Young Sommelier Tasting 08-26-17

Here is yet another tasting with many of the new generations of wine professionals.  It really is a fabulous opportunity to get together & share wines, experiences & insight.  Thank you to all who came to hang out.


We started off with this duo, just to remind tasters that finding wines which offer great value at reasonable prices is a very challenging task.  One of the things I was reminded of in Washington state wine country on my recent visit, was that if you are paying $4,000 per ton of grapes, that would roughly translate into $40 a bottle retail for the wine.  If that is a plausible example, if you are looking to pay $15 a bottle retail, then I would ask, where are these grapes being grown & who is farming interesting, quality Cabernet Sauvignon at $1,500 a ton?    This makes for an ideal segue to the 2015 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon “Santa Margarita Ranch”.   All of the fruit comes from their estate vineyard which is located down in southern Paso Robles at roughly 1,000 feet in elevation.  That is precisely what made me keep tabs on what they were doing for several years.  I just waited until the winemaking really got in the ‘zone”.  This winery is primed now & really rocking & rolling on the value scene for all to take advantage of.   In comparison, we then poured the 2011 CF Cabernet Sauvignon “Santa Barbara”, our very own designer wine, created for our 8 restaurants.  We couldn’t find a really interesting, delicious Cabernet which offered great value, with availability all year around, so we went out & created it.  Furthermore, given that most of restaurants feature contemporary Asian inspired foods, we looked for a much more elegant, classy style of Cabernet.  It made sense then to ask a Pinot Noir master to make one for us.  What a great fit!!!!!!  I think the first vintage was the 2002 & we have been sailing along since. The grapes mainly come from the organically farmed Stallion Vineyard right outside of the Happy Canyon appellation, with roughly 3 to 5 % Merlot coming from Bien Nacido vineyard of Clendenen’s home turf of the Santa Maria Valley.  Boy, this wine was REALLY singing on this day & made us quite proud!  Thank you Kimo for this wonderful wine!


The theme for this next duo was to taste & compare TWO Beaujolais.  My thought was to actually show tasters the difference between a light, delicious, more “country” styled Beaujolais versus a SUPED UP  Beaujolais in all its glory.   What often gets lost in the media ratings is lighter, more delicious, food friendly & gulpable “country” styled red wines such as the 2015 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais.  How many of today’s new generation of wine buyers are willing to buy a wine, with a non-descript label & a 86 to perhaps a 88 point rating for $16 a bottle?  I will!  Especially one like this.  The Dupeuble family have owned & farmed their estate vineyard for over 500 years!  AND who is going to farm organically AND biodynamically, produce the wine as naturally as they can….at $16 a bottle?  They do!!!!!  AND, this wine is absolutely delicious & one can have a blast sipping the wine or at most dinner tables.  What an epic STEAL of a bargain!   I suggest you just serve it well chilled.  In comparison, I wanted tasters to try one of the contemporary darling producers–2012 Jean Foillard Fleurie–Cru quality grapes, uber-sustainably grown at VERY low yields, VERY ripe & passionately sorted, all done in a more lush, viscous, visceral style which is Foillard’s signature.  When I say SUPED UP, I don’t mean complete with mag wheels & striking rims.  It is my way of saying, a real show stopper……attention grabber…..trophy quality.


We take a similar perspective in setting up the next pair–one more “country” in style & the other–SUPED UP.    It really wasn’t that long ago when most Loire Valley red wines were in most vintages a little more in color than a dark rosé .  Well, times have changed & so has the climate.  The first of the pair we poured was the 2015 Chanteleuserie Bourgueil “Cuvée Beauvais”.   The Boucard family have toiling in their limestone/tuffeau soils for 7 generations.  Their prized Cuvée Beauvais comes from old vines on the most treasured tuffeau hillsides in all of Bourgueil.   The resulting 2015 is quite masculine, full of red, stony fruit, jalapeno pepper, flint, savory nuances, really firm structure, lots of vinosity & a somewhat wild countryside character.  I was quite mesmerized by this wine & its minerality, vigor & nerve.  In comparison the 2015 Guiberteau Saumur is grown & crafted by New Age star, Romain Guiberteau.  He bottles several red Saumur wines, this one coming from 3 small parcels laying up on silt/clay topsoil with limestone underneath.  Eventhough this wine is fermented in cement & does not flaunt new oak at all, this is a more modern styled wine  & his style of wine will certainly help grab the newer generations of sommeliers/wine lovers attention & hopefully show them what Loire Valley can offer.


Here was a flight which featured two stellar red wines from Italy.  The 2015 Cavallotto Langhe “Grign” was brought & shared by Jamm & Erica, who I believe brought this bottle back with them from Italy & the estate!  Thank you both.   Cavallotto is undoubtedly one of our favorite wine estates from Piemonte.  Their vineyards are breathtaking & certainly have something interesting & provocative to say through their wines.  This particular red wine is produced from 100% Grignolino grown on a .58 hectare parcel of the Bricco Boschis Cru.  It therefore has the masculine, musk driven, savory edge I commonly find in Piemonte grown red wines.  It also has a very rose petal character that uplifts the wine’s persona, which makes it quite an interesting pairing for lighter meat dishes, especially those using vegetables, & herbs in the preparation.  In comparison, we then tasted the 2010 Biondi Santi Rosso di Montalcino, which I thought was fabulous–a real thoroughbred–classy, majestic & quite a glass of red wine!  Impressive, to say the least without being too much or overdone.


