Martine's Wines Portfolio Tasting 2011

mk Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois

Tasted March 9, 2011 by Arinbraghe with 736 views


Early spring means the importers and wholesalers are gearing up for better weather and better sales, and one of the tastings I always look forward to is the local confab of producers represented by Martine's Wines, LLC of Novato, California. The tasting was held at mk, Michael Kornick's stylish Chicago restaurant located just north of the city's financial district. As is always the case at these events, I wasn't able to taste everything, and I wasn't able to really linger over the wines and entirely do them justice. But my notes here might serve as a shorthand guide to the highlights as well as the less successful efforts from these producers, and give an idea as to wines to look forward to as they hit the market.

Flight 1 - Champagne Diebolt-Vallois (4 notes)

White - Sparkling
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Tradition Brut France, Champagne
As always, superb; I was told this is a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, and 25% Pinot Meunier. Yeasty with initial notes of brioche toast that rapidly yield to powerful floral aromas of daffodil and yellow lily. Very yellow-floral and elegant. Finely etched flavors, good breadth on the palate without putting a foot out of place. Lovely.
White - Sparkling
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut France, Champagne
Markedly different in style from the Cuvee Tradition. Much more high-pitched, with winter orchard fruits predominant. The sense of chalkiness is so palpable here it feels like an old-timey school marm is pounding out erasers in your mouth. Compelling, but seems a tiny bit shrill to a sluggish palate at 11 am. Will want to revisit this in six months' time.
White - Sparkling
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Cuvée Prestige Blanc de Blancs France, Champagne
A blend of vintages, I was told, but the rep pouring did not know which vintages they were, and I didn't have a chance to search the bottle for clues. This was perhaps my favorite of the lineup, incredibly elegant and precise while having more mid-palate presence than the Cuvee Tradition. Fleshier especially than the Blanc de Blancs. I use a four-star scale as a shorthand for these tasting events; this was a two star plus wine, which is really high praise from me. NOTHING ever gets four stars.
Rosé - Sparkling
N.V. Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Brut Rosé France, Champagne
I believe this is right: 65% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier? Don't quote me on that. Do quote me on this: absolutely delicious rose. Wild raspberries and cherry pastille flavors zip around the palate, but there's plenty of mineral structure for the fruit to hang onto without seeming tooty-fruity. Great energy and vitality on the palate. I'm not a huge rose Champagne fan, and I loved this. Certainly pushes the majority of NV Brut Roses off the field of combat.

Flight 2 - La Famille Medeville (5 notes)

White - Sparkling
N.V. Gonet-Médeville Champagne Premier Cru Tradition Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
I always think of this wine as austere verging on challenging, so I don't know whether it speaks to a change in my palate or a softer iteration of this bottling, because I liked this more than I have in the past. It's lean and bony as I expected, but the yeasty, biscuity tones here cushion the impact, and there's even a bit of green-apple fruit to cling to as the mineral and acid carve up your palate. Certainly bracing, and a good way to wake up your senses. A full bottle? Well, I'm not sure about that...
White - Sparkling
N.V. Gonet-Médeville Champagne Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Noirs France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru
Wow, night-and-day compared to the Brut Tradition. This is fully lush, broad, almost bulky on the mouth, showing plenty of pear and some mango - not totally tropical, but ripe and almost swarthy. I loved this until the finish, where it seems to unravel a bit, but I'm still enamored. From Pinot Noir vines planted in Busseuil and Ambonnay, so I shouldn't be all that surprised that this is markedly different from the Mesnil-sur-Oger Chardonnay-laden Tradition. An eye-opener for me, to say the least, that this producer isn't just about sticks and stones.
2009 Château Respide-Médeville Blanc France, Bordeaux, Graves
I've absolutely adored this wine in the past two vintages; it's everything I think Bordeaux Blanc should be: tart, taut, mineral, maybe fleshed out a touch from the Semillon, and for god's sake lay off the fucking oak. Well, this producer does all this and offers it up at an attractive tariff. My expectations were pretty inflated, so maybe I shouldn't be too crestfallen by the fact that I didn't swoon for this as I did for the 2007 and 2008 versions. It's riper, for one thing, and that comes across not just through the fruit which at times bordered on tropical, but also as a grassy, herbaceous quality that I didn't find in the cooler previous years. Not so much that Zen inscrutability, that presence-of-absence-of-flavor that is my ideal for Sauvignon Blanc-based wines. But the kids'll like it more, and that's fine... just this once.
White - Sweet/Dessert
2005 Château Les Justices Sauternes France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Aromatically reticent, as is to be expected from a dessert wine holding this much RS, but on the palate... oh my god!! Sure, the sweetness is noteworthy, even foremost, but 'there's so much dry extract,' as Allen Meadows is wont to say when praising a particular Burgundy, that you practically forget you're drinking a dessert wine. A panoply of flavors, I'll just give a few of them... honey, quince preserves, apricot nectar, saltwater taffy, wet wool, marmalade... what's mind-blowing here is that this is still so risibly young, you want to buy as much of this as you are capable of carrying and/or financing and laying it down in a cool, dark cellar to track its progress for the remainder of your natural life... Am I gushing? Have you had this wine? If not, you can't, it's mine, all mine!!
White - Sweet/Dessert
1988 Château Gilette Crème de Tête France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
At 23 years old, this is still at the beginning of its approachable years, and nowhere near as good as it will be. But even as I say that I have a hard time believing it, because what's here right now is so profound it will make you stop and support yourself against the table as the world around you perceptibly slows down. Tasting this alongside the 2005 Chateau Les Justices is incredibly edifying, as you are afforded a sort of time-lapse glimpse into the development of great wine, and also a lyrical apologia for the discipline and craft of careful cellaring. If the Justices is a young man, swift, virile, and unstoppable, this is that same man twenty years further on, with a home, a family, and a great deal of his own skin in the game of life. The stride is a fraction slower, but the eyes are as bright as they ever were, and he has laid aside the careless whiles of youth for the serious, melancholic determination of a man who now knows he is mortal and thus loves life even more than before. If this doesn't give you a sense of the wine... look, this has the honey, but it also has the comb; it has the rose water, but it also has the thorns; savory, sweet, and earthy, this is a cello adagio instead of a violin capriccio... and yet still the aromas of orange blossom careen out of the glass and lavish themselves upon your senses from a yard away. As an aside, even if I had spent all evening with this wine, it's beyond scoring; I mean really, what could James Suckling or Robert Parker, or, yes, even Michael Broadbent or Jancis Robinson tell you about this wine that isn't apparent to anyone with a working sniffer and a love of good things and a willingness to be delighted and beguiled by the world around them? Not much, I promise you. Get a bottle of this, share it in the evening with loved ones, and you'll know what I mean.
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