Kistler beats Chablis again at Ross Bott

Thursday, March 4, 2010. Second year in a row, Ross decided to conduct the same type of tasting. Premier Cru Chablis side by side with Kistler Chardonnay. Last year's exhaustive analysis inspired a follow-up battle at Green Hills country club. What would this year's inspire?

From the mailer by Ross Bott, the organizer:
One year and two weeks ago we had a comparative tasting of French Chablis and Kistler Chardonnays from the 2002 and 2005 vintages. Most people who attended the tasting found that, while the contrast was striking, both the Chablis and the Kistlers were outstanding in their own way. It was also a demonstration of how versatile the Chardonnay varietal is when grown in different climates. ...

Tonight, we'll repeat this tasting with mostly different Chablis and Kistlers. Both 2002 and 2005 are outstanding vintages in both Chablis and California. In 2002, the weather in Burgundy was largely warm and kind. Bernard Raveneau commented "2002 was the kind of vintage we'd love to see every year, it has excellent balance and loads of flesh". The 2005 vintage was even warmer, considered by some to be a signal of a different France with weather more akin to California. Many of the Chablis were as ripe and rich as Meursaults. In contrast, 2005 was a long, cool vintage in California, producing quite Burgundian Chardonnays.

These were serious wines (on paper) that drew some lurker Frenchy types back in. Surprisingly, there was about half the normal crowd. Oh well, more wine for me.

After 2 hours of tasting, for the francophile reader, the results might seem crazy. Here is the final group-rank, from top-ranked on the left.

1. 2005 Kistler "Vine Hill Vineyard", Russian River Valley
2. 2002 Kistler "Dutton Vineyard", Sonoma Valley
3. 2002 Kistler "Kistler Vineyard", Sonoma Valley
4. 2005 Kistler "Dutton Vineyard", Russian River Valley
5. 2005 Daniel Dampt "Les Lys"
6. 2005 Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru "Montee de Tonnerre"
7. 2002 Raveneau "Montee de Tonnerre"
8. 2002 Domaine William Fevre Chablis "Fourchaume"

California above Chablis!? Fevre and Raveneau at the very bottom!? Well, let me tell you from one francophile to another - here is my ranking that night:

1. 2005 Kistler "Vine Hill Vineyard", Russian River Valley
2. 2002 Kistler "Kistler Vineyard", Sonoma Valley
3. 2002 Domaine William Fevre Chablis "Fourchaume"
4. 2005 Kistler "Dutton Vineyard", Russian River Valley
5. 2002 Kistler "Dutton Vineyard", Sonoma Valley
6. 2002 Raveneau "Montee de Tonnerre"
7. 2005 Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru "Montee de Tonnerre"
8. 2005 Daniel Dampt "Les Lys"

Ok, so this makes a little more sense. But... some people really thought Fevre was "premoxed" (prematurely oxidized). Last year I tasted rich sour yogurt in it, loved that, and made it my #1 wine (crowd's #7). This year, I tasted the same yogurt, which is apparently to some a sign of oxidation. At least I am consistent (and so is the Bott crowd), since I rated this wine highly again against the majority consensus. I taste yogurtiness (rich creaminess) and sourness (acidity) on many top cru white Burgundies, combined with fruit. That said, the sour yogurt was so dominant in Fevre that there wasn't much else to that wine. Raveneau was a mess - grainy, bitter, grassy. Brocard was thick, metallic and bitter. Dampt was dusty honey syrup, creamy, hot, barley-like, and not tasty. The Kistlers were not good either - as Chris B. aptly put it - "lemon juice, oak + alcohol". Only Kistler "Vine Hill" 2005 was decent, IMHO - elegant cream + pineapple, slight toast + butter, a bit hot. For $100/bottle, I will pass, thank you very much.

Overall, my impression was worse this time than a year ago. I think the 2002 Chablis had gone downhill. Extremely thick and viscous for 1er Cru, disjointed and simply not tasty. If you have some, pray it's been stored impeccably and hurry to consume before they get worse. A disappointing affair. As always, I appreciated the opportunity to taste, learn, and pass my impressions on to my readers. Remember, wine is a capricious animal - for every inspired example, there are many disappointments. I cherish and remember them, for it is those disappointments that teach me to appreciate bliss that a rare bottle of great wine delivers. Till next time, the hunt goes on.


Anonymous said…
Hey Ross, I'm sure the tastings are as successful as ever. Is it possible to get back on the list? My email is ~Roxanne

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