Thursday, November 10, 2005

10 November 2005 - More on Kuentz-Bas..Vieux Telegraphe 2003...The Latest from Paul Roberts

I mentioned, in the last post, tasting the first Kuentz-Bas wine ('04 "Alsace") I every truly enjoyed. Thanks to Seth Stevens -- and -- I've learned that K-B was purchased by Jean-Baptiste Adam, sometime in 2003, or early 2004. That could explain the sudden good showing -- J.B. Adam is a terrific Alsace negociant flying under the radar. They make my favorite basic Alsace wines. Seems their quality is rubbing off on K-B. I wonder what Kermit Lynch (K-B's US importer) thinks about the situation...

Vieux Telegraphe 2003
Chateauneuf du Pape

I can't imagine how winemakers in Chateauneuf du Pape kept their sanity intact after the 2002 and 2003 vintages. In 2002 the southern Rhone was flooded by torrential rain, causing many producers in Chateauneuf du Pape to declassify their entire crop, or what was left of it.

The very next year, 2003, was the hottest year in the history of the entire European continent, killing thousands of people by heat stroke. Vineyards that struggled to find a ripe grape in '02, struggled to get their '03 crop in the winery before it was burned to a crisp -- '03 produced the highest potential alcohols ever seen in the region.

For Vieux Telegraphe, a domaine that usually produces beautifully balanced, relatively delicate Chateauneuf du Pape, 2003 might be a perfect vintage. The wine is V.T.'s densest, richest, ripest ever, and still exquisitely balanced -- sensational young Chateauneuf du Pape.

Deep Creek Cellars
"White Linen Reserve" 2003
-- or,
"What you have to do to make world-class wine in Garrett County"
40% Seyval from West Virginia and Pennsylvania; 35% Chardonnay from California and Maryland; 15% Vidal from Virginia and Maryland; 10% Asian Pear! from the “estate” in Garrett County, Maryland -- Paul Roberts cobbles together compelling wine by finding delicious fruit wherever he can and making the wine with as little manipulation as possible (wild yeast fermentations, little or no fining or filtering, very little use of oak). He is a brilliant winemaker who happens to have a small vineyard in western Maryland.

Looking at the components of this blend could make you dizzy. Grapes from five different states. Asian pear? From Deep Creek's own Asian pear trees. How he comes up with a blend like this, I don't know. I could ask him, but frankly, it doesn't matter -- the wine is delicious, and unique.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

8 November 2005 - A Month of Mondays (catching up!)

10/17/05 - Tasted a bunch of Jeffrey Davies Signature Selections...with the exception of Puech-Haut Coteaux du Languedoc '02, all heavily oaked, tannic and alcoholic as hell. The same day, we tasted through the new wines of Domaine Lignieres, which purchased a great little property called Domaine de Baronnes on the Montagne d'Alaric in Corbieres -- seems big money is transforming a modest winery making classic, wonderful, cheap Corbieres into a fancy estate making I don't know what, the wines were so muddy and soft or overdone and harsh...what's going on out there? The day was saved by a couple of surprises: Keuntz-Bas "Alsace" Blanc '04 -- cheapest, yet best wine I've ever tasted from this mediocre producer...Laplace Madiran '01 (Domaine d'Aydie) -- a loveable Tannat (I always thought this was an oxymoron)!

10/24/05 - Vouvray madness. A couple of weeks ago I learned that Francois Chidaine was probably out of the Poniatowski picture in Vouvray. After farming some of Poniatowski's best parcels for a few years (and making some of his own terrific wine as payment), looks like Poniatowski is selling the estate to another concern with lots more money than Chidaine...sad. Today we tasted Huet Vouvray Clos de Bourg (sec) '04 -- incredible...happy.

10/31/05 - Chesapeake Wine Company's seventh anniversary! We celebrated the next evening (a deluxe Tuesday Tasting) with eight terrific wines, my favorite of which had to be Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose 1996 Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon.

11/7/05 - Which brings us to yesterday. After tasting a couple of neat Alsace wines (Dirler Pinot '02 Vieilles Vignes and Boxler Edelswicker '03), the day could have ended after Vieux Telegraphe '03 Chateauneuf du Pape -- this might be the perfect vintage for a domaine like Vieux Telegraphe, whose wines always seem sort of prettily balanced (for a place like Chateauneuf)...combine that elegance with a blazing hot vintage like '03 and you get a massively rich, nearly -- but not! -- overripe wine with wonderful balance. Sensational wine! Done.

Monday, November 07, 2005

7 November 2005 - What can a cork tell you?

Not much. The cork in the photo came from a bottle of Chateau de Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone Cepage Syrah 1983. This was a bottle out of my basement -- it had been through four moves, never stored particularly well, basically knocked around for about twenty years.
Looks like hell, doesn't it? The cork was covered with mold on the end, soaked through, and broke on the way out of the bottle. Scary. So, how was the wine?

Extremely dark red, intensely roasted black fruit/herb/mineral/black earth smells and firm, snappy flavors that softened a bit with some air. Not a hint of oxidation -- in fact, the only complaint I had about the wine is that it's only marginally more accessible than it was twenty years ago.

In other words, the condition of the cork was meaningless. It usually is. Smell and taste the wine, leave the cork on the table, write a little message on it for your lover if it's a special occasion. Just don't let it cloud your judgement of the wine in the bottle!