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Nov 10, 2008 09:19 PM

TN: 12 Wines fit for a Birthday . . . mine.

OK, so – yeah. It was my 55th birthday on Saturday. On Sunday, we had some friends over to celebrate, including Lou and BettyLu Kessler, Hoke and Roxie Harden, Traci Michaelson, Tony Velebil, Lise Jeantet, and more. Lynn made a paella for the main course, and the wines flowed freely . . .

1997 Equinox Brut Blanc de Blanc (Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, California): Produced according to the méthode champenoise, this 100 percent Chardonnay spent nine years en triage, and was bottled with no dosage. Light straw gold in color, clear and bright, with a fine mousse; the bouquet is developing a light sherried note along with the yeasty, toasty aromatics; round, full, and flavorful in the mouth, beginning to show its age on the palate and through the long finish. Still quite good, but getting a bit long in the tooth.

2006 Bartolo Fiano (Central Coast AVA, California): This Italian varietal is quite scarce in California. Light straw in color, the wine is clear and brilliant to the eye; the bouquet shows white peaches, pears, a bit of honey, and lightly toasted hazelnuts; on the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, round, and quite flavorful; there is nice acidity, yet the wine has a softness on the palate due to a very slight level of residual sugar; the finish is clean and tasty. Very fine indeed.

2006 Westport Rivers Riesling, Estate Bottled (Southeastern New England AVA): Very light straw in color, clear and brilliant; there are beautiful aromas of kiwi and orange peel (but no petrol); the palate combines ripe fruit and crisp acidity, with a citrus-accented finish. Very fine.

2006 Wakefield “St. Andrews” Riesling (Clare Valley, Australia): More classically Riesling, with the petrol notes, pear, apricot, and a hint of lime zest; softer on the palate, yet fuller – at 13.5% alcohol, no tace of heat -- with layered flavors, nice depth, and a lingering finish. Very fine. Thanks to Hoke and Roxie for bringing this.

2006 Viñedos de Ithaca “Odysseus” Pedro Ximénez (Priorat DO, Spain): I don’t quite know where to begin, having never had a dry table wine produced from Pedro Ximénez before. The winemaker (and co-proprietor, along with her father Joseph Puig) is Sylvia Puig. The wine begins with a cold soak maceration lasting for approximately 18 hours; the wine was fermented partial in barrels and partly in stainless, using indigenous yeasts, with minimal handling in the cellar. The wine is quite unique and distinctive, with a richly fruity nose and palate, that seems both dry and sweet at the same time – there is no residual, but the wine is so unctuous, it “seems” it should be sweet . . . but it’s not; it’s also not at all hot, despite being 14.0% alcohol; good acidity, and a very long finish. Wonderful!

2006 Viñedos de Ithaca “Odysseus” Rosé (Priorat DO, Spain): The wine is produced using the saignée method, but I don’t know which Priorat (the winery makes two) this was drawn from. Very deep, dark rosé, full-bodied, richly flavored and absolutely delicious! Just yummy!!!

2006 Niepoort Redoma Branco (Douro DO, Portugal): Corked!

2006 Do Ferreiro Albariño, Cepas Vellas (Rias Baixas DO, Spain): This wine is 100% Albariño, from 200-year old vines! (Apparently they can prove it.) Fermented in stainless, and aged sur lie (how do you say that in Spanish?), this wine is straw-gold in color, clean and bright; round, full, classic Albariño is aroma and taste, but richer, fuller, and more complex than any other example of this grape variety I have ever tasted. Excellent. Thanks to Traci and Tony for bringing this one.

2005 Le Rocher des Violettes Montlouis-sur-Loire Demi-sec (Loire, France): This 100 percent Chenin Blanc is fermented half in stainless, half in old oak, and bottled after 6-8 months to preserve its freshness. Pale straw, clean and brilliant to the eye; the bouquet shows minerality, crisp pear and green apples; supple and smooth on the palate, there is firm acidity at the wine’s core, but this resides underneath the off-dry palate, which is quite flavorful and layered, and though delicious now, there is more development to come; the finish is long and lingering. Very fine indeed. Thanks to Lou and BL for this one.

