Dinner with friends (2xChampagne, Vouvray, Bandol, Bourgueil, Alsace)

Jonathan and Samantha's
Tasted Friday, November 11, 2005 by jrufusj with 766 views


Food was an amazing homemade gravlax with sweetish mustard dill sauce followed by lamb shanks cooked osso buco style, but with more Provencal flavours. Selection of cheeses to finish the reds and start the riesling. Dessert was a coconut cake that did a great job of being luscious without being overly sweet.

Flight 1 (6 Notes)

  • NV Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut

    France, Champagne

    Light sparkling yellow with very small, tight mousse. Bursting nose of tart green apples surrounded by characteristic chardonnay aromas and some stone. As the wine warms up a little, there’s a bit of ginger biscuit and maybe a little floral character. But that characteristic chardonnay keeps coming back. Close your eyes and it could be a St. Aubin. At first sip, it seems awfully soft, but only for the first sip. After that, the palate is bright with acid and a lemony fruit, along with a healthy shot of mineral. Not heavily dosed, but avoids being overly austere. Nice texture and nice finish that brings the floral element back out, along with a little more white burg wafting up the chimney. There’s certainly a lot going on here (especially for the price), but it does seem to be a little disjointed. I suspect a few more years in the bottle would do wonders. Great bubbles for the money.

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  • NV Louis César Beaufort Champagne Premier Cru Brut Rosé

    France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru

    First impression is that there is an oddly Tavel-like tone to the color. But the visual assessment stops there as a disturbing scent of musty, stewed, overripe strawberries competes with a somewhat chemical note. This is not a good sign. I’m not sure if this is TCA-affected or something else, but it definitely isn’t right as the chemical note only gets stronger. On the palate, more stewed berry and more sweetness than I would hope for in a brut. Revisited an hour and half later with vain hope. Alas, no better. Not quite DNPIM, but definitely DNPImyM.

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  • 1985 Domaine Bourillon Dorléans Vouvray Demi-Sec

    France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray

    (With the salmon)
    Surprisingly youthful color of bright yellow just beginning to tend toward deeper gold. Visibly rich viscosity when swirled in the glass. Whoa! This begins with an extremely reductive nose, slightly chemical and extremely muted. Just worrying enough for me to open the other bottle and check. Same thing there. Within about fifteen to twenty minutes, this begins to open up with whiffs of lovely bright apple and nectarine fruit braced by clean and clear river stone. As the wine warms and opens more, a creamy lemon sweetness on the nose makes for a great match with the salmon. On the palate, nice dense richness, but a great streak acidity that keeps the sweetness in check and more of a textural feature than one of taste. There’s good white fruit here, but mineral, fresh cream, and citrus zest take the lead. Terrifically harmonious and integrated but also amazingly youthful. Drinking perfectly now but has the stuff to last for a good while. Another great value.

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  • 1995 Château de Pibarnon Bandol

    France, Provence, Bandol

    (With the lamb)
    The purple of youth has given way to a dusty red, but this is still pretty deep and solid to the rim. In the decanter, it gives off an immediate scent of the south – sunny herbs, warm earth, and berry fruit. In the glass (about two hours after decanting), the same sunny south is there, along with a little clay dust and a bit of the mourvedre funk (but just a touch). With time, there are hints anise and pine forest as well. Pleasantly soft, smooth entry shows dark berry fruit with just enough acid to keep it bright. Nice full and expanding mid-palate with more of the same fruit and a little mineral and dust to boot. Finish has good length, a touch of spice, a slight touch of remaining dusty tannin. Great showing from a less than heralded vintage and a screaming statement of Provence that just goes perfectly with the lamb. Two great matches in a row.

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  • 1989 Domaine des Chesnaies Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige

    France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Bourgueil

    (With the lamb and carryover with the cheeses)
    Pretty young color with hints of purple still there. Nose is open and immediate – and all green. It isn’t ivy, but it is some kind of vine leaf. I often smell it when I walk out the front door of my house on an autumn morning. Reinsert nose to glass and see what else is there. Okay, we’re getting a little variety now but not the kind we’re looking for, as bell pepper joins the vine leaf. Leave it alone for while and then take another sniff. Okay, somewhere in the background is some very faint berry fruit. On the palate, some more prominent fruit on entry that immediately dies on the mid-palate. Finish is reasonably long, but all vine leaves and bell pepper. I recently had the ’76 and it took a long time for that one to pick up weight and fruit, so I try again after forty-five minutes or so. Wishful thinking may have produced a touch more fruit and let some earth step up a little, but this is really just a really disappointingly green wine. I loved the green notes in the ’76 and I’m a big fan and defender of Loire cab franc in general, but this is just too much. In the past I may have modified Jean-Marie Guffens’s oak quote to “There’s no such thing as an overly green Loire red, just an underfruited one”. After this wine, I can never say that again. Damn disappointing as I was really looking forward to this.

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  • 2000 Domaine Ostertag Riesling Muenchberg Vendanges Tardives

    France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru

    (With the cheeses and the dessert)
    Beautiful bright gold with sparkling yellow highlights. Incredibly rich and viscous like an SGN or a BA. This is just lovely on the nose with swirling and soaring floral notes of honeysuckle nectar and sweet freshly mowed hay taking the lead. Beneath that, there is rich peach fruit and a honeyed elegance. One can almost taste the concentration just by sniffing. Equally concentrated on the palate with a very sweet entry of honey and ginger-candied fruit. As it moves to the mid-palate, the acid picks up and – while still very sweet and concentrated – the wine just seems to zip right along the tongue very brightly, leaving a trail of sweet stone fruit and cool mineral in its path. Floral honey, more mineral, and hints of citrus are the highlights of an almost perpetual finish. This is stunning stuff and more than makes up for the Beaufort and Bourgueil disappointments. If infanticide is this good, I can only imagine what the wine will be like in time.

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Two abject failures and some great showings.

The Beaufort wine was just wierd. I've had an André Beafort rosé doux that was incredibly strawberry-driven, but it was lovely. I don't know what the relationship may be, as I can't keep the Beauforts straight in Champagne. The Bourgueil was a major disappointment, as I normally love the leafy notes in cab franc. But this was greener than any Medocino cab sauv you've ever seen.

The Diebolt-Vallois is always a great wine to show people who normally drink big-house Champagne and it was on form. The Vouvray had one person who doesn't normally drink white wine coming back for refills. The Bandol was just one of those matches made in heaven. It would have been good on its own, but it was sublime with Sam's perfect lamb. The Ostertag was a revelation despite its youth. (I'm going to be buying more of that for sure.)