Thursday, September 4, 2008

One for Porterhouse, More for Fun

I got together with a couple of the UDPs recently, just to celebrate the kickoff of the long, Labor Day weekend. Sharing the haul of fresh produce Bill had landed at Reading Terminal Market earlier in the day was simply icing on the cake.

Mittelrhein Bacharacher Kloster Fürstental Riesling Sekt Brut, Ratzenberger 1998
$20 on release. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
The occasion seemed to call for an aperitif – something fizzy, perhaps. After pouring Ratzenberger’s 2003 Sekt in the context of my sparkling wine seminar last week, I thought it would be cool to check in on a bottle with a little age under its belt. There’s some lovely stuff starting to develop here, yet it’s still drinking incredibly young. Just the slightest whiff of white truffles. Pale, the color of slightly green straw. The mousse looked large in the glass but felt fine and tiny on the tongue. The wine’s creamy texture was followed by a very persistent, acid driven finish. Very stony and finely detailed. It seemed to correspond in weight and texture to a Spätlese halbtrocken, one lifted afloat on a bubbling brook. The palate delivered flavors of apricot skin and lemon oil, plus loads of mineral extract. With air it became even creamier than at first, taking on a faintly dairy aspect that reminded me, somehow, of Délice de Bourgogne. I’m having a hard time describing it any better than that. But I’d love to try the pairing sometime.

Nahe Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Kabinett trocken, Emrich-Schönleber 2004
$21 on release. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois.
Schönleber’s lighter trocken wines – the basic QmP and Kabinett level bottlings – often take longer to show their goods than their richer counterparts. Three years after release, this is still painfully young, just not as searingly so as when it first hit the market. It’s just starting to broaden out enough to show the breed that’s inherent to all of Werner and Frank’s wines. A lovely, red-spiced mineral character, with fruit tones that ranged from grapefruit to peaches, finished off on a dark, serious note, just shy of stern. Pretty damn tempting now but, if you have any of this, I’d recommend continuing to hold for at least another couple of years. (NB: As of the 2007 vintage, Schönleber has come completely in line with the VdP program and no longer produces wines labeled as Kabinett trocken.)

Toscana IGT "Cepparello," Isole e Olena 2000
$51 on release. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois.
When Bill told me he’d picked up a couple of dry-aged porterhouse steaks from Harry Ochs, I immediately thought of something Tuscan for accompaniment. Even if he wasn’t giving them the full-on “Bistecca alla Fiorentina” touch, there’s something about good Sangiovese that marries just beautifully with porterhouse.

Cepparello is one of the few wines I ever collected. Yes, collected. I put an end to the habit a few years ago as its price started to creep ever higher and as my tastes evolved. But I still have a nice little vertical going in the cellar, from 1997 up through 2002. What better time to check in on a bottle? I picked the 2000 because of the softer, less structured characteristics typical of the vintage. It turned out to be a solid choice, as this bottle was in a very good place. Showing some maturity, it had developed a slightly port-like nose, further perfumed with aromas of dried cherries, cinnamon bark and animal hide. As expected, both its tannins and acids have softened up more quickly than in a more classic vintage. While I expect this should remain solid for at least another five years, there’s no reason not to start enjoying it now. Oh yeah, it was pretty kickin’ with the steaks.

Savennières "Trie Spéciale," Domaine des Baumard 2003
$30. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Ex Cellars, Solvang, CA.
We seem to have gotten into the habit at these get-togethers of following dinner with something Loire, something Chenin. Come to think of it, we did have a little cheese course…. I had always assumed that Baumard’s “Trie Spéciale” was exactly what its name implies: a cross-section of the estate’s best fruit, selected on multiple passes (tries) through the vineyards. A quick look at their website, though, suggests that it’s actually a single vineyard wine, produced from a plot situated between “Clos du Papillon” and “Roche aux Moines.” Those technicalities aside, this surprised me given the vintage. I would have expected either a little RS or at least a full degree higher alcohol. But no, this was dry – not bone dry, but certainly dry – and even a touch on the delicate side. It gave off a big whiff of boiled wool and quince right up front, while the palate delivered white peach, gooseberries and a lightly honeyed touch. An intensely fruit-driven example of Savennières, and quite yummy.

Porto Late Bottled Vintage, Quinta de Santa Eufêmia 1997
$20. 19.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: MHW, Manhasset, NY.
A year and a half into this blog and this is the first time I’ve ever written up a Port? It’s kind of hard to believe, I know, as I actually do like Port. Then again, I hardly ever drink the stuff anymore – especially not in August – so it kind of makes sense. However, given that Bill Jr. whipped up a mean batch of chocolate chip cookie sundaes – made with what we’ve come to call “Crack Cookies,” the addictive goodies from Famous 4th Street Cookie Company in the Reading Terminal Market – it seemed to make perfect sense. Weather be damned. Now, on to the wine.

My notes were nonexistent on this one so I’ll just provide some basic impressions. An LBV from a small, very traditional house located in the Cima Corgo. Bottled without filtration, this is holding up very well. Indeed, there are some late bottled Ports out there that can stand up to cellaring, at least in the mid-term. I remember this being quite decadent yet really well balanced upon release. It’s now shed what few rough edges it had four or five years ago and has reached a very mellow state. Christmas plum pudding and rich black cherry notes dominate. The finish is soft and reasonably long, the alcohol entirely integrated. Not a bad finish to the evening.


Richard Auffrey said...

I am a relatively new fan of the Cepparello and the 2004 was a "wow" wine for me. I will definitely continue to buy a few bottles each year. I also got to meet Paolo de Marchi this past April and he was was a down to earth, passionate wine maker.

Debra Morgan said...

you had me at riesling

David McDuff said...

Hi Richard,
I'm glad you got to meet Paolo; he's definitely a good soul. Be sure to make the time for visit at Isole the next time you plan a trip to Tuscany. It's an absolutely beautiful spot, like its own little world.

Glad to be of service.

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