In case anyone has been wondering, no, I haven't stopped drinking and enjoying wine. Since the beginning of the New Year, journeys in Friuli aside, I've just been struggling to find the time to write about it. With that in mind, I hope you'll forgive me the indulgence of a few quick tasting notes, as dinner with friends last night afforded the opportunity to dive into a few interesting bottles.
We kicked things off with a pair of 2005 Muscadets to accompany a killer pot of salmon rillettes my host had prepared, based on his adaptation of a recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon. I had a hard time not polishing them all of myself -- the rillettes, that is -- and could easily have made a meal of them with nothing other than a baguette and salad for accompaniment.
$15 on release. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Not what I hoped for or expected when I socked away a few bottles on release. The flavors are still appealing--fruity even, albeit moving slowly toward the oxidative apple-y end of the spectrum--but the structure has gone slack, losing all nerve and verve. There's very little left in the way of mineral intensity relative to what I remember, either. Here's a case where a producer's basic cuvée (which made my list of most inspiring wines drunk in 2010) has outperformed its "big brother." Guess I'll be finding a reason to pour my remaining bottles sooner rather than later.
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie "Le Fief du Breil," Domaine de la Louvetrie (Jo Landron) 2005
$15 on release. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Martin Scott, Lake Success, NY.
After the somewhat disappointing showing from Luneau-Papin's wine, my host pulled this out of his cellar for sake of comparison and in hope of a little redemption for '05 Muscadet. Regrettably, I can't say that Landron's "Fief du Breil" has fared much better. Here there was far less fruit, a tad more minerality and a touch more acidity, but only a touch. The most redeeming factor was an intriguing aroma, to me at least, of black licorice. Still alive but no longer kicking.
While I could have, as mentioned above, made a meal of the rillettes, that wasn't happening. Out came a main course of Birchrun Hills Farm veal tenderloins, teeny tiny potatoes, and not so teeny tiny brussels sprouts. Oh yeah, and a couple of bottles of red...
Ar. Pe. Pe. (Arturo Pelizzatti Perego) 2007
$27. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Castle Brands Fine Wines, Sausalito, CA.
Varietal Nebbiolo, known locally as Chiavennasca, grown in the steep, terraced vineyards of Valtellina. This was one of those wines where the hue--light, transparent ruby--is perfectly in sync with the aromas and flavors: rose petals and raspberry tea-lime aromas followed up by lean, red berry fruit and a dash of baking spices. A really lovely, delicate expression of Nebbiolo, its structure carried almost entirely by a taut wire of acidity, backed up by the laciest of tannins. Were this $10 less per bottle, it would be a great candidate for everyday enjoyment; however, between the hard-to-farm nature of the Valtelline vineyards and the quiet cult status of Ar. Pe. Pe., quotidian pricing is not feasible.
Sierra Foothills "Home Vineyard" Red, La Clarine Farm 2008
$24. 13.8% alcohol. Vinoseal.
Check out these background notes from La Clarine Farm vine man, Hank Beckmeyer:
"2008 proved to be one of the most difficult years in recent memory for grape growing. A severe frost in late April pretty much destroyed our crop. We lost at least 90% of the young vine shoots, and many younger vines were killed back to ground level.I almost felt like I shouldn't be opening it, but that trepidation faded quickly once we pulled the stopper. The first thing that greeted my nose was big, boisterous, juicy fruit. Those aromas suggested jamminess but the wine delivered freshness, liveliness and spree on the palate. Spice and wild berry fruit reign supreme, with soft structure, medium acidity and drink me now appeal. I don't think we're talking about long-haul stuffing here, though, as Hank's notes suggest, it will surely hold its own for a few more years. Either way, don't let the fact that there were only 120 bottles made get in your way of drinking and enjoying it with aplomb.
Amid this carnage, we still managed to harvest a very small crop of exceptional grapes. This wine, a field blend of 50% tempranillo, 16% tannat, 20% grenache, 10% syrah and 4% cabernet sauvignon, was picked over a four week period, in three passes. We foot stomped the whole clusters without any sulfur addition and let the fermentation proceed from there. Our depression over the circumstances lightened as the wine's aromas filled our cellar. By the time we bottled it, some 18 months later without filtration, we were very happy indeed.... 10 cases made."
Finally, even though I'm sure it wasn't necessary, dinner at my friend Bill's never seems complete without at least one appearance from Burgundy.
Thibault Liger-Belair 2008
$30. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL.
The stewy, briary, kind of funky aromas that initially rose to my nose suggested the possibility of heat damage with this bottle. With a little time in the glass, however, those suspicions faded, as the potency remained but greater fruit purity, cleanliness and focus emerged. Astoundingly sturdy and concentrated for the vintage, especially given its origins on the Hautes-Côtes, with ripe, red fruit and a sense of physiologic intensity in its mouth feel. (With a good grasp of French, or the help of your favorite translator, it's very much worth reading Thibault's notes on the 2008 vintage.) Even more time in the glass brought out a slightly sour, olive pit pungency. Somewhat more intellectual than immediately pleasurable, but nonetheless a cool wine with which to close out the evening.