Tasting Notes for Keith Levenberg

(5,013 notes on 4,203 wines)

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Red
4/24/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
79 points
Library release, topped up and given a new cork. Barnyard and steeped orange-peel aromas, enough to make this a generic red Burgundy rather than a generic old red wine - it's smooth but fading. Not terribly kind of them to re-release this, especially at the price, when it should have been drunk up 10 or 20 years ago.
Red
4/24/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
flawed
Library release obviously topped up and given a new cork. And...

Corked.
Red
4/24/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
93 points
This was great. Not quite as all-encompassing or kaleidoscopic as a few prior vintages have been, but still great. Combines succulent black fruit with rock-quarry levels of minerality and a backdraft of cracked pepper. It doesn't (or doesn't yet) show any of the meaty/savory notes that often show up here.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
Absolutely ripping tannin here. It's almost hard to comprehend how it's even possible to taste the fruit through this, but the fruit has a neon-bright fresh cranberry or raspberry character, almost gamay-like in some respects, that seems to charge through on sheer energy. Also helps to have had a creamy coq au vin sauce with this, which steamrolls through the structure nicely. It is, however, entirely too scaffolded to say much of anything else about it at this point. This will probably need a minimum of 25 years.
White
4/14/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
90 points
Pretty chenin in a very different idiom from anywhere in the Loire, and needed a day left open to show much personality. On day one it's pure but mild, light in body but creamy in texture. The next day it shows a more dynamic crunch, more chalkiness to the texture, and some typical chenin waxiness on top of that same springwater-clean fruit.
5 people found this helpful Comment
Red
Not in the happiest place. Opens with dark fruit with some raisined and jammy flavors but civilizes itself with a bit of time in the decanter, seguing first to a reddish profile without much fruit showing at all and then to fresher and snappier red fruits with some of its youthful energy back, along with that rusty earthiness. It shows a lean figure throughout, though, seeming to have absorbed most of its tannin.
Red
2002 Château Belair (Dubois-Challon) St. Émilion Grand Cru Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
A busily complex wine, even a rich one, with all sorts of things going on, but almost none of those things are fruit. If you like Belair you'll be instantly entranced by all those things keeping your nose in the glass but at the same time it's hard not to admit that this might be almost too edgy. I'm reluctant to use the term vegetal because that usually connotes something green, and this is not that, but if you shift your frame of vegetality to snappy root vegetables and slightly bitter botanicals you might be closer to zeroing in on this. It retains a very healthy deep red color and a generous amount of flesh though, so it's very far from experiencing any age-related decay. This would be interesting to slot in a vertical from the chateau for an almost extreme take on what makes it interesting but as a standalone wine it might be too much even for me.
Red
4/7/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
93 points
Seems to be made of much the same stuff as the gorgeous 2015, but structured very differently. The '15 bowled me over right away with its silky texture. This one is far too heavy in the tannin department to accomplish that, but like the '15 it is very refined tannin, seeming to infuse the wine from the inside rather than being a thick coat on the outside. The fruit, also like the '15, is dark-complexioned with blueberry and blackberry tones and a vivid mineral element suggesting gravel and metallic ore.
Red
4/7/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
96 points
Ravishingly beautiful right on the first sip. It almost brings to mind the style of an RSV with its supple, satiny texture and the way it's simultaneously mouth-filling and weightless, like taking in a puff of smoke. Many 2015s are already starting to tighten and lose some of the boldness of their primary fruit, but this one is still as rich and intense as they ever were. The centenarian vines are really showing off what they can do here - nothing else delivers this sensation of power without weight, the piercing fruit richness coming from the dense, sapid inner core rather than from baby fat.
White
Super-juicy and undeveloped on day one, has that shrillness of a wine fresh off its fermentation. Much better the next day when it fleshes out a little and picks up a layer of chalk and beach sand.
1 person found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
3/30/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
94 points
This wine from the village section of La Combe d'Orveau (which is actually more like an extension of Echezeaux) is better than many I've had from the Musigny-proximate premier cru part. Except for the medium-heavy CO2 which requires a shakeout, the style is so classic it will give you a Proustian moment. It has a slender, feminine figure with winy flavors past the primary fruit, but still has massive reserves of inner power on account of that old-vine sap (~90 years old according to Weygandt's web site). With a bit more time that primary fruit intensity resurfaces and gives it a vibrant wild-berry fruitiness while retaining those fine proportions. In 2014, I liked this wine better than the Beaux Monts; this has all the best features of the 2014 in terms of its elegance and pure comfort-wine satisfaction yet manages to crank the ripeness dial up a notch or two without sacrificing any of that.
