Trips out to Cleveland occur w/ frequency as it is home base for my father in law and serves as my wife's proverbial stomping grounds. Considering that the Indians failed to close out the hated Boston Red Sox, coupled with a slow start by the Cavaliers, our most recent visit demanded copious amounts of libation to numb our sense of sports related melancholy. Loren Sonkin put together an evening of mythic proportions, attracting people near and far to indulge in flights that showcased Champagne, the Loire, California Pinot Noir and of course, a mini-vertical of Domaine de Pegau. The bubbles catalyzed the evening in lovely fashion....
2000 Roederer Rose
A light salmon color w/ golden speckled hues. Extremely yeasty aromatics of puff pastry, dried honey and doughy, vanilla cream are quite classy in nature. The palate is vigorous and youthful, slowly revealing dried cherry and citrus zest elements in its laser guided attack. Should evolve beautifully w/ some additional cellaring, 92 points.
NV Ruinart Blanc de Blanc Brut Champagne
If only this grower bubbly brought a fraction of its aromatic intensity along to the palate, this would have been a stunning performance. The scents were vivid, complex and captivating, ejecting an array of spicy, buttery hazelnuts, graphite and candied lemons through the air. Unfortunately it was soft in the mouth, a bit whimsical and finished in an abrupt fashion, which kept grounded my excitement. I personally demand more cut, precision and length from Champagne, but still found this to be a very good rendition, 87 points.
For the record, the 3 Loire whites demonstrated how sensual and pure the nose of a fine, young Chenin can dazzle the senses in striking, distinct fashion. Being under the radar and modest are the two most hallowed characteristics for a connoisseur in search of value and these world class gems fit the bill to a t.
2005 Beliviere Coteaux du Loir L’Effraie
A subtle showcase of lovely allure is found in the nose of ground ginger and cinnamon, evoking a sense of quiet seduction that begs for another sniff. While the palate is not overwhelmingly powerful and offers a fine dollop of sweetness, this medium weight Chenin possess fine complexity and precision in its honeyed pear, nutmeg and brown sugar drizzled apple notes. Nicely done, 90+ points.
2005 Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos du Breuil
This young Chidaine was my favorite wine of the flight, as its exotic, complex and flirty personality seduced me from the get go. Notes of warm slate, golden flowers, chamomile, and honeyed limes had a sense of flamboyance that was purely exquisite. She got quite serious on the palate too, demonstrating depth, length and a stony laced finish. What a wonderful display, 94 points!
2005 Huet Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Sec
Considering that it is heresy to imbibe such a young Huet, we sinners caught a glimpse of what makes this renowned producer of Vouvray so stunning. The most intensely mineral Chenin of the flight was a prude in relation to the Chidaine, hinting at spicy white pepper, persimmon, bitter orange and layers of citrus fruits. While currently backward and unevolved, this young Huet is sure to a stunner during the next decade, 92+ points.
2001 Patz & Hall Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir
Holy lord was this explosive! Initially the scents were subtle, but wondrous in their complexities offering up bacon grease, smoked cedar, floral elements and caramel coated strawberries. Rich, vibrant layers of opulent Pinot Noir fruit oozed over the palate, cranking out a smorgasbord of heady raspberry and cherry ganache that were coated in pure satin. By the end of the glass this Pinot had erupted and authoritatively took the flight with ease, a dazzling Pisoni expression! 96+ points.
2005 Gainey Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills Limited Selection
Thank goodness this is a limited selection so it won’t have the opportunity to stain the palates of too many others! Kidding, a bit…being sandwiched in between two rich, pleasure pushing Pinots could be considered cruel and unusual punishment and the Gainey was certainly the unfortunate victim. I found this wine to be a blowzy, superficial effort from famed Santa Rita Hills fruit which had little sense of distinctiveness or excitement. The over-ripe pomegranate and kirsch notes were thin, austere and currently showing a bit too much oak. I don’t think any miracles will happen in the cellar, but I imagine there will be a bit more integration and harmony in time, 84 points.
2003 Sea Smoke Southing
I’ve enjoyed this wine on several occasions and it continues to age beautifully. Full of the telltale woodsy forest herbs, sweet sage, smoke and cola scents that seem to exemplify this wine’s personality year in and year out. The plush wild berry and dark cherry fruit is full of sappy, sensuous and outright delicious. I could drink this by the magnum, 93 points.
