This persistent Covid-19 pandemic is resulting in the most challenging of times for close personal social interaction. As a result we are not getting together with friends over meals to discuss our shared passion for food and wine. One novel idea we have embarked on successfully over these past weeks is to plan a supper party date with a theme, invite some friends, coordinate for each to provide an appropriate food course & surprise wine and all share in the meal. The logistics get a bit tricky but we meet outside at the home of one of us at 6 pm socially distanced enough to enjoy some choice bubbles and catch-up on the current buzz. Meanwhile the host for the evening takes the individual prepared packaged food courses from everyone and the wine pre-poured into “jam jars” with identifying stickers of provider/recipient and puts these together for take-away. We all go back to our respective homes and reunite on line (we are using Zoom) around 7:15 for our wonderful social event sharing an identical dinner with wine pairings. What a lot of fun!
The theme last week was Loire with a diverse selection of so appropriate food and wine provided. Fresh mussels with vibrant excellent 2018 Muscadet Sur Lie La Tarciere from Bonnet-Huteau, tomato tart & wild mushroom soup with pure fruity charming 2018 Rose Sancerre Chavignol from Domaine Delaporte of 100% pinot noir, and chicken vol-au-vent (puff pastry ready to pop into your own oven) with treasured complex 1995 Grand Mont Bourgueil Val de Loire by Pierre-Jacques Druet. Finished up with a delightful walnut cake plus roasted apples perfectly matched with 2004 Clos De La Guiberderie Coteaux Du Layon Saint Aubin from Domaine Philippe Delesvaux. Memorable dinner party among friends.
The one before that was on a Rhone theme with Bouillabaisse, stuffed peppers with ratatouille, Tian of eggplant, roasted tomatoes, pecorino cheese & herbs, and the main of Avignonnaise Daube (Provencal lamb stew). Some interesting Rhone wines included outstanding 2010 Chave Hermitage Blanc, 2013 Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet, and powerful 1998 Ch. Beaucastel all poured by you from the jam jars into your favourite wine glasses to study blind and discuss. The next one scheduled early next month features California cab and chardonnay.
Try putting together one of these yourself. Worth the trouble. What other new ideas have you come up with presently to get together with friends virtually over wine and food?
Question: I have been enjoying some pinot noirs coming from both Russian River & Sonoma Coast. Would you kindly tell me the main difference?
Answer: Boy that is tough one to give you a helpful simple answer. Both Russian River Valley (RRV) & Sonoma Coast (SC) are in Sonoma County California under the influence of foggy conditions. Both are a large AVA (American Viticultural Area) with lots of producers showing different styles. Soils are becoming a big factor with lots of alluvial types in RRV but both regions continue to seek out those special Goldridge sandy loam on a sandstone base from decomposed sea beds to terroir advantage. SC is closer to the Pacific Ocean often at higher elevation and generally is cooler, wetter & more windy – resulting in a key difference of lower night-time temperatures. Not really fair because of the wide style variations to summarize the resulting wines from the 2 AVA regions. However I will try to help you a little bit nonetheless. IMHO a simple explanation of the wines from the 2 regions might be summarized briefly as follows:
RRV tends to be riper richer deeper in colour of black cherry & cola notes with a lush velvety texture.
often shows more herbal varietal fruit of brighter acidity with a
lively structure all with a mouth feel of silky tannin grip.
This persistent Covid-19 pandemic has been well managed in British Columbia with restaurants allowed to re-open under stricter safety guidelines. Pleased to have attended my first return at Blue Water in Vancouver on June 16 for a delicious dinner matched with some pretty stellar top Bordeaux from the 1990 vintage. Their competent management and staff did an excellent job of putting eight of us together at one table appropriately spaced in their private Oceans room with the door to the outside open providing lots of fresh air. Nice conditions – well done! Fun to be social again in real time tasting and dining among friends. The dinner commenced with the delicate 2004 Krug vintage bubbles tagged by them as “Luminous Freshness” probably because this blend contains higher chardonnay 39% & pinot meunier 24% with lesser pinot noir 37% (2006 has 48% pinot noir). Lovely harmony with finesse forwardly drinking but somewhat atypical for Krug – watch for their release of that anxiously awaited phenomenal 2008!
The 1990 Bordeaux were celebrated on release and continue to be highly regarded while still often compared with their 1989 twin sister. Both vintages produced very large crops from hot opulent years with lower acidities. Today most of us feel that generally 1990 is more consistent and holding better at age 30 than 1989. However there are lots of great 1989s as well including those amazing 1989 Haut-Brion & La Mission Haut-Brion and Pichon Baron Wine Spectator Wine of the Year in 1992 – though their 1990 is spectacular as well. Clearly the Mouton & Pichon Lalande are richer and more complex from 1989 than in 1990. For reference your scribe featured here in this Blog on February 24, 2014 some interesting 1989 Bordeaux at 25 years of age and on February 22, 2016 compared in more detail these twin vintages of 1989 & 1990.