Red
3/30/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
flawed
tfw when you carry a bottle in heavy luggage in trains all over Italy and shepherd it safely home in your carry-on bags and cellar it perfectly for 15 years and then it's horribly corked
Red
3/30/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
94 points
Surprisingly terrific. Not sure I would have guessed it as California. It shows full tertiary maturity with cigar tobacco aromas and layers of flavor, but it also still has its fruit - fresh red fruits, even, though in a more wispy, gauzy presentation that gives it a nice transparency and a finessed texture too. Cork was in perfect shape, top half totally untouched by wine (or time), and color remains a robust cherry red with barely any bricking. Thanks to whomever cellared this so well.
White - Off-dry
This was dynamite for about 10 minutes, perfect MSR riesling with tart apple fruit, cutting acidity, and vivid slate-like minerality. Then all of a sudden -poof- it turned to stewed apples and no slate.
Red
3/25/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
94 points
Surprisingly terrific showing that outclassed a Clos St. Denis. Still offering up some echoes of fresh blackberry fruit in contrast to many from the vintage that have closed up, and also features some more developed scents of black truffle and freshly turned soil.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White - Sparkling
Not a good showing. Lacking freshness and detail with advanced bruised apple flavors. When Krug is great it's great but I get something like this way too often.
Red
2016 Château Malartic-Lagravière Pessac-Léognan Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/25/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
90 points
Kind of surprising on the first sip given how structured other wines from the vintage have been, as this features a very polished texture, smoothed of most of the tannin, and fresh red fruits that come across more gently concentrated than most from the vintage, to go with its clear neon-bright ruby color. The tannin does come out of hiding with time, so the structure isn't absent, just glossed over for now. But one thing that doesn't come out even the next day is much personality beyond the fruit. Other Malartics have had the classic Graves earth-and-smoke front and center even on release, while this one is still hiding whatever it's got beyond the primary.
Red
2016 Château Duhart-Milon Pauillac Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/23/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
92 points
This is one of the most structured and backwards Duharts I can remember. In fact it didn't really shine until the next day. Starts out with a fairly dark and brooding fruit profile underneath quite a lot of tannic muscle. If it's showing any of its usual "lead pencil" character it's the filling and not the cedar, though it does also betray a bit of raw, dry oak. The next day a lot more berry fruit sweetness seeps through and it comes across both more friendly and more layered - that mineral element has expanded into a sheet of metallic rock - though it is still heavily tannic.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2017 Sandlands Table Wine Contra Costa County Red Blend (view label images)
3/23/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
95 points
65% carignane and 35% mataro from 1920s vines. This is just about the perfect country wine - in an ideal world, this is what every Cotes du Rhone would taste like. It has a similar heartiness, but so much more clarity. It combines an almost Beaujolais-like energy and wild-berry zing with a darker, denser base of fruit but not so dense as to weigh it down, and a gauze of tannin just rustic enough to give it some chew but not so much as to make it harsh or edgy. The drinkability factor is off the charts; you can absolutely guzzle this. Open it with a crusty baguette, runny cheese, and cured meat and be happy.
7 people found this helpful Comments (1)
Red
Basically closed.
Red
3/21/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
93 points
Starts out showing similar enough to the 2015 that I'd probably have to taste them side-by-side to work out a preference. It has that same restrained, old-style claret structure though the tannins are probably more assertive and austere than they were in the '15 this time last year, and the fruit comes in a darker complexion with the black fruits dominant, even with some red orchard fruit still in the mix. The mineral detail is more expressive here than in the '15, coming out after just an hour or so of airing and evoking loads of gravel and metallic rock. With more time it does start showing a bit of raw wood on account of some of the bolder fruit elements mellowing out.
3 people found this helpful Comment
White
3/20/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
94 points
Delicious and distinctive Italian white which ought to age well too. Chambers had some awhile back with some bottle age on them that were memorable enough I've always had a note-to-self to keep an eye out for more. The fruit tones are in one of the deeper octaves for white wine, quite golden/brassy but not in the sense of having any fatness. Quince-like flavors are vaguely reminiscent of a dry, crisp chenin. It's gentle in weight, has a nice cleansing effect, and has a polished, slick, gleaming surface that combine to make it almost as drinkable as Gatorade.
