Thursday, January 3, 2008

Post New Year's, Pre Bday Champagne.


Yesterday my tasting group and I were bringing in the New year in the traditional PMW tasting group style, with some champers. Usually it's a December event, but with the overarching sense of frenetic holiday activity prevailing this year, we put it off until the new year. Which is fine by me because it doubled as a bday celebration of sorts as well. And if any sort of celebration goes down tonight (today is bday proper) it will definitely be low key and on the early side. I'm partied out.

Our first champagne: Charley Heidseck Brut NV. It was not offensive; simple, crisp and celebratory enough, if lacking on the mid-palate and falling very short on the finish. A textbook middle of the road grand marque NV champagne without much character. But you can do a lot worse. I'd like to retroactively strike the LP Brut on my 'in a pinch' champagne post and replace it with this one.

Next would be a Blanc de Blancs from Gaston Chiquet. Didn't even know they made one, though their NV is always a favorite, especially for a good all around party wine. It's full of flavor and easy to like. Well this one was the exact opposite. It was a bit one-dimensional as well, though in a more interesting, lean and mean way. A cool, shy and mineral nose led to a very tight BdB that just isn't showing too much right now. Though I think this was the prevailing sentiment in the room, there were a few defenders of the wine.

No such divergence in opinion on the next guy: Methode Traditionnelle sparkling wine from Marin county! Point Reyes Winery's flagship (I think) sparkling wine, brought courtesy of Chad, was a unanimous pick for MOWOTN (most offensive wine of the night). Elmers glue and bananas foster. Not so fresh, not so clean clean.

Chad, however, knowing full well that this would likely be a dud, came through with another bottle that I think might have been WOTN. At least according to me and Chad. 1996 Gaston Chiquet Special Club had all of the delicious ripe and intense flavors of the vintage, balanced by the off the charts acidity that '96 also shows. This '96 was a bit more integrated, less angular, and probably will be quicker to mature than others I've had from the vintage. It's drinking really well right now.

Before Chad's 'redemption bottle' we had a few others. '98 Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Millesime showed classic brioche aromas and lead to a tasty palate that is probably, both in terms of texture and flavor, one of the softest and most mellow Peters champagnes I will drink. Which was fine, and probably a reflection of a merely ok vintage. But when I drink Peters, I kind of want to taste that searing acidity, you know? This was a good reminder of the fact that, when it comes to vintage champagne, occasionally any notion of house style needs to be tossed out the window. Bonville Cuvee Prestige NV was a solid all round blanc de blancs, produced from the '02, '00 and '98 vintage chardonnay in Oger and Cramant. It was also well-rounded, with agreeable flavors and gentle mousse. Definitely another good party and 'gateway' champagne, to which my co-worker and first time PMWer David would attest, as it's the bottle that converted his girlfriend into a champagne drinker. 2000 Aubry "Le Nombre d'Or Campanae Veteres Vites" Brut is what Nadia and I brought, and definitely a funky number. It's a blend of primarily black skinned grapes including Fromenteau (pinot gris) Petit Meslier & Arbanne (endless mileage on the nose in the glass and declaring, 'yep, that's definitely Arbanne' joke) which are all nearly extinct in Champagne. There's a bit of chardonnay and PN in there as well, which I'm guessing is due to not enough supply of the other grapes, and an effort to make the wine somewhat more normal tasting. I couldn't put a finger on this one. The fruit was definitely tangy and full of life, but there was a real salty minerality here. Usually just the sort of wine I love, but for some reason I wasn't digging this. To me it was jarring, angular, and possibly just in a weird place? Definitely not bottle shocked, as the bottle has been comfortably resting on our shelves at K&L for the past year.

There were a few rose sparklers, one a cava whose name escapes me but was really dark colored, austere tasting, and tannic. The other was Taittinger Brut Rose NV. A bit off and almost reductive at first on the nose, it eventually shedded this and was a mediocre, over manipulated, over dosed rose champagne. The wine tasted contrived and lacked energy.

We had a few reds and a riesling after before the night was out. I had brought a 1976 Santenay 'Clos Rousseau' 1er cru from one Rene Fleurot, which smelled absolutely lovely but was a bit tired on the palate, with stewed red fruits that were kind of hanging in there but not enough to want to finish the glass. Then Mark ventured down to the cellar and grabbed a few wines. First, a bottle of '78 Sterling Cab which was as mature Napa cab should be. Green pepper and cherry fruit. It wasn't the best bottle; we had drunk the same thing at a Bdx tasting a few months ago that was a bit more delectable and intense. Next, a bottle of 1998 Elio Grasso Barolo Gavarini 'Vigna Chiniera' which was delicious, young, and with a solid, long future ahead of it. Check back in 10 years. Finally we finished things off with a bottle of Koehler-Ruprecht Riesling Kallstadter Steinacker Kabinett 2002. Very smoky, delicious Kabinett from the Pfalz. It was woodsy and floral on the nose. Dry palate with Pfalz burnt brown sugar but plenty of acidity and savor. Thanks, Mark, for cracking this one open - I love 2002 German riesling and this was a great wine to finish the evening. Like the dude's rug, it really tied the room together.

OK, off to pick up a bottle from my birth year. Hope you all are enjoying your Thursday - it's my Bday so it's gonna be a good day for all of you out there as well, I know it will.

2 comments:

David McDuff said...

Happy Birthday, Joe!

Keep an eye out for the Champagnes from another member of the Special Club, Jose Michel in Moussy. His '92, '96 and '97 Special Club cuvees were all pretty damn good, the '92 being a particular standout, especially given that it comes from a theoretically horrible vintage.

Joe M. said...

Thanks, David.

I will have to keep an eye out for the Jose Michel stuff, have heard good things.