2014 in Review
2014 was, for me, a monumental year. I have been very fortunate to have attended some fantastic industry tastings throughout much of the year. I’m also presently working my way through the WSET courses, studying wine and regions as much as my schedule allows.
These wines were the highlights of my year, a tough list to narrow down, included are my notes:
2005 Bérêche & Fils Le Cran Montagne de Reims Ludes Premier Cru: I have become a huge fan of Bérêche, for me, this is a Champagne that rivals even Krug. The nose is decadent and rich, with layer upon layer of brioche, lemon curd, candied orange peel, cardamom and honeycomb. The palate is no less sumptuous; it is a kaleidoscope of flavors from baklava to toasted walnuts, sun-kissed apricot. It’s creamy and dense, yet finishes gracefully, with refined minerally notes and burnt sugar topping as on crème brûlée. From start to finish this is an impeccable wine.
1996 Salon Champagne le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut: Salon from the highly regarded 1996 vintage. We’re drinking this to celebrate my surpassing 10,000 followers on Vivino! And, oh boy, is this a powerhouse! Classic notes of brioche, baked apple, dried honey and smoke. It’s the palate of this Champagne that really impresses—massive, expansive and precise. Minerality dominates, arching across the acid spine with thrilling chalkiness salinity and Meyer lemon. The finish is…remarkable.
Georges Laval Brut Nature Cumières Premier Cru NV: Honestly, I’m torn between whether I preferred the Georges Laval Premier Cru Rosé over this—it’s a toss-up. A vibrant blend of 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Munier, that is incredibly fresh, incredibly pure and focused. Notes of red apple, candied ginger, dried honey and smoke. On the palate, beautiful intensity, with mineral and saline notes heightened by tightly coiled acidity. Lemon rind and citrusy notes on a long, vinous finish. The Brut Nature wines have no addition of sugar after bottling.
Jacques Selosse Initial NV: It’s not demure. Vibrant gold in the glass with an impeccable mousse. The nose is intense and admittedly a challenge to describe. Lemon zest, candied orange peel, lemon tart or lemon curd and a sneaky high note of menthol. On the palate tart apple, pear but mostly the verve of it hits you. Salinity, crushed shell and minerality. It’s incredibly lush and at the same time, focused. Subtle note of almond paste and oxidation on a fine, long finish. Wow.
Ulysse Collin Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs NV: Ulysse Collin’s Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut is exclusively from Chardonnay grown in chalk and clay-based soil, with a subsoil of flint. Aged on the lees for 24 to 36 months, this Champagne is exquisite—the nose is heady and complex, with notes of crème brûlée, ripe peaches, orange blossom, candied orange peel, toasted nuts and honeycomb. The mousse is fine, and there is both weight and creaminess balancing out piercing acidity, minerality, wet stone and lively citrus notes. Persistent, focused and powerful.
2013 Shared Notes Les Pierres Qui Decident Sonoma County: I tasted Shared Notes Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend and this Sauvignon Blanc at Big Sur Food & Wine Festival last week. Both were phenomenal. Shared Notes is a husband and wife team, and their wines are as close to Old World sensibility as they come. Les Pierres qui Décident is taught, with racy acidity and superb texture. Rich, fragrant aromas of gooseberry, green apple, exotic fruit and lovely grassiness. There is, too, a cord of minerality wending through pink grapefruit rind. Supremely long finish.
2010 Bërgstrom Sigrid: One of the more elegant Oregon Chardonnay’s I’ve tasted. Seamlessly integrated, the nose is subtle and delicately perfumed with aromas of d’Anjou pear, apples, brioche and marzipan. The attack is silky, richly textured and balanced. It’s finely tuned and elegant, like a 1937 Talbot-Lago T150C. It has that sort of opulence and knee-weakening, stylish line. Notes of Meyer Lemon, lemon thyme and spice on a lengthy finish.
