It was another fun night in our VINO restaurant. We had the opprtunity to again sample some top caliber wines, each with some bottle age to it. Yes….another fabulous learning experience.
We started out with the 2000 Raveneau Chablis Premier Cru “Foret” . This was not one of the highly rated years on the “vintage charts”. Goes to show you once again, vintage charts are often generalizations. When you are tasting wines of this upper echelon, I believe, each vintage just shows the taster another perspective on the vineyard & the winemaker’s skill. The true test of that skill is when a year produces many challenges & the winemaker has to be VERY selective in choosing the grapes to be used & then using his skill to make the wine sing. I love trying Raveneau’s wines, no matter what vintage it may be. This is another stellar example of his amazing talent.
At first the wine was closed & unyielding. I believe the person who brought this wine may have “shocked” the wine some, when he put it in the freezer to chill it down some more for the travel from his house to the restaurant. Thankfully, the wine finally began to open up after 1 1/2 hours of breathing. This was a Raveneau wine in all its glory…..incredibly ethereal, wonderfully perfumed, PURE, unbelievably minerally, airy, light & as refined as refined can be. Nothing ripe, opulent or oaky here. I just loved the mesmerizing seashell/floral nose with its honeyed nuances. This was an example of drinking an amazing wine at a perfect time in its life.
Upong opening & decanting this wine, I was in heaven just smelling it. Yes, it was mature & GLORIOUS with lots of complexities & bouquet from the 26 years of bottle age. The characteristic rank andouille sausage & green peppercorn character I typically get from Verset Cornas was still there….along with many other nuances–saddle leather, sandalwood, smoke, pepper, raw meat, cherry wood, earth….& the list goes on & on. It was grand, old, very mature red wine which I kept smelling over & over again as it unfolded with time. I must say, however, on the palate, the fruit seemed somewhat dried & tired, causing the acids & the tannins to poke out more than normal, both because the fruit was quite resolved. Still…..the nose made up for any nitpicking critiques…..& made for a VERY memorable experience. Makes me soooooo sad that a true master like Noel Verset has retired. Since there will be no new vinatges of his artistry, tonight’s bottle means there is one less available in the world’s dwindling supply of his masterpieces.
The third wine of the night was the 1999 Domaine du Grange des Peres, another of our favorite wine producers of the world. Since the 1992 vintage, this “tour de force” wine estate from southern France, masterfully blends Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah & Mourvedre which I find utterly amazing. This 1999 was still VERY young, with very youthful fruit, spice, depth, length AND pedigree. Sandwiched between a Verset & a Chave wine on this night, without skipping a beat in terms of nobility, shows us what level this wine is playing on. I really think this is one of the most interesting & unique red wines of the world.
Wine number 4 was the 1994 JL Chave Hermitage. I was clearly reminded by this wine, how great Syrah can be. Very few wines have this kind of pedigree…..AND effortlessly so. True, the 1994 was quite developed, in fact, more than I would have expected. Initially I could readily though smell the crushed rocks, with leather, Chinese li hing mui, peppercorns, raw meat & some kind of green/vegetal edge. With air, the wine just seemed to explode in its aromatics/perfume. I just kept smelling it over & over again. On the palate it was lean, masculine with good, firm acidity (nothing supple here) & a good core of fruit still, which tells me it really has a way to go. There is no doubt the Chave Hermitage is still one of the GREAT red wines of the world. Despite the scores & accolades, nothing from the New World can play in this arena.
The real sleeper of the night was the 1999 Champy Clos Vougeot. Until recently I was not that familar with this producer, as it doesn’t come to Islands on a regular basis. I am though quite respectful of the 1997’s & 1999’s I have had from them recently. In short the wines have been lovely, delicious & REALLY enjoyable. This particular rendition definitely smelled Grand Cru in quality, with lots of pedigree, dark cherry, humus, sandalwood nuances……strikingly youthful….with tannins VERY evident, surprisngly so. My take, though, is this wine was closed down & certainly not truly strutting its stuff.