Red
3/16/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
93 points
Cannot believe it's been over a decade since I first had this off the Bern's list. This bottle was an auction buy so couldn't have enjoyed quite so perfect a storage history, but it must have been kept in pretty good conditions because it is still in great shape. Color is bricked around the edges but still has a ruby core. It starts out on the light side with scents of sagebrush and mint, but given time to air out it puts on weight and ratchets up the fruit intensity (and it does still have fruit), which thickens and sweetens it up enough to drown out the green. Structure is completely melted away and it's slick as butter. This doesn't have the site-distinctive personality it had ten years ago but it has an age-defying boldness that makes it more than just anonymous old burgundy.
Red
2016 Château Léoville Barton St. Julien Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/15/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
92 points
Not as blockbustery as I expected this to be. It's red-fruited and lively, with snappy red currant and cranberry flavors with an intensity short of inky but still enough to saturate and smooth over whatever tannins are here. Young Barton is usually more black-fruited and austere in the tannin department, but this is much brighter and the texture positively satiny. There's some cigar box character on the back end but it's not showing a whole lot beyond primary fruit at this point.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Rosé
3/15/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
94 points
Xinomavro is the great black grape of Greece. You can't make out the color of this through the dark, heavy bottle, but the back label says "vin blanc." Say what?? It pours out a beautifully radiant hue somewhere in the haze between orange and a coppery rosé. Despite the vintage date it is apparently actually a solera of several vintages, but I don't taste any hint of oxidation. The fruit is so vivid it's almost a molecular gastronomic experience - you drink this weirdly yet enticingly colored liquid and then it's like nymphs plucking fresh white cherries from the trees and dropping them in your mouth. The flavors are deeper than the assyrtiko but it *feels* more white-wine-like than the assyrtiko; whatever skin contact was enough to give it color was not enough to impart any of those fierce xinomavro tannins as this is smooth and slick and goes down the gullet like an oyster.
White
2/16/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
94 points
Served as one of the pairings with the tasting menu at Komi. Pale and cloudy straw color with funky scents. Tastes like it got some light skin contact, enough to take on that slightly tannic texture and deepen the tone a bit from the grape's usual lemony brightness, but not too much - if you like Dirty & Rowdy semillon, it's kind of in that family. The fruit profile features some melon and the more zesty, as opposed to juicy, side of citrus, but it still holds onto its refreshment value and pairs transcendentally with sea urchin.
Red
2015 Château Taillefer Pomerol Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/11/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
90 points
Nice Pomerol value - you could do a lot worse for thirty bucks. It starts out with seriously rustic and gritty tannins, but they mellow out with a bit of time and there's nice classically proportioned merlot fruit underneath, initially black in tone but turning more towards snappy cranberry with air. It's more drinkable than you'd expect for something so firmly structured though it could definitely use some time to integrate and come together.
Red
3/9/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
92 points
Bright raspberry fruit with rosy florals and a sensation of thick-skinned tannin that the fruit is charging through more with sheer energy than absolute weight - indeed, it's even a bit airy. If you've been following Pascal Marchand's wines for awhile you might have expected something more concentrated, deeper pitched, and maybe even more oaky (I don't get even the slightest hint of wood here). It's not until the leftovers the next day that it picks up some darker black-cherry flavors, maybe also a hint of anise; the tannins also turn more refined and 2005-like and the package is altogether a lot more like what I would have expected out of the gate.
Red
3/9/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
94 points
So finessed it's hard not to finish the whole bottle. Takes a feminine form right off the bat and the tannin is refined enough not to compromise the drinkability notwithstanding the fact that there is quite a lot of it. Similarly I never would have guessed the 14.5% alcohol indicated on the label. Flavors are dark-complexioned for the appellation, into the territory of blueberries and violets with a background gravelly element. But the flavors are almost beside the point when there is this much satisfaction to be had just tossing it around in the mouth to take in that texture.