2007 Didier Dagueneau Silex: Quite possibly the best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever tasted. Impeccable from start to finish, the nose opens with notes of tropical fruit, jasmine flowers, preserved lemons and the merest high note of smoky minerality. The conversation doesn’t stop there, on the palate, the oak is fully integrated and there is a focused, nervy cord of breathtaking acidity. Candied pineapple, lemon zest and chalky tannins lead into a lengthy, mouthwatering finish.
2005 Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Clos: A study in elegance and finesse. The absolute satiny-silkiness translates on the nose. Transporting notes of Lemon Budino pudding, Bosc pear, anise, a whiff of smoke. It’s so well-integrated, it’s tough to tease apart—this wine glides, weightless and yet impossibly glycerolly and rich. The attack is deceptive, leading to underlying grip and power, wet stone and shell, coiled acidity, trace white pepper and staggering persistence. There is a reason Raveneau enjoys the cult reputation it has.
2003 Harlan Estate Napa Valley: This is my first time drinking Harlan Estate Proprietary Red, a wholly seductive wine that reminds me of high-end Bordeaux. Inky, totally opaque countenance, it is decadent, yet retains elegance and finesse. Black fruit, cassis, cedar and black licorice aromas leading to pure, sweet fruit that fills the mouth, along with silky, caressing tannins. Mint, forest floor, graphite and leaf tobacco on the back palate. It has a kind of ethereal quality, which is difficult to quantify. Great persistence.
2002 Abreu Vineyard Thorevilos Cabernet Sauvignon: From rockstar viticulturist, David Abreu, Abreu Vineyards wines are extremely limited. There were only 200 cases made from the Thorevilos site, certainly the volcanic ash derived soils shine through here. The nose is laden with sweet black cherries, creme de cassis, perfume, cola, hard red candy and cedar. Incredibly intense, with massive structure against pure, sweet fruit, blackberry cobbler and high-toned notes of spice, dried herbs and dusty earth.
2002 Lucien le Moine Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru: Nicely developed Bonnes-Mares, there is still ample acidity and structure to carry this forward in the cellar. Red fruit punctuated by a high candy-like note along with black cherry, spice and herbs. Intensity is concentrated on the mid-to-fore palate, offering great structure and polish throughout. The finish is satisfyingly lengthy and spicy.
2002 Méo Camuzet Nuits St Georges Aux Boudots: 2002 was a very good vintage in Burgundy, with uniform ripening. This ’02 Meó-Camuzet is drinking admirably. Garnet-hued and opaque, I’m quite certain it was neither fined nor filtered. Layered aromatics of rose petal and forest in early fall. Damp earth, roasted game, wild strawberries, raspberries and anise. It’s still vibrant and heart-achingly fresh with, I imagine, several years ahead of it. Fine tannins and an elegant acid spine that crescendos with mineral, spice, red apple skin and clove.
2001 Leroy Nuits St Georges Les Boudots: I’m always impressed by the Domaine Leroy wines I’ve been fortunate to taste, the 2001 Nuits St Georges Les Boudots is no exception. Feminine and ethereal, with pretty notes of cinnamon, red currant, pie cherry, forest floor, and top note of dried mint. On the palate, pure fruit, elegance and, even though this is medium-bodied, possesses a sort of nimble lightness, not unlike Lalou Bize-Leroy, herself. One cannot help but feel transported.
2001 Leroy Vosne-Romanée Les Genevrières: As with all Leroy wines, they possess a subtlety that is, at times, challenging to pinpoint. Elegant and refined, the Leroy Vosne-Romanée Les Genevrières 2001 is slightly brickish at the rim with fine flecks of sediment. It unfurls slowly, offering up arresting aromas of dried rose petal, dried leaves and wild strawberries. Silky, with fine tannins, this masterpiece has a minerally core intertwined with notes of dried tea leaves, forest branches, spice and the merest hint of orange peel on the finish.
