A general assembly gathering of some of the nation’s most rabid fans side by side with an impressive line up of the world’s elite group of makers, negociants, and sellers of fine wine kicked off a day of informative tasting and recognition for outstanding performance this past Friday at the Wine Spectator’s New York Wine Experience.
Following on the heels of a strong opening night, the day’s first piece of recognition did not go to a winery, winemaker, or chef. Nor was it planned. Marvin Shanken’s serendipitous discovery of one event attendee, owner/operator of the wine-serious Doris and Ed’s New Jersey restaurant Jim Filip, who has participated in all 29 Wine Experiences created a spontaneous pause in the morning’s scripted agenda. Shanken granted an impromptu stage visit during his signature sometimes-sincere-and- sometimes-irreverent opening remarks. This pretty cool two and a half minute moment of thanks and warmth is captured here (more of my amateur Flip work) and you can also see it by clicking on this photo video link.
The morning kicked off with James Molesworth’s excellent Rhone Valley’s Rising Star presentation that moved North to South. The wines included:
1)2006 Jean-Louis Chave St.-Joseph
2)2007 Le Vins de Vienne Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Sotanum
3)2006 Michel & Stephane Ogier Cote-Rotie Lancement Terroir de Blonde
4)2006 Domaine du Coulet Cornas les Terrases du Serre
5)2007 Perrin & Fils Vinsobres Les Haut de Julien
6)2007 Chateau de St. Cosme Gigondas Le Claux
7)2007 Domaine Giraud Chateauneuf du Pape Les Gallimardes
8)2007 Domaine St.-Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape Auguuste Favier Reserve
My favorite wine of the first four from the North was hands down the Ogier Lancement Cote Rotie. Unfortunately, it will probably be the only time I taste the wine since only 75 cases were made and the bottle retails for $232. It comes from 10 acres of vines and is Ogier’s smallest production wine. He compares it to having his own Burgundy Grand Cru. The wine has flowers on the nose and amazing density combining with real finesse. The purity and balance in this wine is unbelievable. If you ever have a chance to buy this wine and you are in the mood for a splurge, go for it.
The strength of the 2007 Southern Rhone vintage was in evidence with the last four wines. The wine I found most interesting of the bunch was not a CDP, but the Perrin from Vinsobres in the northeast corner of the southern Rhone. Appropriate for a northern/southern Rhone, the blend is 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. Drinking the velvety wine transported me to its origins with animal aromas, licorice, and herbs. Molesworth mentions he gets flavors of tampenade. Possible.
A personal highlight of the entire event was Matt Kramer’s look at indigenous Sicilian grapes which uncovered three great wines including one mind blowing desert wine that smells and tastes like no other wine. I will cover those wines in an upcoming post touching on a couple of interesting Kramer perspectives that are worth sharing for those of us interested in real wine, showing their true roots and terroir, at reasonable price points.
The day held a few other tastings including the Wine Spectator Top 10 in which the number 1 rated wine was clearly the best of the bunch for me…2005 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta Colchagua Valley. The wine showed spice and herbs, tobacco, violets, and smoked meats in the nose. It was blackish purple in color, amazingly soft in the mouth, with hints of chocolate flavors. It is a truly exotic wine from the Southern Hemisphere.
The Right Bank tasting was headed by the charming and venerable Christian Moueix, but the tasting was less interesting to me. We did get to try some older wines including 1989 Latour a Pomerol, 1990 Chateau La Grave and 1995 Trotanoy. The 98 Magdelaine was really disappointing. These wines were of reasonable to excellent quality, they just did not excite me. Interestingly and a good tip, James Suckling mentioned that he seeks out La Grave on restaurant wine lists as a target value at around $60. It’s a good tip, the wine is excellent, and it was large of Suckling to share his favorite personal restaurant value wine with 1000 people.
The day closed with more trophy wine immersion at the Critic’s Choice Grand Tasting. Some of my favorite wines on the second night came from the Rhone group and included the 2006 Tardieu-Laurent. The wine is a low extraction version of 100% Grenache creating an unusually elegant Grenache based wine as opposed to the more familiar powerfully charged versions. The 2007 Beaucastel was a mind-blowing fully packed wine as was the 2007 Vieux Telegraphe, underscoring the vintage’s reputation and depth and richness of the wines. The Vieux Telegraphe was a little more approachable, which was unusual because it is a wine that I always felt showed its best down the line a bit more.
One more takeaway from the evening was the 2006 Two Hands Ares, their top Shiraz. The wine reminded me of a luxury Cote Rotie and debunked the Aussie curse for overly extracted fruit bombs. The wine showed stuffing, finesse, pinpoint balance, and restraint. I highly recommend the wine.
A final tip. In speaking with the folks at Catena, I learned that the sub $20 value Catena 2007 Malbec from this outstanding vintage is difficult to tell apart from their more exclusive Alta Malbec. I did not taste it and it is just coming to market, so probably something to watch for.
Overall, it was a great day of fantastic indulgence in great wines and wine culture. The winemakers that come to NY from their farms in the European countryside to stand in front of thousands of well-heeled collectors and sellers of fine wine are often outside their comfort zone. Winning awards and presenting to packed ballrooms is as different as hand pruning terraced rows of vines as you can imagine. It is just wonderful to connect with these folks and get a chance to thank them for the special product they share that allows us to touch and revel in a small slice of their cherished remote country terroir.
Update: Tom Matthews, Wine Spectator’s Executive Editor, reminds me that not all the wine press “blew it” and that James Laube rated the 89 Ridge Monte Bello 91 points on release, and 92 points in a retrospective tasting in 1999. Good job James and thanks for the correction, Tom.