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SEATTLE TASTING GROUP DOES OLDER NORTHERN RH�NE REDS - Bellevue, WA, USA (10/1/2004)

Michael and Claire Gordon were so kind to host the STG last night with an eagerly anticipated theme of older Northern Rhône reds. Alas, a number of tasters were unavailable. We were very sad to miss out on Tracy, Susan and Dave. Frown
We started off with a pair of whites and some delicious cheese (the chaource lincet was particularly delicious) as we waited for folks to arrive. The fiery sunset over Lake Washington with the Olympic Mountains the downtown Seattle in the background was particularly idyllic.
  • 2001 E. Guigal Condrieu La Doriane - Condrieu, Northern Rhône, Rhône, France
    My wine. This was *much* better than a bottle enjoyed just over a year ago. The nose is smoky, spicy, tropical, floral and insanely ripe. Over time the smoke integrates considerably. The palate is explosive with a remarkable lush texture, yet this remains very fresh and exotic. The finish is long and spicy with copious notes of nutmeg. Fantastic bottle! (93 pts.)
  • 2000 Garretson Wine Company Roussanne The Limóid Cior - Paso Robles, Central Coast, California, USA
    The wine is very cloudy. The nose is extremely ripe, almost rotten, with intense notes of peach, stewed pears and even some indelible marker. The palate is fairly bright with acidity, but the wine is not terrible focused on the palate. Load of ripe fruit. Very tough comparison to the far more precise and exotic La Doriane. (88 pts.)

We elected to dig into one flight of reds before dinner. We got off to a nice start with one surprise waiting...
  • 1988 Paul Jaboulet Aîne Hermitage La Chapelle - Hermitage, Northern Rhône, Rhône, France
    Compost and forest floor rule here with a bit of an oxidized note. The palate shows soy and more sour components. However, this wine seemed damaged. Despite that, it was still an interest wine with nicely resolved mouthfeel. (85 pts.)
  • 1989 Paul Jaboulet Aîne Hermitage La Chapelle - Hermitage, Northern Rhône, Rhône, France
    This was my wine of the night (WOTN). Very mature on the nose with roasted meat, beef blood, truffle, violet, spicy cinnamon and pine needle. Wow, the palate is extremely ripe with loads of sweet black fruit. My notes have "RIPE, RIPE, RIPE!" scribbled away. This is really well resolved and drinking quite well right now. The finish shows some gravel and with air notes of tar. Delicious wine! (95 pts.)
  • 1993 Deer Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Monterey, California, USA
    Michael was cruel to sneak this into the tasting! This was a bottle than ended up in his cellar, and he snuck it in as a trick. Amazingly, it received ratings of 91, 92, 90 and 90 from the four of us not in the know. The nose was strange, almost insane with asian 5-spice and the oddest note of matchstick that I have ever smelled on a wine. There was a certain sharp element to the nose which I couldn't place. Very unique. The palate is spicy and fairly tart, tasting of cinnamon red hots, fairly sweet and pure. The finish is still quite tight, yet this seemed to have life. Go figure. I started out at 88 points and then upgraded to 90 shortly before we discussed the wines. (90 pts.)

We briefly paused for a dinner of perfectly grilled, rare lamb chops along with steamed broccoli and a lovely brown rice and dried fruit dish. Delicious! We then dove back into the reds for a terrific flight.
  • 1989 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage - Hermitage, Northern Rhône, Rhône, France
    This had a fabulous nose of beef blood, pine needle and minerality, and with more air layers of tarry and smokey black fruit come out to play, nice! OMG, the palate is rich and deep with layers of sweet fruit and smokiness. There was a certain roasted character throughout this wine, in a good way. The finish is powerful yet nicely resolved with no hard edge to be found. This was a thrilling wine that I would have liked to spend a whole evening sipping slowly. (94 pts.)
  • 1990 E. Guigal Hermitage - Hermitage, Northern Rhône, Rhône, France
    A slightly odd nose with putty, mineral, clove, and then some leathery, bretty smells which added a lot of intrigue to the wine. Much lighter in complexion than some of the other wines and offering less sweetness, this was still gorgeous in a more Burgundian vein, pretty and feminine. The palate showed loads of salty minerals with very little sweetness. To me this actually still seems pretty tightly wound, although perhaps it will dry out long before the tannin is resolved. I enjoyed this more than most of the other tasters. (91 pts.)
  • 1990 Cave de Tain l'Hermitage Hermitage les Nobles Rives - Hermitage, Northern Rhône, Rhône, France
    This was the wine of the night for many, although to me the 1989 La Chapelle outshone it with greater complexity but perhaps a bit less weight. The nose shows soy, roasted plum, and eventually tar and smoked meat, another stunner! The palate shows a simply massive expression of old-world Syrah, very sweet and remarkably ripe reflecting the vintage, just packed to the gills with impressive fruit. Very expressive minerality adds a savory character and really keeps this interesting. This one made me want to grill up some more lamb to have with it. (Mind you, I had already had 5 chops...) (95 pts.)

