TN: Seven Assorted Wines with Dinner (1970-2006)
So a group of hardly usual suspects came to our house for dinner, inspired in part by Susan Spicer's first cookbook, Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans . . .
Mystery Wine № 1. Pale straw in color, clean and bright; the bouquet is aromatic, vaguely reminiscent of perhaps a white Côtes-du-Rhône, with hints of honeysuckle, apricot and peach, accented with tropical fruits. This sounds more complex than the wine really is, but it's silky smooth on the palate, off-dry (1.9% r.s.), with nice fruit and delicate spice notes; the finish is long and lingering. I know, of course, what it is, but I'd say it's a nice summertime quaffer, and would perhaps work with some spicy crawfish! It's 2006 Pontchatrain Vineyards Roux St. Louis, Tanque IX, "Blanc de Bois"¹ (St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana), and a reasonable deal at $13.00. (Bought at the winery in 2007.)
n.v. Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, Mise en Cave 2004 (Champagne, France): Straw-gold in color, clean and bright with a good mousse and a fine bead; nice biscuity aromas, fairly rich in both the nose and mouth, with good acidity and a lingering finish. Very fine.
n.v. Larmandier-Bernier Brut Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs (Champagne, France): Produced solely from Chardonnay grown in the Côte des Blancs villages of Vertus, Cramant, Avize, and Oger, this wine is mostly comprised from grapes grown in the 2005 vintage, with a proportion of reserve wines (coming from the 2004 and 2002 vintages) at about 40%. Round, rich, and reasonably full for a BdB, with layers of complexity showing front-to-back. Superb!
2002 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, "Les Pucelles," Marc Morey et Fils (Burgundy, France): Christianne had mentioned that she's had some prematurely oxidized bottles of this wine in the past, but this bottle sings! Still youthful, with development yet to come, this is every bit the complex, wonderful white Burgundy one would expect for Marc Morey. Superb!
Mystery Wine № 2. Light dusty red in color, clean and clear; dried cherry and rose petals in the nose, with earth, spice, and light leathery notes. Clearly, by color alone, this looks to be perhaps a decade old; think old, traditionally-styled Rioja -- pale, aromatic and surprisingly flavorful -- and you get the idea. Nice fruit, light bodied but with good flavors, the finish is a tad drying but tasty. 2005 Homestead Winery Pinot Noir (Texas), from the Red River Valley region of North Texas, and I'm not at all disappointed in the wine; at $15, I'll certainly try it again when I'm next in Texas.
1970 Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves² (Bordeaux, France): This was from a Double Magnum (DMG), a 3.0L bottle that I purchased back in 1974 or 1975 when I worked at The Wine Merchant in Beverly Hills, California. IIRC, I think this was about $65 retail; I bought it with the intention of hanging on to it until the Millennium, or perhaps when I retired at age 65. Well, I was in the UK on December 31, 2000, and I began to wonder if this would last until 2018, so . . . dark garnet-red in color, clear and clean after decanting; the bouquet is rich, full, concentrated and classic LMHB, with cassis, ripe cherry, spice, leather, earth, and so much more -- very complex and layered; in the mouth, the wine is round and full, with great layers of fruit, earth, spice, leather, and more -- absolutely stunning, with good backbone, integrated tannins, and I'm not sure I need worry about more time in the cellar. Both Broadbent and parker have reported significant bottle variation with this specific vintage. It is not something I have ever experienced with the 1970, so maybe I've just been really lucky. All I know is that this bottle was truly magnificent!
2004 Domaine Baumard Coteaux du Layon, "Clos Ste Catherine" (Loire, France): Light honey-gold in color, with very fine Botrytis and ripe melon fruit aromas; light minerality and good acidity carry the wine's ample sweetness across the palate -- still quite youthful; delicious now, but given time, this should be stunning!
¹ Is it me, or shouldn't that have been "Blanche du Bois"???
² Today, of course, the appellation is "Pessac-Léognan", but back then, "Graves" was it.
I dunno . . . I'm searching . . . .
