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Dinner with Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon, Unico, Evangile and more

March 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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Met my usual group of wine aficionados again last night for dinner and had some amazing wines. Started with this sublime vintage rose Champagne that I remember having last time about 1-2 years ago, but from a different vintage, 2000 if I remember correctly. We had all Champagne’s from the Zalto white wine glass that I find it complements a lot the way Champagne tastes like. Probably the only issue here would be that it does not stimulate enough the bubble persistence as the regular sparkling glass does. As aromas are concerned, I believe it focuses very well the full aromatic profile of the Champagne.

2002 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon Rose has a light coppery color with small and rich bubbles. This is a Champagne to keep in the glass and smell it over and over as it changes its aromas constantly. It starts fresh and classy with small red berries, dough and a salty seashell aroma, and, with air, it develops pomegranate and pink grapefruit. Gracious but powerful in the mouth, it has a strong backbone of acidity and discreet tannin, with layers of flavors that build like a skyscraper on the palate, creating a sense of immersion and depth. Long finish that goes on for good seconds. This is a very elegant and classy rose that I absolutely love. (96/100)

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First red of the night was a high roller that got awarded a perfect 100 points by the Wine Spectator. The 2005 Chateau L’Evangile was decanted for about 2 hours before being consumed. The color is dark red garnet. Nose is already expressive and very complex, with a ripe but fresh profile. Lavish aromas of plums, sour cherry, dark chocolate and ink build a complex aromatic profile that just continues to develop new aromas in the glass. Silky smooth on the palate already in spite of its high velvety tannin structure, it is profound and rich, with lush flavors of chocolate and black cherry, gravel minerality and paprika. Long finish, combines fruit and bitter sweet chocolate in the lingering aftertaste. It disappeared from the glasses fairly quickly. (97/100)

A friend said that today it is at its peak and there is not more to develop from now on. I believe it will be on this plateau for many years to come and that it will develop into an even more interesting wine. Future will tell.

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2010 seems to be THE vintage for Brunello di Montalcino. I believe most of the wines coming from reliable producers will develop and surprise wine drinkers in time. It should be a strong addition for the cellar.

Pieve Santa Restituta Sugarille Brunello di Montalcino 2010 from Gaja is a youthful and powerful wine today. It sports a deep red garnet color. Even after 3 h in a decanter the wine continues to be shy in revealing its full aromatic profile. There are of course fruity aromas of black cherry, sour cherry and blackberry, well complemented by spices and blue flowers, but you can feel that not everything is disclosed yet. On the palate it is powerful, with assertive velvety tannin well dressed into rich layers of red and black fruit and spices, with fresh aromatic herbs that give depth. Long finish, tannin is assertive again and indicates patience is required. (94/100)

IMG_20160314_215612Also decanted for about 3-4 h, the 2007 Vega-Sicilia Unico is a wine to keep on smelling and discovering in the glass. It has a deep red garnet color, and since my last encounter this bottle shows a slightly different aromatic profile. Yes the oak is still there but not that prominent, and there’s a new layer of dill and orange peel that did not feel it before. Rich and powerful on the palate. (94/100)

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Two more Champagne’s were served. A 2003 Dom Perignon Rose that has a deep red onion peel color with abundant mousse, a rich and vinous mouth-feel. It feels denser and has a completely different personality compared to the previous Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon. If that was ethereal, the Dom Perignon Rose is robust and swings in full throttle. (95-96/100)

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Last wine of the night and a first time for me was the 2004 Champagne Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. It has a light yellow lemon color, with tiny and rich bubbles. Fresh but complex on the nose, it has lots of citrus fruit, brioche and nuts, with a rich palate of pear and Granny smith apples, mouth watering acidity and appealing elegance. Long and refreshing citrus fruit finish. (94/100)

That was the end of a fun and engaging dinner with friends.

Dinner with Bouchard, Pegau, Billecart-Salmon, Cristal and more

March 11, 2016 Leave a comment

A friend from abroad was in town this week so we ended up having dinner at a favorite for me now: La Brasserie Bistro&Lounge. As we both fancy wine, there was a good line-up prepared and as usual there were initially planned 3 bottles, but eventually we ended up having more between our small group of 4.

