Ever have one of those nights when you just feel like getting together with friends and opening up a few interesting bottles?
Rheinhessen Riesling trocken “Von der Fels,” Keller 2002
$20 on release. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
I’m pretty sure 2002 was the first release of Keller’s “Von der Fels” (“From the Rocks”). Even though I have only a couple of bottles, I felt it was about time to check in on one. I’m glad I did as it’s in a really good place right now, just starting to bridge into the development of some tertiary characteristics. Very fresh and prickly, still showing some residual carbon dioxide when first opened. It quickly rounded out and took on depth and richness with aeration. White peaches laced with lime zest, orange oil and honeysuckle hit the front palate, while a touch of oiliness and salinity follow. This is bone dry but completely physiologically ripe Riesling, loaded with palate staining fruit that shoots sparks across your tongue. With yet more air, rainier cherry fruit and intensely concentrated, almost sour minerality develop. Tremendous length. Lovely wine.
Arbois Pupillin Chardonnay, Emmanuel Houillon (Pierre Overnoy) 2006
$28. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
This showed big time sulfur/struck match aromas when first opened. After a quick and vigorous decant, it became clear that the wine was in a pretty severely reduced state. It showed much better on the palate, though, where I initially found flavors of apple cider and an element that reminded me of Junmai Daiginjo sake. Coming back to it fifteen minutes later, the nose was still full of totally reductive funk. But the wine had gotten even tastier, showing ripe red apple fruit and notes of cinnamon dusted pastry dough. I still had a hard time getting past its nose. Maybe it’s just too young yet, or needs a few hours (or days?) in the decanter.
The de rigueur shot of orange wine, sharing the counter with a Baltimore icon.
We never quite got around to opening Houillon’s Poulsard. But his 2004 Savagnin (the orange wine in the above photo), which had already been open for at least three or four days, was still quite interesting, offering up a nose full of Manzanilla and candy corn aromatics, finished off with tongue-twisting, gripping acidity.
Nahe Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Kabinett trocken, Emrich-Schönleber 2001
$15 on release. 11.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Our brief detour into the Arbois didn’t prevent us from taking pleasure in trying this alongside the Keller. The eye alone, given its deeper golden appearance, was enough to show that this has traveled further along its path of development. But it still has plenty of stuffing and potential. Can there be such a thing as hedonistic Kabinett trocken? This would seem to suggest so, as it offered up voluptuous scents and flavors of clove-poached pears, fresh baked apple pie a la mode and peach cobbler. Did I mention that this is completely dry? And that it paired seamlessly with saba (mackerel sushi)?
This bottling doesn’t exist in the Schönlebers’ lineup any longer, replaced along with their other dry Kabinetts by the non-Pradikat “Mineral.” And wines at the quality level of this and “Von der Fels” no longer exist at these price points ($15 and $20, respectively). Can you hear that? It’s the sound of my teardrops hitting the floor.
Barolo “Cerretta,” Germano Ettore (Sergio Germano) 2000
$50. 14% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Though showing just the slightest hint of its alcohol on the nose, this is nonetheless in a fine place right now. It’s still quite youthful in the fruit department but is soft, round, exotically spicy and sweetly scented. Enjoyably pondering a glass, I was struck with the thought that I’m not sure there’s any vine that takes to oak quite so well as does Nebbiolo. I find the aromatic fireworks that result when it’s done right really hard to beat. Here, it results in classic oak-derived spiciness and warm red floral aromas and scents of rooibos tea intertwined with red licorice and sassafras. The 2000 may lack the acid/tannin profile of a more classic Piedmontese vintage but firm, well-balanced grip still presents itself on the finish.
Ever think of pairing Barolo with chocolate? Don't. On the other hand, this worked surprisingly well with Peking duck, perhaps helped along by the rich fruit and soft texture typical to the 2000 vintage.
Gevrey-Chambertin, Sylvie Esmonin 2005
$60. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
A bit clumsy right out of the gate, the sweet red fruit immediacy of Sylvie Esmonin’s Gevrey was marred at first by slightly disjointed alcohol. It didn’t take long for its grace to emerge, though. Definitely lots of red fruit, both fresh and caramelized. A campfire set in a forest clearing on a nippy fall day comes to mind, not through any overtly reductive characteristics, just through the wine’s overall expression of brambly fruit and energy. Esmonin gets her knocks from some quarters for the concentrated, forward nature of her wines but I dig them. This has a wonderfully barky, sinewy character that helps to back up its boisterous, spicy red fruit. It’s slightly lean yet sappy and generous all at once, topped off with a beguiling nose of sandalwood. I would have guessed, as did Bill Nanson at Burgundy Report, this sees some stems in the vat but Dressner’s page on Esmonin says not.