Red
Complex and fascinating aroma lasts all of about 45 seconds before the wine shuts down completely. The color is still a deep purple/red but the palate is almost entirely fruitless. Structurally it has a sharp cut that reminds me somewhat of the old Chateau Belairs. That would be kind of nice if it ages in similar fashion, but no track record here to go on, and it's not offering a thing today.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
1955 J. Thorin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru Pinot Noir (view label images)
3/7/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
96 points
Somehow this is the third '55 I've had from the now-mostly-forgotten J. Thorin, and no doubt the best. Maybe that's because the others seemed to be under a negociant label while this one indicates it was estate bottled from the Thorin domaines and has a fancy crest on the label too. Bottle is in perfect shape with a fill barely more than a centimeter below the cork and a vibrant Ferrari-red color. Like all the rest from Thorin this needed some air to get into gear and kept getting better, richer, and deeper. It starts out on the light side, enough that I'm thinking, hey, this is the first Thorin I've had that doesn't taste spiked with grenache! - red fruit with an ever-so-slight cool Alpine greenery on the back end, showing its breed from the sheer silkiness of the texture. About an hour in it has put on serious weight. The fruit material is thicker and picks up a palpably sticky grip, along with layers of gravel and tar and aromas that combine a mild leatheriness with remarkably sweet, saucy blackberries and then some cinnamon and licorice with a bit more time. On the palate, too, the fruit becomes ridiculously intense for its age, in a sense you could almost call it primary because it is so vividly fruity, but it's in a more saucy, reduced fashion. It's thick outside the usual parameters of pinot and again I find myself asking the grenache question but it really doesn't taste grenachey and especially not old-grenachey, it just has that extra kick of thickness and fat to the point where you almost feel you could chew it and stretch it like gum. The laciness that characterized it at the outset has segued to a serious solidity, the palate feeling infused with asphalt. But to the very end it is still more fruit-centric than anything. Hope I'll still be this sunny when I'm 64.
Red
1955 J. Thorin Clos Vougeot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru Pinot Noir
First impression of this is that it tastes like some significant proportion of it is a Rhone import. It has a glossy, leathery sheen and a solidity to the mouthfeel that makes it seem positively chewy. The flavors start off kind of generically fruity though, and it's notably leaner and lighter toned than the '59 that came next. Eventually it picks up some cigar tobacco and more savory characteristics - too bad this probably needed more air than it got.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Clos Marsalette Pessac-Léognan Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
This can't be a representative bottle, can it? Lightly bretty and fairly heavily fizzy. Deep and dark flavors with a bit of a charcoal element that places it in Graves, but it was tough to get past the chemical issues.
Red
2016 Château Barde-Haut St. Émilion Grand Cru Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
3/2/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
90 points
Not a fruit bomb St. Emilion. Quite the contrary, there wasn't much primary fruit seeping through the tannins until it had been open for two days. Then it features vivid blackberry scents and flavors on a serious rock quarry base that feels both stony and metallic. Still quite a lot of tannic muscle but at least it has the personality that was absent the first day.
Red
2/26/2019 - Keith Levenberg wrote:
84 points
Didn't show nearly as well as I remember this wine from the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Surprising for a 2015, the sensation is just short of ripe, not in the sense of being herbal or vegetal but rather the fruit tones a bit downcast.
Red
2/19/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
95 points
I think most of the table had this a notch ahead of the 1995. I had it a notch behind, but it's still magnificent. Clearly made of the same material, but this is still showing the residue of its oak toast in an almost tarry fashion and also starts out more solidly tannic. With a bit of air it composes itself and the texture approaches the tenderness of the '95. It's still a few years behind in development and thus isn't quite so ethereal, but it probably also had a bit more structure and stuffing to begin with.
Red
2/19/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
97 points
This has always been a beauty. Bittersweet to see my last bottle go, but it went out in heroic fashion. Ravishing right from the first sip, and in fact just like I remember it from a decade ago - tender and mouthfilling and almost like a Romanee-St.-Vivant. It has the texture of silk insofar as it has any texture at all but for the most part it feels ethereal and practically weightless. The fruit is at the stage where it hasn't gone fully post-fruit into earthy territory, but it's more the patina of fruit than fruit itself, perhaps some sensation of dried cherry but more like dried rose petals. Just as we were remarking that the only thing missing was the expected Vosne spice, those enticing cinnamon scents started to come out. This is just about as integrated, smooth, and seamless as wine ever gets.
Red
Nice find from PJ's. 97% tempranillo and 3% Albillo from 80-year-old vines aged 2 years in barriques, per the email. It will need time in the cellar, as the first day it's brimming with loads of dry, grainy tannin in a fashion reminiscent of old-style Bordeaux, the fruit taking a back seat. The next day the fruit sweetens up and saturates the structure, picking up that slightly leathery sheen typical of the grape but in a more primary fashion than you'd find in a classic Rioja.
Red
2/21/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
94 points
Cue the balloons and confetti. There is no carbon dioxide in this! The first young burgundy I've had in ages sans fizz. It's a beauty from start to finish though it does change substantially in personality over the course of the bottle. Right out of the gate it comes across stern and stony, the tannins gripping like concrete. Gradually it softens and relaxes and turns so feminine and refined you'd easily take this for something on the other side of Chambolle.