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Started the night with this 2003 Bouchard Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus that was popped and poured and barely had time to breath over the 1 h it lasted. This is a most unusual Pinot Noir in the sense that it has the mark of the hot 2003 vintage with ripe fruit and medium to low acidity. The color is deep ruby red. Nose is already expressive and developed well into a complex mix of sweet blue and red fruit, Asian spices and some discreet shades of undergrowth, keeping fresh. It has a denser than you might expect mouth feel, with a fleshy texture where velvety and smooth tannin mixes well with lavish layers of ripe red fruit and tea leaves, preserving balance and freshness. Long finish, aromatic tea leaves and red fruit jam. Really enjoyed it. (94/100)

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A bottle of 2010 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du pape was opened and left to breath since lunch time so it had about 8 h to aerate. Nose was interesting as usual but the mouth feel was bad. There was just too much VA in it to be able to enjoy it. Certainly not the wine that I had several months ago. (Not rated)

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Decided to shift palates to more tension and bubbles so a 1999 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart was served. This is a wine that I had several times already this year and I like it more and more. It feels the wine is in the right spot today and should be holding well for several more years, but why wait when it is so good. It’s got a rich mousse with plenty of tiny bubbles and a nose that sports intense aromas of smoky citrus fruit, caramel and biscuit. Very tense and razor sharp acidity after the reds, with smoky seashell and bright grapefruit palate. Long. (93-94/100)

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Decided to stay on a similar note with high acidity and citrus fruit so a 2013 Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur was opened and decanted. Yes decanted. This has lots of chalky minerality, citrus fruit and Granny smith apple aromas. Mouth watering acidity, it combines very well ripe citrus fruit, wet stone minerals with riper flavors of grapefruit and chamomile. Medium plus long finish, lively citrus fruit. (92/100)

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When in doubt and want some tenser and riper refreshment go for a rose sparkling, preferably a Vintage. Champagne Bollinger La Grande Annee Rose 2004 is a Champagne for the long run and mostly a keeper. Some Champagne should be decanted. We did not do it, but I would recommend it. Light coppery color with small and rich bubble. Complex from the beginning it just got better in the glass in time. Intense and fresh nose filled with pink grapefruit skin, small red berries, citrus fruit and minerals. Very tense on the palate, it feels it has a Baroque type of structure of tannin and acidity that still hides its aromatic layers. Good potential here. (94/100)

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Last wine of the night was Champagne Cristal 2007. This punches the nose with smoky aromas of seashell, dried meat and citrus fruit. Razor sharp acidity at this stage, it needs time in the glass to get softer to reveal lively lemons, slate minerals and smoke, with a clean and sharp focus. Medium plus long finish, very fresh and a weightless mouth feel that makes it so easy to drink. (94/100)

Ended the evening quite late and had a hard time finding a cab to get home. That was a first and very unpleasant to stand up in the cold street waiting for a taxi to take my order.

Not an average wine-dinner

October 29, 2013 1 comment

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I was recently invited to attend the anniversary dinner organized by a good friend celebrating his birthday. A wine geek himself and big fan of red Italian and prestige wines, it was no surprise that the red wines tasted were all from Italy. With one exception the rest of the wines were all a first encounter for me.

Tuna tartar, fresh oysters and lobster salad were served with 2004 Cristal Champagne. A pale yellow lemon color with smooth and rich mousse, that opened up in stages on the nose and palate. Fresh dough, citrus fruit and a hint of crushed stones form the medium(+) intense and well developed nose. Medium(+) body, very acidic on the first sip, it opens up with air and becomes rounder, mellower and more enjoyable. Medium(+) finish, with bright citrus fruit, Granny Smith apple acidity and lingering hints of minerals. (92/100)

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Served with fresh pasta with butter and white truffles it was 2009 Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte Blanc (Pessac-Leognan). It ranks in the first Top 3 white wines I had this year. The color is pale yellow lemon. The nose shows great Pessac-Leognan typicality with generic smoked vanilla and tropical fruits, but it starts up gradually in intensity. The first nose is shy and it takes about 2 hours to fully reveal its intensity. It’s a different story on the palate: the level of flavor concentration it’s outstanding, you can literally taste fresh vanilla, smoke, fresh tangerines, mango and papaya, pears, peaches and white apricots. Flawless mouth-feel, medium acidity (that’s a surprise and probably that’s why is so enjoyable now), balanced and intense. Long finish, fresh and flamboyant, with plenty of exotic and tropical fruits. I fell in love with it. (97-98/100)

