Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007: The Blogging Year in Review

I’ve never been particularly given to list making, not when it comes to top tens, to-dos or even shopping needs. If there’s a time to break that pattern, New Year’s would seem to be it. So without further ado, here’s a list of some of the wines, meals and moments that stood out most clearly for me as highlights or benchmarks in 2007.

My first post: After being almost entirely oblivious to the world of blogging, I started this venture in March of this year, basically as a “why not” response to a suggestion from one of my co-workers; little did I expect the path that laid in wait. It’s rekindled a love of writing that I’d neglected for far too many years.

Italian red: Barolo “Cerretta Piani,” Luigi Baudana 1996. This was my Xmas Eve dinner wine, chosen to accompany simple ravioli with a sage butter sauce. The wine was way overmatched to the dish but I just wanted to drink something nice and, in the end, it turned out to be one of those clear moments where the wine was just so damn good that the food pairing didn’t matter. This is just beginning to hit its stride, showing heady aromas of red berry fruit, spice, rose petal, red licorice and soft, perfectly integrated wood backed up by great length and supple, ripe tannins. One of the smartest case purchases I’ve ever made. I’ll look forward to trying the remaining bottles over the next ten or so years.

Beaujolais: Morgon, Domaine des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) 2005. Here’s where I regret not having picked up a case when I could have. To drink the first two-thirds for sheer pleasure and then save the last three or four for the future…. Thus, we learn. But then again, there’s always plenty of other great Cru Beaujolais to taste.

Champagne: Egly-Ouriet “Les Vignes de Vrigny” Premier Cru Brut NV. Pure Pinot Meunier and purely pleasurable.

Sparkling wine: Mittelrhein Bacharacher Kloster Furstental Riesling Sekt Brut, Weingut Ratzenberger 1999. In the world of great bubblies from outside of Champagne, I’m always hard pressed to find any that are as consistently delicious, complex and joyful as Jochen Ratzenberger’s. The bottle of 1999 popped during dinner at my dear friends’ wedding this fall was just beautiful.

Rhône red: Saint-Joseph “Cuvée Prestige L’Amarybelle,” Yves Cuilleron 1998. When I first started accruing a modest cellar, I was a definite Rhône head. My buying patterns have changed but I still do thoroughly enjoy both northern and southern Rhône wines, particularly when they’re evocative of their place and reasonably restrained in style. Cuilleron’s wine was drinking at its peak as it neared its tenth year, showing mellow red berry fruit, subdued notes of black pepper and the classic rust and hot-house floral aromatics of Saint-Joseph rouge.

Young Loire Chenin: Montlouis-sur-Loire “Les Bournais,” Francois Chidaine 2004.
The first vintage produced from Chidaine’s newest plot, from the growing season starting not long after my last visit with Chidaine. Not the most complex wine but something to keep a close eye on in the future.

Old(er) Loire Chenin: Vouvray “Clos Baudoin,” Philippe Poniatowski 1989. I’m sure to come under fire for this from some of the Vouvray-heads at Wine Therapy. Tough. Some old Poni wines have recently reentered the marketplace and the 1989 Clos Bo, when from a good bottle, is a lovely time capsule and a tremendous value. I’d love to drink other mature Loire Chenins more frequently. We’ll have to see what the New Year brings.

Loire white that’s not Chenin: Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie “Le L d’Or” Domaine Pierre de la Grange, Pierre Luneau-Papin 1995. This was an eye-opening mouthful of youthful minerality and broadly textured citrus pith at a mere twelve years of age. You should all be drinking more small-grower Muscadet.

Most memorable meal: There were many – though there can never be enough. My dearest memory, though, must certainly be the inaugural dinner at Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, PA. I’ve had better single dishes from Chef Sikora and more ethereal meals at other restaurants around the globe but the overall combination of the company of dear friends, wonderful food, relaxed ambience and glowingly good vibes made for a great evening.

Red Burgundy: This was a toss-up between an old friend and a new acquaintance. The Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Grandes Vignes,” Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils 2001, was a breath of fresh air from a producer whose wines I’ve sold, tasted and, when on, enjoyed for years. The NSG thread continued later in the year with the Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Damodes” 2004 from Domaine Philippe et Vincent Lécheneaut. My notes were a bit brief after a slew of great wines on Thanksgiving but this wine still stands out in my memory for its purity of flavor and promise of good things to come.

White Burgundy: Although I tasted a good number of perfectly good white Burgs last year, I hate to say that nothing stood out enough to make the cut. I think a New Year’s resolution may be in order.

Riesling (dry): The 2001 Nahe Monzinger Fruhlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese trocken from Emrich-Schönleber was far too young and a bit too powerful for the meal at hand but was undeniable in its intensity and expression of the red slate terroir of Schönleber’s slice of the Monzingen hillside.

