Life on the Trail can run from feast to famine. Lately it’s been all feast, the side effect being that there’s so much to write about that I’m having a hard time keeping up with it. I suppose that’s a good problem to have. So, without further ado, here are some notes from the Fourth. No hamburgers and hot dogs, no horseshoes, no fireworks, just good friends, good food and a few bottles of vino.
Bourgogne Chitry Blanc, Alice & Olivier DeMoor 2006
Light to medium in color, this Chitry Blanc – that’s Chardonnay from the northern reaches of Burgundy in case you weren’t sure – smells much leaner and flintier, more Chablisienne, than it feels in the mouth. Fruit forward and refreshing. If it were a bit less pricy it would make for a very good every day white Burg. Quince and crisp d’Anjou pear fruit are carried on a medium-acid, medium-bodied frame. The DeMoor’s work roughly 15 acres in the Yonne Départment, producing AOC Chitry, Chablis, Aligoté and Sauvignon St. Bris. Farming is organic, fruit is hand harvested and the wines are bottled without fining or filtration. Check out Bert Celce’s blog, Wine Terroirs, for an excellent profile of the estate. $27. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Vintage ’59 Imports, Washington, DC.
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Blanc “Cuvée Prestige Le Prieuré,” Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret 2005
Decent wine, from an estate known much more for its reds than its whites. Smells like nougat and apple pie à la mode, though it also shows some disjointed alcohol and slightly acetyl character on the nose. Wood is well integrated, adding a bit of tannic astringency that complements the wine’s structure without dominating its flavor. There’s some complexity and interest here but not enough to offset the flaws or to justify the near $30 price. $28.50. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: J.A.O. Wine Imports, McLean, VA.
Rioja Crianza Blanco “Viña Gravonia,” R. Lopez de Heredia 1998
Now we’re talking. This was stupendously good, certainly the white of the night. Concentrated, firm, youthful and beneficially touched by its time in old wood. Spot on with simply grilled scallops, where the Rioja bumped up and focused the natural sweetness of the shellfish. This could easily pass for white Burgundy crossed with good Touraine Chenin. But it’s clearly all its own. Almonds, stones, golden apples and a touch of caramelization, all accented by a Scotch-like brininess. Fantastic wine with great QPR and a long life ahead of it. For another nifty producer profile, check out Deetrane’s guest post at Brooklynguy’s place. $28. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Polaner Selections, Mt. Kisco, NY.
Rioja Gran Reserva Tinto “Viña Tondonia,” R. Lopez de Heredia 1987
At twenty years of age, there’s bound to be a bad bottle once in a while, no matter how storied the producer. This was just barely alive, with only some dull, leathery notes and vaguely sweet red fruit emerging with air. It could have been heat damaged somewhere along the way, as there was a bit of run-up on the cork. Bummer. $94. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Polaner Selections, Mt. Kisco, NY.
Langhe Nebbiolo “Il Favot,” Poderi Aldo Conterno 1998
You lose some and you win some. With more recent releases going for upwards of $60, the $20-ish price tag – I picked up the last bottle on the shelf at a PLCB specialty store a while back – seemed more than worth the old bottle/questionable retailer gamble. The gamble paid off this time. “Il Favot” is the only wine that Aldo Conterno ages in new barriques; while it has a reputation for early accessibility, this bottle was singing in its tenth year. The toasty oak is still there but has been incorporated. Licorice, dried raspberries, roofing tar, saddle leather and floral herbs all come out to play. Nervy acidity and gentle yet fully articulated tannins. The aromas and flavors just keep coming and developing with time in the glass. Rose petals, toasted almonds and sandalwood galore, along with sweet spice, natural perfume and animal intensity. Like lifting up a beautiful young woman’s hair and kissing the nape of her neck. I liked it. Could you tell? $23. 14% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Vias Imports, New York, NY.