I wrote, "Texas, as has been pointed out previously, has a difficult time making high-quality wine for under $10/retail due to scale, if nothing else." I think that's still true. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/452735
In another thread -- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/454309 -- I wrote that, "To me -- and keep in mind that my experience with Texas wines is indeed limited (I've had perhaps some two dozen, perhaps a little less) -- Texas CAN produce some really tasty wines, but they are some years away from truly doing so in any meaningful, consistent way . . . "
I think that's still true. The Homestead Pinot is quite good, but in no small part because 1) it's only $15, and 2) it's from Texas! I doubt it would stand up in a tasting of California or Oregon Pinots; indeed, it would stick out like the proverbial "sore thumb." Better than -- I don't know, does Charles Shaw make a Pinot Noir? -- it's still nothing like a great Pinot (or a great Burgundy).
Truth is, the wine I find it reminds me of MOST is the nv Freemark Abbey Red Table Wine that was 85 percent 1973 Napa Valley Pinot Noir -- so light in color that Jerry Luper added 15 percent 1974 Napa Valley Petite Sirah, and it was STILL extremely light ruby in color . . . but at $3.95, it didn't matter. The QPR was sky-high!
Actually, the grape IS "Blanc du Bois." It was developed at the University of Florida between "a hybrid" (I can't find out which one for the life of me!) and a table grape variety called "Cardinal," specifically to combat Pierce's Disease.
It's mostly grown in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina, and -- correct grammar be damned! -- they SHOULD have called it "Blanche du Bois"!
Actually, the modern Texas wine industry was founded on the "noble" varietals - Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot and have won national and international awards and even made an 88 ratings in the Wine Spectator for some of these. However, as you can imagine, Texas is not Bordeaux or Burgundy.
There is a lot of action and experimentation these days with warm weather varietals from the Mediterranean - e.g. Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier and several others. Give them a try. Quality producers are Becker, Brennan Vineyards, Llano Estacado and there about a lot of new micro-wineries popping up around the state, some like Barking Rocks, LightCatcher and Sandstone Cellars that are doing a great job.
For a list of Texas wineries go to:
That is very true. But, if you know these regions they all started the same way (Phase 1).
Phase 1 - Make wines with names people recognize and may or may not make a decent wine experience.
But, Phase 2 is actually more important.....
Phase 2 - The preiod of discovery where the growers and winemakers experiment and focus on terroir wines; those that reflect the elements from the soil, climate and tastes of the locale.
But, Texas (particularly the High Plains) is not really different than other warm weather wine regions - it has hot days and cool nights, soil that is poor in nutrients to reduce vigor, but iron and rich with a connection to limestone. Most of all, this region has a wealth of people that know how to grow things.
By comparison, the Teaxs HIll Country has all of the visual aspects of the "Wine Country Experience", the dry hills that look much like those in California, southern France, Mendosa, B&B's and a growing list of fine restraurants.
Texas is not going to be Zin country either. But, it is becoming known for wines like Viognier, Granach, and Tempranillo.
Thanks for your comments.
>>> By comparison, the Teaxs HIll Country has all of the visual aspects of the "Wine Country Experience", the dry hills that look much like those in California, southern France, Mendosa, B&B's and a growing list of fine restraurants.<<<
I'm not sure how that's important, nor how it makes any sort of difference.
>>> Texas is not going to be Zin country either. But, it is becoming known for wines like Viognier, Granach, and Tempranillo. <<<
You mean Grenache/Garnacha?
>>> But, Texas (particularly the High Plains) is not really different than other warm weather wine regions - it has hot days and cool nights, soil that is poor in nutrients to reduce vigor, but iron and rich with a connection to limestone. Most of all, this region has a wealth of people that know how to grow things. <<<
I think the "warm weather" region is the key . . . and to THAT end, I think that, except in a few isolated areas, Viognier is not the way to go. OTOH, Garnacha, Tempranillo, and other (traditionally) Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties are. I have no doubt that the Homestead Pinot Noir was pretty much of a fluke, in that I don't expect Texas to every make great Pinot Noirs to rival the complexity and character of those produced in New Zealand, Oregon and California, for example. But Mataro, Touriga, Alicante, Reuda, Carignan, Syrah, Cabernet, etc . . . those should work nicely.
This certainly brought back memories, although not of the exact wines. I lived in L.A. during your tenure at the Wine Merchant, and as a young man learning about wine, would stop in from time to time. The only Ch. Petrus I have had was purchased there (during one of the deep dips in French wine prices): a 1971, which we had for out 10th anniversary in 1981. It was fabulous!
I have not had the 1970 La Mission, but my single favorite bordeaux is the '66.
Thanks for the reminders.