the La Rosa single vineyard within the Acqui D.O.C.
By the way, D.O.C.G. (Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), a system similar to the A.O.C. in France means very little to us consumers except that the wine with such labeling must meet a certain yield level and some evaluation standards of a tasting committee prior to bottling. [Please correct me if I am wrong here.]

ABV: 7%, Price: $18

Tasting notes:

Color: Dark ruby and slightly opaque.

Nose: Intense aroma of red berries and rose petals.

Palate: Fairly grapy. Flavor is of raspberry, cranberry with maybe strawberry. Fairly crisp, tannins is there is not obstructive. Semi sweet and not much complexity.

Body: Medium, light fizzy (as bubbly than a normal prosecco)

Finish: Slightly bitter with flavor of red berries, fairly short