2000 Comte Georges de Vogue Cuvée Vielles Vigne Musigny Grand Cru: Images of a horse-drawn plow, fresh, black tilth, truffles, damp and dewy forest floor spring to mind. This sketch, these first impressions are followed with fresh aromas of black cherry, red currant and mint. In the mouth, this vibrant garnet-hued prince of Musigny is precise and pure, with fine tannins, very much like red plum skins, an undercurrent minerality, dried herbs, the wet and fragrant woods. Elegant.
1999 E. Guigal La Landonne: La Landonne is a profound wine with incredible depth and complexity. Notes of blueberry and blackberry, roasted meat, forest floor, spice and earth. The attack is smooth, with finely integrated tannins, balanced acidity and a sort of effortless perfection.
1999 E. Guigal La Mouline: The most feminine of the three, though that may not be an appropriate assertion, given the extraordinary richness and depth this wine possesses. It’s worth noting that La Mouline boasts the largest percentage of Viognier blended with Syrah (this varies from year to year, and is usually between 8 and 11%, though I could not find the exact blend percentage for the 1999 vintage). It makes perfect sense that this liquid masterpiece should boast delicate floral notes of violets followed by more sumptuous aromas of black cherry, blackberries, vanilla and anise. Pure sensuality on the palate, ribbons of flavor and texture create a rich and decadent tapestry.
1999 E. Guigal La Turque: The most concentrated and massive of the three. Opens with impressive aromas of dust, iron, game, spice, damp clay, blood and bacon fat. Sculpted layers of harmonious flavor, with brooding black fruit, mouth coating, yet balanced tannins and a compelling animal quality. Savory notes and dollops of spice on the finish. This wine is extraordinary.
1999 Haut-Brion: What can one say about this monumental first growth? Tasted over 90 minutes, it evolved slowly with cascading notes of black currant, blueberry, perfumy violets and forest floor. Fresh and pure on the palate, with silky tannins, superb balance, and a lengthy, seductive finish interlaced with subtle minerality and flavors of cedar and spice.
1998 Quilceda Creek Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon: This is the first time I’ve tasted this legendary producer, and I have to admit, Quilceda Creek lives up to its name. There is a kind of restraint to this wine that is difficult to achieve in Washington State. Tasted blind, the 1998 could easily be mistaken for an aged Saint Julien. The nose is generous and complex, with aromatics of boysenberry, juniper berry, herb and spice notes. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied (to medium +) with silky texture and layers of red and black fruit. Cigar box and spice on the finish.
1995 Penfolds Grange: The 1995 Penfolds Grange is something akin to blackest night, where even the stars aren’t visible, drinking this, you might not find your way home. Weighted notes of black tea, smoldering embers, eucalyptus, roasted fig, black plum, and violets. On the palate, depthless, massive and voluptuous layers of black strap molasses, steeped boysenberry, tar and singed cedar. Penfolds Grange seduces with mouth-coating, caressing tannins, intensity, unfettered power and sappy persistence. Incredible.
1989 Montrose: This is one of those life-altering, once-in-a-lifetime bottles; the 1989 Montrose is about beauty and perfection, with restraint. A blend 65% Cabernet, 25% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc, much like a great Burgundy, it’s multi-faceted without being the least bit heavy. Perfumy, ethereal aromas of back currant, blueberries, mint, truffle, leather and earth. Silky on entry, with ultra-fine tannins that glide across the palate, only to gracefully crescendo in a seemingly endless arc of minerals, cedar and fruit.
1976 Lopez de Heredia Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva: Exquisite, every aspect perfectly in tune, while retaining freshness, balance and effortless grace. The nose is endlessly complex: Market Spice tea, candied orange peel, honey, dried flowers, clove, and baking spice. On the palate, it’s no less extraordinary, medium-bodied with fine, fully integrated tannins. Beguiling notes of cherry skins, leather, clayey soil, bay leaf and pink peppercorn. It could continue to evolve for another 5-10 years, a rare and absolute pleasure.
Lastly 2011 Ports; Fonseca and Taylor-Fladgate are both wonderful.
Here’s to another year of great wines!