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Shifting to reds, the menu moved towards red meat: medium-rare tuna steak with grilled vegetables. Served in parallel there were 2006 Trinoro from Tenuta di Trinoro and 2007 Masseto from Ornellaia. 2006 Trinoro has the nose and mouth-feel of an Amarone. The color is deep dark red garnet. The nose is medium(+) intense, well developed and rich, with unusual Amarone like aromas: chocolate, rum and over ripe black fruits: blackberry, black cherry, cranberry and leather. The taste is full bodied, rich and concentrated, with medium polished tannins, with juicy blackberry, rum and chocolate. Medium(+) finish, black fruit liquor and sweet feel. (89-90/100)

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2007 Masseto is a totally different ball game. Tasted blind this could go for a sunny Pomerol. The color is medium red garnet color. Pronounced, elegant, well developed and complex nose, it takes time to open up. A mix of black cherry, plums, chocolate, cedar and graphite are just a few aromas of the complex nose. Full bodied, yet supple and elegant, the wine is a  monument of balance and complexity. The high level of polished tannins, the richness and concentration are outstanding. The 15% alcohol is just a number in this case, because the wine has freshness, elegance and a weightless mouth-feel. Long and pronounced finish, with fresh red fruits and coffee. (98/100)

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A 2008 Trinoro was also served to see if it has a similar profile of an Amarone like 2006. The color is deep red garnet. The nose is well developed, pronounced, intense and sweet. The ripe black fruit profile is there but manages to preserve freshness and hints of coffee. Full body, high polished and sweet tannins, sweet and juicy blackberry and cranberry, dark chocolate, plums, but still fresh. Long finish, lingering juicy black fruits. (93/100)

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Dinner was finished with a NV Billecart-Salmon Rose to wash the palate. Pink salmon color, intense mousse. Biscuit, bright red fruits and grapefruit, fresh and citrus palate, medium finish. (90-91/100)

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Wine-dinner nr 5 – Italian wines (the story)

April 12, 2013 Leave a comment

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On April 3rd, 2013 I organized the “Tignanello & Friends” wine dinner with Nicusor. This was quite a line-up as we aimed at including 2 mini verticals of famous wines: Antinori’s Tignanello and Masi’s Serego Alighieri. I uncorked the wines around 18:00 and, luckily, there were no unpleasant surprises with the bottles.

We had two whites, both from Antinori: 2010 Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala Conte della Vipera and 2009 Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala ‘Cervaro della Sala’ both from Umbria.

2010 Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala Conte della Vipera is 90-95% Sauv Blanc and 5-10% Semillon, fermented and vinified in stainless steel tanks. It started to be produced in 1997 for the first time. The wine has delicate herbal and mineral aromas, but lacks substance on the palate. (86/100)

It took almost 2-3 hours for 2009 Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala ‘Cervaro della Sala’ to open up and show its complete aromatic profile. A blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Grechetto, fermented and vinified in oak barrels, then aged for about 8-10 months in the same small oak barrels. Initially it boasts intense aromas of truffles, but after a few hours (and even the next day) the nose shows elegant aromas of toast, butter, walnuts and honey. It is full, round and unctuous on the palate, while the medium(+) finish leaves notes of tropical fruits and walnuts. This was actually better on the second day. (88-89/100)

The purpose of this tasting was to see wines from the most renowned Italian regions and to observe the subtle differences between different vintages for well renowned wines: Tignanello in three vintages – 2004, 2005 and 2008 – and Masi Serego Alligheri 2003 and 2005.

From Piedmont we had wines from Luciano Sandrone and Antinori’s winery – Prunotto. Luciano Sandrone started to make wine in 1978 in his parents garage. His 1978 Barolo produced in a tiny quantity – just 1500 bottles – was purchased entirely by an American wine merchant during 1982 Vinitaly’s fair. Since then the property grew and now consists of 27 ha of vines (75% owned) located in the famous Cannubi Cru and other parts of Barolo. His reputation saw an exponential ascension when his 1989 and 1990 minute quantities Barolo’s received 97/100 and 100/100 points from Robert Parker. He produces Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo d’Alba, and two Barolo’s, employing traditional vinification methods and modern technology.

