Saturday, March 31, 2012

2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape - a great vintage

Last week, Angeles Wine Agency ran their annual trade tasting in Fort Mason, San Francisco. I've covered these tastings in the past. Every year, for me this is the best opportunity to size up the soon-to-be-released vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape ("CdP"), across a broad spectrum of recognizable producers imported into this country. See their CdP portfolio here.

I only drink CdP on occasion, as I tend the find the wines not very versatile - too big and bold for most food pairings, particularly in the riper vintages like 2007 and 2009 (much acclaimed by famous critics, but not me). With age they do soften and become more appealing and nuanced. In fact, some of greatest vinous epiphanies I've had were from aged Chateauneuf-du-Pape (documented here and here). But by and large, of all the reds in France, drinking Chateauneuf-du-Pape is probably my least enthusiastic affair. All that said, I must say that I was swept off my feet by the superb quality of 2010.

I examined twenty-five 2010 CdP reds. These are serious wines of depth and concentration, with great tannic structure and acidic balance, but without the jamminess and over-the-top fruitiness that I found in 2007 and 2009. While not 100% of the wines appealed to me, the best examples dazzled the palate with elegant black olive and white pepper. My favorites (after several re-tastes, to confirm) were Le Vieux Donjon (my wine of the tasting), Bosquet des Papes (deliciously liqueur-ish), and Clos des Brusquieres (with a hint of whiter pepper).

My faves: Bosquet des Papes, Le Vieux Donjon (my "wine of the tasting"), and Clos des Brusquieres

Overall, based on this and few other 2010 tastings and reports, it appears that 2010 may be the vintage of the century across France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Loire), definitely for reds, perhaps comparable with 2005, perhaps even better, and potentially great for the whites as well. The prices on the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape will notch a bit higher than 2009, unfortunately, but I believe that this is a vintage that will appeal to both old and new-world wine fans across the board. And it will age. Stock up, my friends!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

La Paulee San Francisco 2012 and the Impressive 2009 Red Burgundy

Burgundy is expensive. Burgundy is ethereal. Burgundy in 2009 is magnificent. But if you have to ask "how much?", then you can't afford it. But wait... there is good news...

A month ago I attended La Paulee in San Francisco - an extraordinarily extravagant and gastronomically mind-blowing event that celebrates fine wines of Burgundy. I've written about it in the past - terms like "embarrassment of riches" have come to mind. Despite the lofty $300 admission fee, this grand tasting is for anyone who is into Burgundy or may be getting into it, and who has the mental and gastric fortitude to navigate through over a hundred wines of the highest order within three short hours. I got to taste thousands of dollars worth of the finest wines in the world, poured by iconic winemakers, accompanied by delectable bites from the hautest restaurants in the city. So worth it IMHO!

My focus was on the reds. There is a bit of controversy about the 2009 vintage in the wine geek circles. One camp believe that the reds are too ripe, another - that they are just beautiful. Barring few (leaner, stemmier, or overdone) exceptions, I reaffirmed my affinity to the latter camp. The biggest takeaway from the tasting is that 2009 is an absolute, hands-down killer vintage for red Burgundy. Across the board, these wines are delicious, seductive, beautifully perfumed, with balanced flavor of fruit, earth, and acidity, already approachable, but not devoid of tannic backbone that will allow them to improve with age. Though richer, fruitier, and riper than every vintage since 2003, they are still nothing like California Pinot "sweet cola" - not even close. To my palate, it's very hard to go wrong with 2009 red Burgundy - there I said it!  The last vintage where nearly everything was great across the board was 2005. I wish I had bought more of it. The 2009 is more approachable early, but it is undoubtedly the best vintage since 2005. A vintage like this, in my opinion, favors lower-level wines - regional and lesser village appellations, because you get tremendous value for your money. Despite what I said in the first paragraph, in 2009 you can get good red Burgundy for under $30, sometimes even under $20.

That's not to say that 1er and Grand Cru aren't sublime -- they are!  But the prices, oh the prices! There was stampede to the Domaine Ponsot table where Mr. Laurent Ponsot himself was pouring four grand crus that mere mortals will never get to experience - Corton Bressandes, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Clos Saint Denis, and Clos de la Roche - elixir in a glass! If you have to inquire about the price, then you CAN'T afford it! (hint: $600+/btl).

Laurent Ponsot and his quartet of sublime 2009 Grand Cru

But the winery that stole my heart was Domaine Fourrier, represented by the second-generation owner-winemaker Jean-Marie Fourrier. These wines seemed to benefit from non-use of stems - bright, juicy, brilliant, and surprise surprise - even more expensive than Ponsot (as in $900/btl - sure I'll take a case!)

Jean-Marie Fourrier and Iron Chevsky

Fourrier's wines were my favorite of the tasting!

On the less expensive end of the scale, I was impressed with wines of Hospices de Beaune. Unfortunately those are auctioned off by the barrel. Literally. They get bought by serious wine folk who bottle them themselves. So good luck finding.

Hospices de Beaune - delicious but hard to find!

By the way, I was pleasantly surprised with a few examples of white Burgundy, which I had generally left for dead in 2009. In general, the same factors that make the reds glorious - warmer, richer, more approachable, make the whites flabby. However, tasting just a couple of whites - from William Fevre and Domaine Roulot - showed otherwise. They were quite good, with sufficient freshness and acidity. I am still skeptical, but perhaps a bit more open-minded about the 2009 whites, while I continue to recommend 2007 and 2008.

Here is the slideshow of my favorite wines and bites. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Evchik does Chablis

Those 2007 and 2008 Chablis are drinking well, my friends.
On a nice sunny Spring weekend... "Gimme some!", says my 11-months old...

Mmm mmm tasty!

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