Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Adieu to a Wine Buddy

My friend Matt (aka Tooch) and I have been tasting wine together since 2008. We've thrown dozens of tastings and shared hundreds of bottles. It's fair to say that most of the best wines I've had over the past three years have been tasted with Matt. Along with several others, he's been at the core of an unofficial wine tasting gang. (Hazing consists of tasting through 10 fruit bomb syrahs in half an hour.)

Since he's leaving DC and moving across the country, a small group of friends got together for one last wine hoorah. We started off at our adopted home of Weygandt Wines and moved to Ripple, a relatively new restaurant in DC's Cleveland Park neighborhood. The food was unique, tasty and masterfully prepared, as usual. However, it was the wines that stood out.

It's been interesting to see how our palates have changed over time, and how they've stayed the same. I have always loved syrahs from the Northern Rhone, and we tasted two spectacular ones at Matt's goodbye tasting. Over the past year, I've gone from a lover of German riesling to an addict. I tend toward rieslings from the Mosel Valley, while I think it's fair to say that Matt enjoys wines from the nearby Nahe region more, or at least more frequently. This tasting included a great riesling from quintessential Nahe producer Dönnhoff as well.

Well, enough of an intro. Let's get down to the wines.

Cheers, Matt, and I hope to see you back in DC soon for even more great wine.