This next flight featured two wines from Austria.  The 2013 Nigl Grüner Veltliner “Alte Reben”  had a very mesmerizing & captivating nose.  I just kept diving in more & more.  It smelled of rock with exotic fruit–star fruit & currants?? & a white pepper edge.  It also had lots of pedigree & vinosity, that’s for sure with resounding character & structure.  I didn’t, however, care too much about the somewhat bitterness in the finish & it was a touch hot.  Still, it was such a pleasure to have tasted it nonetheless.  I really didn’t know what to really make of the 2013 Sattler Zweigelt “Reserve”.  It had lots of earth, vinosity & character, but tasted disjointed & did not flow too well at all.  Still, there was a lot going on & it was quite interesting to taste.


The next duo featured Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France.  The 2013 Michel Gros Hautes-Côtes de Nuits was a very masculine, lean, savory red wine that I would say most tasters would not think of as Pinot Noir in a blind tasting.  BUT, in reality, it is Pinot Noir….but one much more terroir driven than grape variety driven.   I read recently–“While Côte de Nuits consists of vineyards located on or close to the main Côte d’Or escarpment, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits covers the area on top of the escarpment, and the adjacent area of various valleys and slopes.”  Yes, it is a very different profile of wine…..AND, thankfully so.  Interestingly, even the 2009 Robert Chevillon Nuits St Georges did NOT wow all of the tasters, which made it a perfect wine to follow.  This again reiterated that these are wines, specific to a place & the Pinot Noir will manifest itself therefore & thankfully differently.  I loved the musk, savory, earthy nuances of the wine.  It had pedigree, was lean AND so refined & ethereal on the palate.  This was a treat for my palate.  Thank you Rick for sharing.  I was say, however, the wine was very closed–in a dumb period–& I would therefore recommend people stash the wine right now & resist the temptation of popping the cork.


Now, this was a very different kind of duo that’s for sure.  The 2003 Bodegas López de Heredia Rioja Alta Reserva “Viña Bosconia” had a superb showing on this day!  Such a glorious, majestic nose…OMG….with a very masculine, leaner frame & layers upon layers of savory, vinous, provocative nuances.  What a wine!  Thank you Keith for sharing!   We then moved to the 1999 Tempier Bandol “La Migoua”.  Yes, there has been quite a tale & almost romantic story told about this iconic Provencal estate, its family & its wines.  While that may be true, the mojo & soul is still certainly in the bottle.  This is a one of kind wine–very masculine, actually macho, displaying virility, strength & countryside fortitude (as compared to aristocratic).  I love its remarkably savory core which is so much about the wild, sun baked countryside that surrounds the site.  And, for those unfamiliar with the concept, this wine innately features a true soulfulness.  Given that this was a 1999, I was also amazed how youthful the core of this wine still is.  VERY impressive to say the least!


We now moved into uplifting, minerally Chardonnay.  If we had done this before the last flight, these wines would make the Rioja taste so oaky & forward & the Bandol belligerent & coarse.  That was the first lesson.   Having them in this place in the line-up would be an upswing & accentuate the fabulous minerality each wine offers.  In addition, this was an opportunity to show tasters the difference between the 2 kinds of limestone featured in each.  The 2014 Henri Perrusset Mâcon Villages is undoubtedly one of our favorite French “country” white wines.  It is so tasty & invigorating AND offers GREAT VALUE!   How can a buyer go wrong, especially at this price?   Furthermore, this really is a standout for me amongst a sea of Mâcon grown whites In comparison the 2014 Lavantureux Petite Chablis is grown in Portlandian limestone in the much cooler confines of the Petite Chablis appellation & is much lighter on its feet, much more refined, delicately nuanced, linear & amazingly more sea-shelly & ethereal.  What a really pretty, wonderfully food friendly style of Chardonnay, which deserves much more attention than it is getting, especially at its remarkably reasonable price point!


The next flight paired 2 Viognier based white wines.  We strongly feel there is a real need for these kinds of well made, well balanced aromatic white wines with today’s contemporary fusion foods.  Since good ones are harder to come by than one would think, we showcased these two just to show tasters what is possible with a little research.  The 2015 Drew Viognier “Valenti Vineyard” proved to be such a pretty, enticing, alluring white wine with a lighter Chardonnay like weight & mojo AND a wonderfully delicate perfume & remarkable transparency.  It certainly was a crowd favorite.  I, too, was really taken with this wine & thought it was one of the very finest examples of this grape variety I had had from California.  In comparison, we then tasted the 2015 Faury Condrieu.  This wine was also quite mesmerizing & show stopping, but with more grandeur & seemingly more masculine & virile.  Condrieu is another series of steep, rocky hillsides in the northern Rhone Valley of France, just as dramatic as Cote Rotie & Hermitage.  I remember my wife asking, when she first saw pickers picking & climbing up the steep terrain, what happens if one trips & falls?  Over the years, I have had a fair share of Condrieu wines, & I don’t recall having one so captivating, pure & well balanced like this one.


We ended this tasting with 2 stellar white wines from Alsace, France.  The 2013 Albert Boxler Gewürztraminer  was a full blown, textbook example of what this grape variety can do in this growing region.  Its nose was an explosion of lychee, rose petal, exotic fruit & stony perfume–so very different from any other grape variety.  On the palate it was unctuous, lush, tropical, stony with a nearly hidden savoriness & firm structure.  The 2013 Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Rotenberg”, in comparison, has much more “meat on the bone”, surreal unctu-ality, opulence & power in a very masculine manner.  It really is like turning the speaker on 11, when it normally only goes to 10.  Decadent, lavish, thick, viscous & full blown, yet still having a savory, stony core & mojo, this is some kind of white wine that’s for sure.  In both cases, I would suggest enjoying with samplings of pâté, charcuterie & rich cheeses.  Now, that would be interesting!

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