Blind Tasting 01-28-14

After we finished our New Age Kaiseki @ Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, we did a Blind Tasting with the “guest sommeliers” who poured wines for the dinner.  Our goal was to show this new generations of wine professionals what our teachers from England referred to as bankers–typical, “spot on” wines.

Again, I don’t think we as an industry spend enough time teaching people what is good wine.  Hopefully we accomplished that on this night, in a small way. 


1995 Felsina Chianti Classico “Riserva”

Red in color with some browning mixed in going to orange on the rim.  The wine was murky.  The nose had lots of development & complexities–sandalwood, dried cherries, tobacco, roasted nuts, coffee & lots of spices.  It tasted dry, medium bodied, medium high acidity & medium tannins with a long finish.  Definitely aged in taste.  The tasters quickly zero-ed in on aged aged Chianti of high quality.  Hopefully, this wine will serve as a benchmark of what good Chianti can be like.  190

1996 Marcarini Barolo “La Serra”

The tasters quickly started rattling off lots of descriptors, as there really was lots to say about the appearance & nose of this wine.  One taster then said roses…..& I watched the rest dive their nose back into their glass & slowly each one started to nod their head in agreement.  Roses….truned on the light bulb.  I thought this was a stunning bottle of Italian Nebbiolo.  It was still vigorous & youthful in its core, but the color was noticeably lighter than the last time I had it 8 months ago & the nose just jumped out of the glass.  Yes, it is finally coming out oif its shell again.  The gang nailed this wine!  196

2000 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape

The group were saying alot of the right descriptors–earth, lavender, stony, baked, raisins, cherries, game, dried herbs….BUT it really was when one blurted out “white pepper” that put everyone on the right track.  Yes, they nailed this one too…..even down to the vintage.  Kudos! 

Here is something superstar wine importer Kermit Lynch once wrote, which helps one better understand Vieux Telegraphe & its wines.

The source of his wine’s quality, he says, is his stony terrain, situated upon the slope of the highest ridge in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation.  To the eye, there is no soil here and one would think it is a barren, but living vines poke out from the thick layer of smooth, oval stones……They look like Sierra riverbed stones…..One tasets the influence of the stones in the wine.  Eperienced tasters in the area recognize a Vieux Telegraphe by its expression of pierrer a feu, or gunflint.  A great Chateauneuf-du-Pape tastes almost as if it had been filtered  through the stones…..In addition, the stones account for Vieux Telegraphe’s characteristic power & generosity because they reflect & collect heat…..”. 

When one of the tasters said “raisin”, I understood.  I often find the sun baked stones creates the kind of ripe, bordering raisin-like character in Grenache, especially in hot vintages & the “power & generosity” noted above.  It comes from the stones.    195

2001 Saint Cosme Cote Rotie

I was quite surprised how much oak showed in this wine… least this time  I think it threw tasters off at first.  Luckily someone said peppercorns & black pepper…thick skin grape…with nobility…..& the tasters started down the right track again.  Just as we earlier paired an Italian Sangiovese with a Nebbiolo, I thought it would be insightful for tasters to taste a southern & northen Rhone Valley red wine, side by side.  It was impressive how well the tasters deducted this wine.  

The 3 top appellations of the northern Rhone Valley, for many, are–Cornas, Hermitage & Cote Rotie.  Each is a very dramatic hillside & each specializes in Syrah.  “The taste of Cornas is as bold as its appearance.  You chew it around in your mouth, & it seems to stain the palate.  There is nothing like it.”   Hermitage further north is a hill which over the eons, glaciers smashed different soils they collected up against the previous deposit.  When one walks the hillside, the various soils are very apparent.  Cote Rotie is yet another impressive, imposingly steep hill.  I remember back in the early 1990’s, Marius Gentaz drawing us a map of the different hillsides of Cote Rotie, making sure we understood there are more than one— the Cote Mollard, Blonde, Brune, Moutonnes, Landonne & Vieillieres,–which “are separated by deep, steam eroded ravines“, which has then created a complex matrix of different soils.

I think again, Kermit Lynch in his book, Adventures on the Wine Route, says it best–“Apollonian.  Master of oneself, harmonious, a beauty that is more formal, more architectural, as in the wine of Hermitage.  Dionysian.  A wilder force, instinctive, immediate, a beauty that is more passionate than cerebral, as in the wine of Cote Rotie.”   194

1996 Francois Jobard Blagny Premier Cru “La piece sous le bois”

Here was a very pretty, interesting, aged red Burgundy.  The tasters knew it was Burgundy…lighter in color……cherries, funk, humus, sandalwood, spice with really fresh & a long finish.  Impressive collaborative effort….& a solid methology.  Kudos.  

Hopefully tasters walked away thinking about the difference between wines from the Cotes de Beaune (which is where this wine is from) & the Cotes de Nuits farther north.  There is a reason why the ancient ones drew a line between the 2.  Why not leave it just as Cote d’Or, 1 appellation?  It would have been much more simple.  And when you stop & think about it for a second how many great Grand Cru white wines have you heard of from the Cotes de Nuits?  Yes, the Cote de Nuits, at least today, is more generally known for their list of red wine villages……and sadly as it may seem, the Cotes de Beaune is most know today for their white wines.  This red wine, however, should show you there are interesting red wines still to be found in the south.  How can one resist such a pretty, flirtatious, layered & absolutely delicious wine like this!!!!       192

1994 Ramonet Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru “Champ Canet”

This one, not surprisingl,y really threw everyone for a loop.  After all, how many times does one have a chance to sample a well aged white Burgundy like this….in all its glory.  This wine was definitely singing…glorious, majestic & completely mesmerizing!  As it turned out, when someone said honey…..then limestone, most tasters ended up with aged Vouvray Sec.  What I was hoping to show was the nuances of aged Burgundy & its limestone soil-ness……. at an ideal time of its life.  I think some tasters, more accustomed to tasting mainly New World wines, might think this wine to be oxidized.  Yes, there is oxidation, BUT, for me in the right way.  By the looks on everyone’s faces, this is a wine they will remember for a long time.

Thanks everyone for a wonderful tasting!  Toast!!!!!

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