2004 WS Wine Experience: 2003 Top Ten

Tasted November 6, 2004 by otisabdul with 3,015 views

Introduction

This seminar was moderated by senior editor and tasting director, Bruce Sanderson. He took us through the 2003 Wine Spectator Top Ten Wines of the Year.

Eight countries were represented in last year’s top ten, which was a record. We tasted them in order of their body weight rather than the exact order of ranking. I will list them in the order we tasted them

A representative from the producing winery presented each wine. Here are my notes:

Flight 1 (10 notes)

White - Off-dry
2001 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
95 points
Rated #8. Represented on the dais by co-owner Katharina Prum. This is only the second German wine to ever hit the WS Top Ten. JJ Prum has been in existence since 1911, after the estate was divided amongst the Prum children. The current patriarch, Manfred Prum, is noted for bringing out very old wines and having guests try to guess the vintage. The vineyards are on the same latitude as Winnipeg. Harvest is usually in mid-November. Pale straw color. Floral, herbal, mineral aromas. Pure, huge mouth-filling baked apple fruit with tremendous balance. It has a wonderful acidity that finishes the wine and carries the flavors. Delicious. $30
Red
2001 Domaine de Beaurenard (Paul Coulon et Fils) Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
90 points
Rated #7. Represented on the dais by manager Daniel Coulon. From old vine parcels planted in 1902 with vines averaging 60 to 90 years in age. Low yields, and hand-picked 8 days later than most estates. It is made from 13 different grapes (70% Grenache, 10% syrah). Coulon “ferments all the grape varietals in one vat at the same time to achieve synergy.” Aromatic fruit and pretty fruit, mostly cherries and plums. Fairly approachable, with a silky texture and soft tannins. Coulon “likes to drink the wine at all times, but the terroir expresses itself best at around 10 years.” $27
Red
2001 Clos Mogador Priorat Spain, Catalunya, Priorat
93 points
Rated #4. Represented on the dais by co-owner Rene Barbier. This is only the second Spanish wine to ever hit the WS Top Ten. Made from vineyards planted in the 1970-80s. Barbier is from the Rhone region and he liked the old vine grenache and carignane that proliferates in Priorat. He also planted international varietals (C/S & Syrah) when he arrived. This wine is a blend of 40% grenache, 15% carignane, 20% syrah, and 35% cab sauvignon. An Aussie-like coconut nose. Bright candied fruit upfront. Glassy texture, with clean and ripe raspberry flavors. Drying tannins attack around mid-palate. An interesting wine. $60
Red
2000 Penfolds Shiraz RWT Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
93 points
Rated #6. Represented on the dais by chief winemaker, Peter Gago. RWT is exclusively made from 60 to 100 year-old vines in the Barossa, 60% from Penfolds-owned estates and 40% from local growers. Gago said that 2000 was the most difficult vintage in Barossa since 1974. The wine is aged in 60% new Light-Medium Toast French oak (no American oak like Grange). They actually make less RWT than they do of the Grange. Very tasty blueberry and mulberry flavors. Said Gago: “We look for spice, but not black spice in the RWT. It is very approachable, but could easily last for a decade or more. The wine has a nice succulence without the high alcohol (only 13.8%) and extracts.” Well done. $65.
Red
2001 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
92 points
Rated #10. Represented on the dais by co-owner, Alberto Moretti. This is the third vintage of Oreno, which is named after a river on the property. It is 50% sangiovese, 25% cabernet sauvignon, and 25% merlot. Dark, with blue edges on the rims. Aromas of tea, burning autumn leaves, and vanilla. Soft and plush, with a velvety mouthfeel. Tobacco and cassis flavors. Lots of tannins on the finish. Needs time. I will not open any of mine for at least another 3 years. $80
Red
2001 Paloma Merlot USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
95 points
Rated #1. Represented on the dais by owner, Jim Richards. Paloma’s 8th vintage of this wine is Wine Spectator’s highest rated California merlot ever (95P). It is actually a blend of 86% merlot and 14% cab sauvignon. Aged 19-20 months in 1/3 new French oak barrels. The vineyard was planted in 1985. It takes them about one month to get through the harvest, as the grapes have different ripening times throughout the vineyard plots. Jim said: “We are not experienced winemakers. It is made by taste, primarily my wife’s.” Watermelons and cherries on the nose. This wine is pretty on pretty, with smooth sweet fruit. Superb mouthfeel. Supremely enjoyable right now. Impressive juice. $45
Red
2000 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
94 points
Rated #3. Represented on the dais by owner Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle. This is the first Chilean wine to ever hit the WS Top Ten. When Alexandra was looking for a place to plant some vineyards in 1993, she instantly liked Clos Apalta. It has a southern exposure and is surrounded by hills in a horseshoe shape, which attenuates the sun in the late afternoon to help escape excessive heat. The vineyard has old pre-phylloxera vines with deep roots, allowing for dry-farming and naturally low yields. The blend is 65% merlot and 35% cab sauvignon. Dark purple color. Earth, tar, and green pepper on the nose. A very dense, full-bodied wine. Not syrupy, but chewy. Vibrant, harmonious and in need of a couple years to smooth out. A huge wine. $55
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Red
2000 Château Cos d'Estournel France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
95 points
Rated #2. Represented on the dais by CEO Jean-Guillame Prats, who noted that “one must have at least 35 year-old vines to make quality Bordeaux”. This wine is a blend of 60% cab sauvignon, 38% merlot, and 2% cab franc. Trademark Indian curry spice on the nose. Impeccable, silky, and round, with “the feminine aspect of the merlot coming through”. Great wine. $95
Red
2000 Château Léoville Las Cases France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
Rated #5. Represented on the dais by Yorick D’Alton. This is probably a great wine, but it was absolutely closed for business during the seminar. I could only make out slight hints of red flowers and cassis. Maybe some lead pencil and tobacco. Hard to say for sure. Impossible to evaluate. This is somewhat predictable, although I will say that the ’99 LLC was showing a lot more at the same time last year when we did the Top Ten tasting for 2002. The ’99 is undoubtedly on a shorter life cycle than the 2000, which still hasn’t even started teething yet. $170
Red - Fortified
2000 Graham Porto Vintage Portugal, Douro, Porto
97 points
Rated #9. Represented on the dais by director, Rupert Symington. Porto is naturally one of the driest regions in the world without irrigation. Therefore, you have low yields and very concentrated fruit. The grapes are hybrids of original Roman vines and have thick skins. In fact, they still use the Roman method of foot-treading the grapes (although a patented robotic machine has been used since 1998). Only a tiny selection of grapes makes it to the VP bottling. Tremendous inky dark color. Full, rich plummy eucalyptus blueberry flavors. Well-extracted, but impeccably balanced. What a tremendous tightrope this wine walks! I am not a huge port fan, but I absolutely loved this wine. One of the best of the weekend. $80

Closing

So, after tasting through the Top Ten, I would rank order them as follows on my own personal scale (leaving out the LLC):

1) 2000 Graham’s VP
2) 2001 JJ Prum Spatlese W-S
3) 2001 Paloma Merlot
4) 2000 Cos d’Estournel
5) 2001 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta
6) 2000 Penfolds RWT Shiraz
7) 2001 Clos Mogador Priorat
8) 2001 Sette Ponti Oreno
9) 2001 Paul Coulon CdP Beaurenard

Cheers,

Otis

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