A final flight of reds had one more surprise in store.
  • 1993 Penfolds Shiraz Grange - South Australia, Australia
    Another ringer. The dominant element on the nose is a high-pitched violet. The nose is hyperripe with roasted plum, very intense and pungent. The palate is exotically ripe with banana, tar, and blackberry. The finish shows intense structure, a little searing almost. I knew this was a different animal, but I never would have guessed this was Australian. However, the very floral nose and different character led me to write this in my notes: "Is this really old world?? I don't think so or it will be a surprise." Cool ringer and very impressive wine! (94 pts.)
  • 1990 Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne - Hermitage, Northern Rhône, Rhône, France
    My bottle. The nose shows iron, mineral, earth, horse and leather, terrific old-world wine in sharp contrast to the Grange served alongside it. The palate is very black and brooding with copious notes of roasted meat, espresso, both savory and sweet at the same time. Despite a medium weight frame that is a lot lighter than some of the other wines served this evening, this that chewy personality I love in a wine. This actually has gorgeous balance, almost impeccable, and that is what really made me appreciate this. A hint of drying tannin on the finish suggests this still needs a bit of time. As I recall, I liked this more than a number of other tasters. (93 pts.)
  • 1991 Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne - Hermitage, Northern Rhône, Rhône, France
    Clearly oxidized, showing some astringency and clear signs of damage. That's too bad, as there is still plenty of tarry and meaty fruit and pine needle here. Not rated.

We finished up with a delicious apple and pear (I think?) tart and four sticky wines.
  • 1996 Ferrari-Carano Eldorado Gold - Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA
    A late harvest blend of 50% Sémillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc. Deep in color. This is hyperripe with loads of caramel and botrytis. Sticky and ripe, a little cloying but still fun. (86 pts.)
  • 2001 Paul Jaboulet Aîne Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise - Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Southern Rhône, Rhône, France
    The label lists this at 15% alcohol. This is hot, hot, hot, searing with alcohol. This has a gorgeous nose of orange, but the alcohol leaps out of the glass. This was served at cellar temp, but this seems to need to be 10 degrees cooler to tame the burn. It does have lush mouthfeel, but I really didn't enjoy this. (80 pts.)
  • 1992 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sémillon Late Harvest Reserve - Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
    Loads of banana, botrytis and caramel on the nose. The palate shows too much burned sugar and astringency to be of great interest. (82 pts.)
  • 1998 Geyser Peak Johannisberg Riesling Reserve Late Harvest - Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA
    This was my favorite of the stickies. The nose shows some heat, but the palate has very nice acid and is surprisingly lively. This is nice! (87 pts.)


I had elected to skip out on the Mariner's game, so my wife was sure to call and share the moment as Ichiro set the major record for most hits in a season with hits 257, 258 and 259. We briefly put the cellphone on speaker so we could enjoy hearing 45,000 people chanting "EE-CHEE-ROW, EE-CHEE-ROW, EE-CHEE-ROW...)

Thanks so much to Michael and Claire for a great evening!
Posted from CellarTracker!
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quote:
Originally posted by Board-O:
What does older mean? These were largely young wines. 1989 Hermitage does not meet my definition of older. These are wines that still need time.

Just one more sip.

Older? Oldish? It's all relative...

It was an awfully nice evening for whatever little that is worth. if you want to kick 1989 Chave out of bed for being immature, well that is your loss... Wink

It rhymes with wine...
Eric,

Thanks for the notes. Sounds like a great evening. Rhone is one area I haven't explored much except for cheaper CdRs. Any thoughts on more recent La Chapelles...later 90s? I've seen some at decent prices but things I've read haven't been too positive so not sure even at a relative bargain if its worth taking the plunge. TIA

“Appreciating old wine is like making love to a very old lady. It is possible. It can even be enjoyable. But it requires a bit of imagination.”

Andre Tchelistcheff
quote:
Originally posted by Board-O:
Loss is in the taste buds of the drinker. Chave Hermitage from a great year like 1989 shows best at 1/4 Century, far, far better than it'll show now, so who's loss it is is a matter of conjecture. I believe it's yours.

Just one more sip.

OK, wow, talk about making a guy feel welcome. I am sorry that our choice of theme does not meet with your approval.

FWIW, the Chave was not my bottle but was rather that of our host. I found it to be delightful and giving already, although I am sure it will have far more to offer in 10 years. I don't feel any loss though.

It rhymes with wine...
Eric, great notes and it sounds like a wonderful evening. Gotta ask though, with only four of you, what did you do with all the extra wine? Can't believe you finished it all off. Should have blown a horn as it sounds like you were "in the neighborhood" with the wine tasting. Had I heard the horn, I'd have been there to assist in the accuracy of your notes... Big Grin. Welcome.

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