Riesling (off-dry): Saar Kanzemer Sonnenberg Riesling Auslese, Weingut Johann Peter Reinert 1999. Reinert’s wines are absurdly under-appreciated. They are crystalline, delicate and finely delineated specimens of the beauty of good Saar Riesling. The fact that I sell them, when they’re available, has nothing to do with it. Seek them out.

Memory I’d most like to forget: Acute appendicitis. I’ve never felt so sick in my life. I’m only thankful that we figured out what it was before the little bugger burst and landed me in the hospital for five or six days (or worse) instead of two.

Farmers Markets: The launch of the Oakmont Farmers Market in my own hometown as well as the expansion of the Headhouse Square Farmers Market were welcome additions to Philadelphia’s growing local food community.

Best new spot on the Philadelphia restaurant scene: Sorry, my title’s not going to a hidden gem or to an underdog. In spite of some minor service and ambience glitches, I enjoyed two stupendously good meals at Marc Vetri’s “casual” new eatery, Osteria. Don’t let its odd location in a rather bleak block of Broad Street in North Philly be a deterrent. I’m in dire need of a return to check out the goodies from their pizza ovens.

Loire Valley red: I’m a nut for Loire Cabernet Franc, whether from Chinon, Bourgueil or some of the better producers in and around Saumur. While it’s always a pleasure to drink them young, it’s all too rare to find a mature Loire Breton on the market that hasn’t been beat up or worn down by the ravages of time or careless handling. Two wines stood out in this year’s tally. The Chinon “Clos de la Dioterie,” Charles Joguet 1989, was the standout in the lineup of wines poured by FX Barc at a seminar he presented at Tria Fermentation School this summer. Not far behind, the 1996 Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil “Vieilles Vignes” from Joël Taluau is a perfect specimen of mature Touraine Cab Franc, silky, perfumed and wild in its expression of dried red fruits and herbs. It’s worth every penny of its $35-ish price tag.

Loire Valley red that’s not Cabernet Franc: Coteaux du Loir “Rouge Gorge,” Domaine de Bellivière 2005. Green beans and black pepper on the nose…? Maybe that sounds odd but this Pineau d’Aunis from Bellivière is sick stuff.

And finally, lest you think I just totally ignore or deplore New World wines….

American Pinot Noir: Anderson Valley Pinot Noir “Demuth Vineyard,” Anthill Farms 2004. I was turned on to this by the sommelier at Farmhouse Inn in Forestville during a trip out to Napa and Sonoma in January. A lovely expression of North Coast Pinot Noir, lively, aromatic and in harmony both on its own and on the table.


Edward said...


Happy New Year!

The wine blogging world is certainly a better place with your participation.

Dr. Debs said...

Well, you may not be a list-maker but this was a great list. I have a bottle of the Belleviere 2004 Pineau d'aunis in my cellar to finish out my wine century.

Lyle Fass said...

Nice list. I must say if you like Ratzenberger bubbly you must try the brilliant sparklers of Volker Raumland. Undeniably the the best on Germany. More of a Champagne vibe with a Blanc de Blancs, 2 Blanc de Noir's, a Weissburgunder and an amazing tete de cuvee called Triumverate. Riesling is an afterthought here, while being good he excels at the Pinot grapes.

David McDuff said...

Thanks, all -- Edward, for the very kind words; Deb, for being such a good reader (and writer); and Lyle, as always, for the great suggestions. Cheers!

Marcus said...

Liked the description of your Barolo. We had a mushroom-stuffed ravoli course on New Year's Eve with a sweet potato puree and and I think you're right that the food pairing doesn't matter so much when the wine is that good. (We had a Dão from Qunita do Roques, which I would pair with it again actually.)

I may need to redesign my note template regarding meal matching if I keep tasting great wines that make everything seem great!

All the best in 08!

David McDuff said...

Hey Marcus,
It's good to hear from you. I'm loath to lend blanket support to the notion that good wine overrides the importance of food pairing. I really hate hearing from people that they don't care about matching. All too often, they're people who drink only red wines (and less often, only whites). Many of them also seem to live by the tenet that bigger is always better. They're missing out on a whole world of special wines and combinations, and that's a shame.

Nonetheless, there are certainly moments -- as with my Barolo or your Dão -- where the wine simply transcends the occasion.

Marcus said...

I think it was a cellared Penfolds Cabernet that I felt I could drink with anything it was like gold. But you're right. Any wine can thrill you enough so that food and your judgment of it becomes secondary...

My Dao was an okay match since these ravolis had dense mushroom flavour enveloped by flavourful cooked and earthy flavours of the puree -- perhaps it would've done nicely with your Barolo too.

Joe said...

Had the '04 Dioterie recently and loved it. Based on your comments I should not open my second bottle for a few years (at least I know it will be stored properly). All the best in 2008!

David McDuff said...

Best to you as well, Joe. If you can manage the patience, the '04 Dioterie should be lovely five to ten years out.

Joe said...

I can be patient - I have 550 other distractions!

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