The first older Pinot Noir of the night. The nose had some interesting nuances, but overall, yes, it is showing its age. We suggest you drink up.
I last had this wine roughly 2 years ago…at which time I was absolutely blown away with the wine! It was served at a tasting at the Kapalua Wine & Food festival over on Maui…and it clearly was THE wine for me. On this night, I was shocked at how youthful & oaky it appeared on first smell & taste. After an hour & a half, however, the wine started to open up & was again an absolutely sensational experience. Oh my goodness! It’s really too bad Fred Scherrer doesn’t produce Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir any more (2000 was his last one).
If you have not had an older Au Bon Climat “Isabelle” Pinot Noir, do yourself a favor & try one. They are surprisingly reasonable in price, considering the quality one gets. Unfortunately this 1998 followed the 1999 Scherrer “Hirsch Vineyard” but it really is a very intriguing, worldly styled Pinot nonetheless. In case you are not familiar with Isabelle, this cuvee is named after Jim Clendenen’s daughter & is produced from his finest barrels of the vintage, which can include Russian River, Anderson Valley, Arroyo Grande in addition to his notable Santa Maria Valley fruit. This cuvee also sees quite a bit of new oak, so it really does take several years to really harmonize & open up.
In the old days, there were only a few wineries able to get Hirsch Vineyard fruit–Williams & Selyem, Littorai, Siduri, Flowers, Whitethorn, Kistler & Whitcraft. In several side by side BLIND tastings specifically with the 1995, 1996 & 1997 vintages, the standout in each vintage for me was Whitcraft’s bottling. Sadly in 1998 Chris Whitcraft I recall had some health challenges & the fruit was delivered REALLY ripe. The resulting wine I believe was listed at 16.8 alcohol. Having tasted the wines many times over the years, that alcohol always seem to poke it’s glaring edge to the point of being totally distracting. On this night, however, the higher alcohol was overshadowed by the wine’s provocative, intriguing, captivating perfume, which was glorious, earth laden & quite memorably Whitcraft-ish. Talk about having a wine at the ideal point of its life!
Recently we fortunately have been tasting quite a few 1997 red Burgundies & have been impressed how they have come out of their shell & once again, in many cases, flaunting their “peacock tail”. This 1997 Bertagna Chambertin, however, started out VERY closed & disappointingly quite hard. Yes, one could smell the wine’s pedigree….but it certainly is not stylistically like the Burgundies of old. I am not sure if I would buy more from this producer, as it is really not my cup of tea.