Red
2016 Château Potensac Médoc Red Bordeaux Blend (view label images)
2/20/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
89 points
My first taste of 2016 Bordeaux! They might need some time to settle in, as the fruit here still has a streak of straight-from-the-fermentation-vat freshness, bright and redolent with framboise. The structure on the other hand is fully developed and features some serious thick-skinned tannins. Leftovers 2 days later have brought out some metal shavings on the back end.
White
2/18/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
92 points
This is the first vintage I've had of this that actually tastes true feinherb, indeed on the drier side of feinherb - I would have guessed way less sugar than the 24 g/l noted in the MFW note. That's in serious contrast to the 2015 and 2012, both of which tasted spatlese-sweet to me. This is crisp and acute with pale, racy flavors of yuzu, pineapple rind, and pebbly streamwater, dancing on the edge of ripeness but cool and refreshing for it.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2nd Annual Sommelier Appreciation Dinner (Undisclosed Location): Greatness surely ahead, but significantly ahead, this was way too young to deliver much today. Toasted oakspice nose with a bit of berry. On the palate the tannin is front and center but some fruit seeps in around the edges with an impression of thick skinned black cherries.
Red
2/3/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
96 points
2nd Annual Sommelier Appreciation Dinner (Undisclosed Location): The Latour cranked the fruit intensity up several notches from the Lafite. This cranks the fruit intensity up several notches from the Latour - somehow manages to be even more inky and saturating though in much lighter, redder tones than the deep blue/black Latour, with super-fresh, almost snappy cranberry and raspberry flavors, turning deeper on the back end with something almost charcoal-like. The tannin is much gentler than the Pauillacs. A marvelous terroir tour with everything playing to classic type.
Red
2/3/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
96 points
2nd Annual Sommelier Appreciation Dinner (Undisclosed Location): Surely a 50+ year wine. Aromas are tight, with a bit of walnut. This is seriously tannic but in an appropriately grand fashion, arching like a cathedral. It's packed with deep, dark blueberry and blackberry fruit, piercingly intense and saturating (and it would have to be to charge through all that structure - which it does). This is still youthfully inky and primary compared to the Lafite and if I preferred the Lafite by a notch it was only for that reason; this is not as far along but it's gonna be an epic journey.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2/3/2019 - Keith Levenberg Likes this wine:
97 points
2nd Annual Sommelier Appreciation Dinner (Undisclosed Location): Starts out with a strongly smoky aroma, in fact smoky to the point of austerity like we were just sat in the smoking section (remember those?). But then some sweet fruit emerges and charges a path through the smoke like a comet. The texture is incomparably finessed and fine-knit in the fashion that distinguishes Lafite from all the other firsts and it's stacked with an array of "how did all this come from grapes?" flavors, most enticingly the funk of black truffle. It was interesting to try this just a few weeks after the '89 because many of those deeper, soil-driven flavors that knocked my socks off in the '89 are here too, just not as boldly as there's a sense in which this still has some more blossoming to do.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2nd Annual Sommelier Appreciation Dinner (Undisclosed Location): Mouton vs. Lafite flight pits the legendary '86 Mouton against the less-legendary '90 Lafite... but the Lafite was the winner on my scorecard. The aromas here were sweet, with some figginess surfacing with air, but still holding things close to the vest. The palate is still very, very tannic, the tannin practically reverberating into more tannin, but it does show some nuttiness and dark fruit with that sur-maturite on the nose manifesting in some pruniness on the back end. I let this sit to see what develops and it did start to show some more classic Pauillac pencil scents, albeit faintly, but didn't budge much.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
Drank with the 1996 Roumier Chambolle & I preferred this one - they actually weren't all that dissimilar, starting out pale bricked and slightly autumnal, except this popped on the back end with an array of deeply toned details evoking things like black truffle, freshly turned soil, etc., "sous bois" if you want to call it that. This has found itself in a nice place - the prior bottle I had from this lot (a Charmes), which should have more upside than this, was not this good just two years ago.
Red
Lean but nicely polished - whatever tannins were here are totally resolved. There's a verdant leafiness, almost minty, freshening up a fruit profile that starts out on the autumnal side. Nothing primary is left though it feels a bit short of fully mature because it's not hitting any notes on the low end of the scale. Maybe it needs a little more time to unlock them or maybe it just is what it is.
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