Pre-Game Wines
We started off the evening at Weygandt Wines with two whites and a red.
  • 2006 Recaredo Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature - Spain, Cava
    This was the first vintage-dated Cava I've ever had. In fact, I had never seen one before. It showed a lot of biscuity aromas, along with lemons, pistachios and a hint of balsamic as well. It has a tangy palate with razor-like acid, but it's still quite full. Lots of lime, chalk and a flavor that reminds me of a green olive. Long finish. The bubbles dissipated quite quickly, but it was still a solid Cava. (88 pts.)
  • 2006 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Sauvignon No. 2 - France, Loire Valley, Touraine
    This is one of the most unique sauvignon blancs I've had in a very long time. The aromas are really fantastic. It started off with floral and honeysuckle aromas, and opened up to show banana peel, lamp oil and an aroma that reminded me of soil with lots of rocks. The palate has some weight to it, with pulpy white peach fruit, and medium+ acid. I really enjoyed the complexity and balance of this wine. It has a synthetic cork, which is a shame because I'm curious what this would taste like if it had a few more years on it. (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Domaine Guion Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige - France, Loire Valley, Bourgueil
    I didn't know the price point when I tasted this wine, but I would've guessed about $40. I was amazed to hear it was less than $15 a bottle. This is a very serious cabernet franc that offers the depth and complexity of a wine three times the price. Wonderful aromas of sweet blackberries, tobacco, leaves and dense loam. The tannins are fine and almost feel leathery on the palate. The red plum fruit, smoke, beef brisket and green olive flavors glide over the palate. This wine is big, and could improve for years. This wine is a candidate for 2011 Value of the Year. (90 pts.)
Whites with Dinner
What an interesting bunch of chardonnays. This was my first time tasting a Marcassin chardonnay, and it was quite an experience. This being a tasting in Tooch's honor, we had to have a Dönnhoff Riesling Großes Gewächs thrown in, of course.
  • 2008 Jean Collet Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre - France, Burgundy, Chablis 1er Cru
    I liked this wine a lot, even though it is somewhat of an anomoly as a 2008 Chablis. The aromas are really explosive, with white peach, mixed nuts and circus peanut candy. The palate is plump and bold. The main flavor reminds me of bruised yellow apples, although chalk and honeysuckle are there throughout. Acid lingers on the finish. I never would've guessed this as a 2008 Chablis, but it was very nice. (89 pts.)
  • 2004 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard - California, Sonoma Coast
    This wine was met with mixed enthusiasm by the tasting team. Thoughts about this wine are usually prefaced with: "This isn't really my style of chardonnay, but..." Yes, this chardonnay demands attention. It stands up and grabs your palate and takes it for a crazy ride. The wine is very cloudy in the glass. The aromas changed with air, and each time I smelled this wine I detected another aroma. All sorts of aromas: lemon custard, roasted peanuts, smoke, almond biscotti. Big and bold are words too weak for this wine. Flavors of pineapple upside-down cake, apricot, lemons, buttercups, etc., etc. It's extreme on the palate, but by no means overoaked. A sweet vanilla flavor lingers underneath, but it's equally matched by a dose of chalky minerals. The oily, buttery mouthfeel, combined with the acid, makes this a really intense experience. It's not white Burgundy, but it's a treat. (94 pts.)
  • 2009 Crowley Chardonnay - Oregon, Willamette Valley
    I found this wine to be very balanced. Aromas of banana peel, pear butter and honey. The palate shows creamy fruit, highlighted by just a bit of oak. The green apple flavors and the acid keep it in line. This is a very drinkable chardonnay with all the elements in the right place. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs - Germany, Nahe
    I tasted this wine earlier in 2011 and loved it, and it showed even better at this tasting. The aromas are intoxicating: white peaches, whipped honey, lemon-lime and slate. The palate is absolutely delicious, showing plump orchard fruit, apricot and pineapple. The acid and minerals are really high, but the wine maintains a beautiful sense of balance. It's intense, yet so easy to sip. I know Dönnhoff GGs can age, and this surely has a lot of flavors to unravel over time, but it's incredible right now. (93 pts.)
Pierre Gonon St. Joseph
It was a treat to taste two Gonon syrahs with twenty years of age difference between them. Both were fantastic, but I gave the edge to the 1989. While the 2009 was great, it seems time does wonderful things to Gonon's wine.
  • 1989 Pierre Gonon St. Joseph Les Oliviers - France, Rhône, St. Joseph
    With twenty years of age, this wine showed very strongly. Mature, sexy aromas of red plums, violets, beef bouillon and charcoal. With air, the wine opened up to show herbal (thyme) and bacon notes. The wine glides over the palate with soft tannins. It's meaty, with cranberry, charcoal and thyme flavors. The acid and rhubarb flavor combine to give this wine a sappy mouthfeel. A distinct note of mint leaf on the finish. What a complex wine, and a great way to bid adieu to an old wine tasting buddy. (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Pierre Gonon St. Joseph - France, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
    It was fun to taste this wine after tasting a 1989 from the same producer. This baby is packed tight, but it's showing serious promise. The aromas are powerful and bold: beef jerky, charcoal and an aroma that reminds me of cow hide. The palate is dense with gritty tannins and plump black fruit. Secondary flavors of pepper, coffee and beef are already present, but will surely unwind with some age. Lovely coffee note on the finish. I love what Pierre Gonon does with syrah, and tasting both of these wines made me realize I need to keep some Gonons in the cellar. (92 pts.)
Three Big Reds
These wines were very impressive, and went very well with my steak dinner.
  • 2005 Celler Vall Llach Priorat IDUS - Spain, Priorat
    This is a big, boastful blend of carignan, merlot, grenache, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. The nose is a burst of liquer, black licorice and chocolate-covered berries. The palate is full of ripe fruit, but the tannins and acid come in to save it from being flabby or offensive. Nice black cherry and mocha on the finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2004 Copain Syrah Broken Leg Vineyard - California, Anderson Valley
    I've been drinking a lot of older Copain, with much success, and this was no exception. That said, I do think it's in a bit of a strange stage right now, and could probably benefit from another few years in the bottle. Aromas of plum, charcoal and hints of black olive. The palate has gritty tannins, fresh acid, ripe purple fruit, charcoal notes and a long finish. It's good, but I feel like it's still wound up and needs some more time to show its full potential. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Cayuse Grenache God Only Knows - Washington, Walla Walla Valley
    Aromas of wild strawberries, red plums and hint of bacon. It's big and juicy on the palate with fresh plums and blackberry extract. This is just plain delicious. It doens't have much in the way of complexity (maybe it needs time?), but it is way up there on the yummy scale. (90 pts.)

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