I chose to serve first the 2004 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore and not his Barbera d’Alba because I felt there is more concentration in Barbera than in the Burgundian character of his Nebbiolo. 2004 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore is a well developed and maturing wine that develops gradually in the glass, showing discreet notes of violets, tobacco, herbs and dry red cherry. Integrated tannins that discreetly mark their presence underneath the wild cherry and spice layers. Medium(+) finish, with hints of drying tannins and sweet red cherry jams. The producer recommended drinking it between 2007-2012, but this is an understatement as the wine has plenty of life left. (91/100)

2005 Luciano Sandrone Barbera d’Alba has a deeper garnet color, a fully developed and intense nose, that was found to be more appealing by the participants. This is probably because 2005 was a cooler year and the wines were recommended for an earlier consumption. There are beautiful aromas of truffles, black cherry and coconut, while the palate is rich and expressive. It feels the wine is more concentrated and modern, while the tannins are fully integrated. The finish is medium long, and leaves juicy red cherry fruit flavors. Another wine that exceeded its life span and can last many more years. This was a big surprise for most participants to see how well this 8 years old Barbera showed. (90/100)

Prunotto is Antinori’s adventure in Barolo. Antinori started to distribute Prunotto’s wines in 1989, and in 1994 they got involved in the vinification process. In 1990 Albiera Antinori bought vines in Agliano (Barbera), Bussia (Barolo) and Calliano (for the study of Albarossa and Syrah). In 1996 they extended the property with 5 ha in Barbaresco (Bric Turot) and 5 ha in Treviso (Muscat). 2008 Prunotto Barolo Antinori is a fairly young Barolo and restrained in aromas. Tar, roses and dried red cherry fruit can be discreetly felt on the nose, while the tannins are smooth considering its age. (88-89/100)

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The big moment expected by all the participants finally arrived. All three bottles of Tignanello were uncorked and left to breathe (just like the rest of the wines) in the bottle. We tasted simultaneously all three vintages: 2004, 2005 and 2008, looking to observe their subtle differences.

Tignanello was produced in 1970 for the first time, being the first Sangiovese wine in Tuscany blended with Cabernet. Since 1982 the blend remained unchanged: 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.

2005 was from the beginning the most expressive and open wine of the three. 2005 Antinori Tignanello is fully developed and intense, surprising the nose with complex and subtle aromas of cedar, peppercorn, leather, dark chocolate and sweet cassis. This is today a beautiful wine, with integrated and soft tannins, rich and well defined flavors of juicy dark cherry and chocolate on the palate, savoury and finishing long and intense. Wine of the night for many. This had the closest profile of the three to a Bordeaux. (93/100)

2004 Antinori Tignanello  was closed in the first 2-3 hours. It only started to open up and become expressive after 4 hours and what a fantastic wine it turned out to be. It has a warm and sunny aromatic profile that you meet in all great Tuscan wines. Well developed, complex and youthful on the nose, it combines intense primary aromas of black cherry, cassis and plums, with secondary and tertiary aromas of toast, leather and game. Still tight on the palate, but very ripe and silky tannins, smooth and soft texture, complex layers of flavors and very elegant. Long finish, showing juicy black cherry and chocolate flavors. This at the beginning of a long life, just starting to open up, but already offering great pleasure. It was the wine of the night for me. (94/100)

Compared to its younger brothers, 2008 Antinori Tignanello is an extremely youthful, intense and modern wine. For me this wine lacks the pleasure offered by 2004 and 2005 at the moment however, there are plenty of details that point to the bright future this wine will have in a few years. It does posses the structure, the smoothness and the rich layers of flavors typical to a successful Tignanello, but it feels totally closed today. (92/100)

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After such great wines, the two Amarone’s faced a great challenge in front of the participants. I was pleasantly surprised by the balance that both 2003 and 2005 Masi Amarone Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron showed. The differences between the two are so subtle and yet so distinctive. 2003 seems to have more nerve and a richer texture, while 2005 seems to march more on freshness and balance. Both wines show sweet and soft tannins, smooth and velvety structure, while the palate is washed with a mix of dry black berry, black cherry and figs, licorice and hints of minerals. Long finish, elegant wines that really please. 2003 (91-92/100) and 2005 (91/100).

My top in a descending order: 2004 Tignanello, 2005 Tignanello, 2003 Masi Amarone Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron, 2004 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore.

You can watch the video presentation of this tasting in Romanian here: https://fromgrapestowine.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/video-wine-dinner-nr-5-vinuri-italiene-martie-28-2013/

(Video) Wine-dinner Nr 5 – Vinuri italiene (Aprilie 3, 2013)

April 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Editia cu nr 5 a seriei de Wine-dinner a acoperit vinurile din Italia. Impreuna cu Matei Garici de la http://www.unvinpezi.ro am facut o prezentare a vinurilor si a modului cum se desfasoara un astfel de eveniment.