Let it be said that verticals of Pegau are a rollercoaster ride of pleasure that tend to conclude w/ the proverbial ‘drawing of straws’ to determine which wine pleases you the most. Lineups of this nature are worthy of just about any trek, whether it be your oasis at the end of a sweaty crawl through sun-drenched desert, a parched canoe ride through the Panama canal, or…a flight from New York to Cleveland
Classical bretty notes got the Burgundy camp extremely excited, hinting at a bit of horse sweat, saline minerality, pipe tobacco, dusty leather and hearty plum notes that tug at the hearts of Pegau traditionalists. A racy palate, loaded w/ brisk acids (not unlike the Charvin of this vintage) that thrust forth loads of white pepper spiced fruit, submerging the structure of sweetly dissolved tannins. To my palate, this was the weakest showing of the Pegau flight, but I definitely wouldn’t kick this mature lady out of bed, 93 points.
It is staggering how different this wine is from the Reservee as I found nearly no similarities at all between their aromatic profiles. Rich, heady notes of kirsch liqueur, crème de cassis and Turkish coffee could have fooled me that they were the product of a riper vintage (at least riper fruit, perhaps a more severe selection?). The palate is fat and generous, with layers of fruit coating the notions of sweet Provencal herbs that have yet to fully emerge in this wine. Far less evolved than the Reservee (thought it spent longer time in wood?) and to me, a more impressive wine, 95+ points.
Yeah, yeah, I am a sucker for this wine and it never fails to dazzle me. This was the first and only case purchase I have ever made for personal consumption and each time I taste it, I’m reminded why. An otherworldly nose of Asian spices, graphite, fresh cut cedar and oodles of garrigue stuns me every time I experience it. The mouth-feel is surreal, rendering me in somewhat of a ‘Pegau trance’ as flavors of pepper, mesquite spices, crème de cassis and ripe figs are layered like fine slices of Baklavah pastry. Out of this world, as this synthesis of Provencal power has nowhere to go but up, 97+ points.
2001 (served blind, Loren you clever character)
Chateauneuf du Pape all the way, sporting some brett-like seasonings, roast beef and broodingly deep black currant notes in the nose. A deeply concentrated, tightly structured young wine that delivers oodles of roasted Provencal herbs in a display of power that is seldom found in any other area of the world that grows these varietals. Dynamite stuff Laurence, has a ways to go before it is anywhere near mature, 96+ points.
The ripest, most massive Reservee of them all should prove to be an absolute blockbuster in terms of longevity. The heat of the vintage enabled the Ferauds to conjure a massive, inky breed of Chateauneuf du Pape that seemed to harness its power better than just about any other wine of this vintage. Notes of cassis, dark fig, grilled game, pepper, cinnamon and cocoa brood from the glass w/ an underlining density and intensity that sends shivers down the spine. The palate is loaded w/ liqueur driven fruits that are driven by an unevolved, muscular personality that reverberates on the imposing finish for as long as the watch can tick. A legend in the making that is a tribute to old vine Grenache and will be an absolute treat to watch evolve, 98+ points.
I’ve tasted this wine on 4 separate occasions and this has to be the best showing yet (which is a great sign for you guys that loaded up on this vintage). It has continued to pout on weight in the bottle and flirted w/ some exotic character yesterday evening that I had not detected from previous tastings. Surprisingly developed notes of deep, dark currant, meadow herbs, grilled beef, brewed coffee, cocoa and a touch of boysenberry highlight the profile of this young Chateauneuf. This showing demonstrated more sinew, persistence and opulence than previous tastings and left me very optimistic about the potential of this young wine, 95 points.
2004 Mordoree Reine de Bois
The Mordoree luxury cuvee was an absolutely decadent, inky 2004 Chateauneuf that belies the traditionally racy, leaner profile of the vintage. Notes of fresh mint, molten chocolate, blueberry ganache and fig fruit bombard the taster with intensity and oozing extract. This wine is extremely youthful, remarkably structured and full of mouth searing tannin that demands consumer patience. A blockbuster effort that should be forgotten for close to five years, 96+ points.
Gotta love the additional buffer wines that are brought 'just in case' the dozens of other bottles didn't satiate the general appetite for destruction quite well enough...
2003 Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Raymond Roure
The epitome of how ‘lesser Rhone appellations’ excelled in 2003, by ratcheting up the ripeness, enabling levels of uncanny depth and generosity of texture seldom found in the region. A potent, round expression of dark plum, Christmas pudding, hard spices and kirsch greet the taster with delight as well as decadence. Pure and full textured in the mouth, bringing loads of pleasure and wonderful harmony, 92 points.
2005 Baumard Quarts de Chaume
An absolutely delectable dessert, full of dried apricot, strawberry preserve, honeysuckle blossom, over-ripe pineapple and a mélange of sweet spices that never overwhelm or cloy. While the wine was exceptionally endowed and rich, the precision, delineation and focus are what set Baumard apart from the rest of the pack. The poor man’s Y’quem of the Loire strikes again, 95 points!