1998 R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia “Viña Gravonia” Blanco (Rioja DO, Spain): Produced from 100 percent Viura, and aged for four years in barrel; fined with egg whites, but bottled without filtration. Golden straw in color, clean and clear; the perfumed bouquet is filled with peaches, apricots, floral and spice notes, accented with roasted hazelnuts; on the palate, the wine is round and smooth, well-balanced with good structure carrying the wine’s rich, supple flavors through the very long finish. Very fine indeed, and still has some development yet to come.

2006 Tablas Creek Vineyard “Espirit de Beaucastel,” Estate (Paso Robles AVA, California): Don’t ask me how I missed this one, but somehow, I did.

1954 Vintage Barbeito Reserva Velha Malvasia Madeira (Madeira DO, Portugal): Bottled in October of 2001, this 1954 vintage wine turned 54 this year, and that symmetry made me think this might be a good occasion; after all, I had just turned 55 . . . and so it was time – with my wife’s permission – to open this bottle, a wedding present from Stuart Yaniger. Decanted earlier that evening, the wine itself had thrown some sediment, but was clear and clean after decanting; the color was a medium coffee, shading to a light brown at the rim; the bouquet is very complex with aromas of toffee, dried apricot, fig, molasses, and more, with an edgy acidity; on the palate, the wine is medium bodied with bright acidity; the moderate sweetness is carried nicely by the wine’s bright acidity; the finish is quite long, and very flavorful. Excellent.


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  1. Happy Birthday! Very nice report.

    Good to hear about the Equinox, Wesport Riesling, dry PX and Viura. Any favs with the paella?
    The Viura as mentioned in the paella thread?


    1. Jason - who imports the 2006 Viñedos de Ithaca “Odysseus” Rosé (Priorat DO, Spain)? I'd like to track some down. I keep reminding my self to get some Equinox...

      1 Reply
      1. re: ibstatguy

        The bottles, unfortunately went into the recycling, which was picked up yesterday. But you can contact either the winery directly through their website -- -- or via email at mail@vinedos

        In California, the wines are available at The Spanish Table and K&L, to name two.

      2. Happy birthday! Sounds like a lot of fun.

        I've never tried a Fiano from anywhere but Italy. How does the CA one compare?

        Also, FYI, Eric Asimov of the NYTimes mentioned the Lopez de Heredia Rioja as the most singular white wine in the world. N. Joly and Emidio Pepe might have something to say, but I need to get my hands on a few of these Riojas.

        2 Replies
        1. Have you had the regular Do Ferreiro Albariño to compare? I've been a fan of this wine for a while but have not found the Cepas Vellas locally or been motivated enough to mail order yet.

          By the way, DeMaison Selections has a little video of the Cepas Vellas vineyard and the old vines available either off of their site or on youtube.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Nathan P

            I haven't had the "regular" bottling from Do Ferreiro, but the Cepas Vellas is quite UNLIKE your average Albariño/Alvarihno from Spain or Portugal, respectively. This is not bright, light-bodied, and "zippy" with acidity. This is much deeper, more complex, richer -- think of a "regular" Mâcon-Villages compared to a Corton-Charlemagne . . .

            1. re: jaykayen

              Mazl'tov! Still five more years to get to "il mezzo del cammin", half of the proverbial hundert tzwonzig.

              Any decent 53's out there?

              1. re: RicRios

                I fear I consumed my last 1953 on my 40th birthday -- the end of a long tradition that began when I turned 18. I have no doubt that some Sauternes, Vouvray Moelleux, and German TBAs are doing quite well, but I would be concerned about some of the red Bordeaux wines that -- up until 1993 or so were in fine-to-excellent shape. Perfect cellar conditions since release, and I'd have high hopes for Latour, Pétrus, Montrose, maybe Cos and Lafite, but without excellent storage for their entire life, I am certain even these will be on a downhill slide . . .

                The 1953 Louis Martini Cabernet was outstanding in 1983, but that bottle came directly from the winery's library and never left the winery itself until it went into my cellar. Bottles obtained through the "open" market have not aged as well.