Pentru cei interesati sa participe la urmatoarele editii, imi puteti trimite un mail pe adresa: cosmin.grozea@gmail.com

2004 Clos des Pape Chateauneuf du pape

February 4, 2013 Leave a comment

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In the same line up of wines I had on SAT, the last wine before Chateau d’Yquem 2000 was this excellent example of Chateauneuf du pape. The wine was popped and poured, and was not probably left to breath enough time. There were probably not more than 60 minutes left in the decanter and it certainly needs more. Luckily there were some leftovers on the second day and I could get a better idea about it.

2004 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du pape

Dark red – saturated ruby color. From the first pour in the glass the nose betrays an extremely young wine. The nose is almost undeveloped and if you would not know the vintage you could swear you are tasting a 2009 or 2010.

Not even prolonged aeration or having it on the second day doesn’t move this wine into a more developed stage. There are aromas of sweet red and black cherry, Indian spices and a mix of herbs: sage, thyme and lavender, but the wine needs to spend longer time in bottle. It is full bodied on the palate – for a Chateauneuf du pape it might qualify as medium to full body, a smooth texture of fine grained tannins that makes the wine already pleasant to drink, flavors of raspberry, strawberry and red cherry jams, white pepper and showing a powerful character on the long spicy and Grenache like red fruit finish. I would not open the next bottle for at least another 4-5 years. Regarding aging potential, this has at least another 20-30 years of life ahead. 14.5 % (93/100)

Wine-dinner with Billecart-Salmon

December 11, 2012 3 comments

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I attended a wine-dinner with Billecart-Salmon Champagne last week at La Bonne Bouche restaurant in the Old Center organized by Vinimondo (the importer). Mr Denis Roland-Billecart was present in Bucharest and presented four wines that are included in Vinimondo’s portfolio of imports. The event brought together about 10-12 people only and it was a lovely dinner filled with plenty of interesting information about the history and the wines made by Billecart-Salmon, but also fun and good joy.

Billecart-Salmon is a Negociant-Manipulant (meaning merchant-distributor), still family owned. They purchase the bulk of the grapes they need from dozens of growers. They typically blend wines from different vintages, and vineyards, to produce house style wines that consumers can be confident will be virtually the same each year. They also own a few Pinot Noir vineyards.

Billecart-Salmon produces around 2 Millions bottles each year and 25% is sold on the domestic market in France. The rest goes out for export. According to Mr Roland-Billecart the Champagne consumption on the global level dipped 25-30% in 2008, but grew back about 40% the following year and has been on a positive trend ever since.

We had a 6 course menu prepared by an Italian chef that has a 2 star Michelin restaurant in Italy and is temporarily cooking at La Bonne Bouche. So, if you want to enjoy some interesting food you might want to have lunch or dinner at La Bonne Bouche as soon as possible, as it is not clear how long this Italian chef will cook there.

The menu consisted of: octopus with green asparagus, potatoes and balsamic reduction / tartar of tuna, salmon and seabass / risotto with seafood /  grilled tuna in white sauce / cold lobster salad / dessert: creme brulee, tiramisu and mousse de chocolat.

We started with Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, the NV Champagne that represents the house style. Medium color, citrus fruit and autolysis on the nose, yeasty, with citrus fruit, pear and minerals on the palate; medium body, low dosage, medium plus long finish, refreshing acidity. A very nice Champagne, balanced and rewarding. One of my favorites for the evening. (90-91/100)

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Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose is a Champagne designed for gastronomy. Light pink colored with good effervescence and tiny bubbles. This seems fuller in the mouth and tannins mark their presence. The nose shows yeast, roses, cherry, strawberry and raspberry jam but without the sweetness. Elegant and creamy on the palate, with long finish. This sparkling wine needs food. (91-92/100)

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Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois is fermented and aged 100% in 2-3 years old barrels. This is a massive Champagne. Medium yellow colored, it shows spicy oak on the nose, with roasted almonds and sweet yellow apple. Mouth filling, luscious flavors on the palate, showing tannins, bold, with firm structure. Long finish, spicy and ripe yellow fruit. A totally different style, opulent and restless at this present stage. (90/100)

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Billecart-Salmon Vintage 2004 is elegant and shows great tension on the palate. It has great potential to develop and has reserves of flavors, with sharp acidity, a strong mineral backbone and enough tension to make you imagine a constricted spring when you sip it. Long finish, fresh citrus fruit. 2004 was a great vintage in Champagne. My absolute favorite for the evening. (92-93/100)

It was a very enjoyable 4 hours dinner and the Champagne is great.

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