Ten 1990 top Bordeaux in 4 flights are memorable well paired with some brilliant food courses summarized briefly as follows:
1990 CHATEAU FIGEAC: A lovely example of this cabernet styled St. Emilion showing quite aged paling browner colour forwardly open of some attractive herbal notes improving with airing most ready to enjoy as an elegant claret.
1990 CHATEAU L’ANGELUS (as it was then known – now Angelus): Darkest dense almost black look with full rich concentrated fruit. Depth is so intense and impressive with no rush to drink at 30 still showing potential though already wonderful. What a strict selection of the best merlot & cab franc grapes most worthy of Premier Grand Cru status even before its elevation in 1996.
1990 BEAUSEJOUR DUFFAU-LAGARROSSE: Fairly dark with a paling rim. Fragrant bouquet is very stylish indeed with a long finish on an interesting enjoyment plateau this time edging a little closer to that controversial 100 point score than on my last couple visits with it. A legend.
1990 PICHON LALANDE: Light vintage because no press wine added plus the unsettling conditions with passing of May’s husband The General and the departure of the winemaker. Nonetheless this is the best bottle of the 1990 I have ever tasted. Expected the leanness but still surprised by the lasting terroir freshness there with this extended aging – quite lovely with the quail dish.
1990 CHATEAU PAPE CLEMENT: Dark look. Solid fruit but lacks in several bottles tried recently an overall charming excitement. Shows best here in this second flight but is flattered tonight by the easier company. Also better enjoyed with the food.
1990 CHATEAU LEOVILLE BARTON: Not the best bottle as unclean with some brett & TCA issues. Has those typical iodine notes too but there are excellent cassis very St. Julien classic usual bottles out there. Good luck.
1990 CHATEAU MONTROSE: Another 100 pointer that is very St. Estephe deep big powerful fruit with some of that coarser austerity still present. Impresses but not really singing yet though still believe this massive wine will be superb as old bones as it benefits with more cellar aging.
1990 CHATEAU PICHON BARON: Maybe wine of the night! Very dark and young looking. Rich full cigar-box cedar Pauillac. Enjoyed the showing of this wine with Christian Seely in a vertical at Terminal City Club Vancouver on February 28, 2014 and subsequently. Gets better on ever occasion. A treasure probably better than the celebrated also excellent 1989 “Wine of the Year”. A treat indeed.
1990 CHATEAU MARGAUX: First Growth breeding shines through in another 100 point wine. Sometimes underrated property because of this fine graceful Margaux styling but most deserving here. Really admire the violet flowers the fragrances and the pure elegance of cab sauvignon unique to this terroir. What an amazing flight of 3 beauties to enjoy served with top cuisine.
1990 CHATEAU DE FARGUES: Alexandre de Lur Saluces historic “museum” produces special low yields from late picking with a particularly powerful rich thick many flavoured Sauternes in 1990 the last of the trilogy of vintages. Fresh ripe pineapple fruit shines in both the wine and the dessert with hints of ginger, orange, caramel, and creme brulee crisp softness.
Question: I am a long time collector of pinot noirs from Central Otago but I am noticing a change in the style. Why is this?
Answer: Not quite sure what you mean by your question as to how they have changed in style – to a more preferred one for you or not? . Most vineyards around the world are experiencing some changes in climate. Believe Central Otago (a drier colder southern region of New Zealand) so far has been less affected than many other wine regions. However their future weather projections show a continuing warming trend with more extremes of rainfall. Presently one of their biggest wine changes has resulted from carefully determining the very best single vineyard sites for growing pinot noir plus the maturing of the vines over the past two decades. This has brought more complexity. Another important development has been the backing off on extraction techniques during fermentation resulting in less dark deep colour but most attractive floral aromatics in a balanced elegant pinot noir with a unique terroir. The future looks bright indeed.
Your scribe is a long time admirer and close friend of May de Lencquesaing. She took over the controlling reins in July 1978 of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac a Deuxieme Cru Bordeaux Official Classification of 1855. May’s conscientious management and hands-on dedication to quality wines resulted in super-second status for this property for nearly 30 years when sold in 2007 to Louis Roederer. What a brilliant run of vintages in the eighties from 1981 to 1989! Historic full round 1982 “was an easy hot ripe year” but classic 1983 “a constant battle” requiring her to miss an August vacation to be on site avoiding rot from the rains and protecting the vines from the red spider to achieve that fantastic “clean intensity”. May just celebrated her 95th birthday on May 17, 2020 in Stellenbosch South Africa at her Glenelly Estate producing excellent Bordeaux-style red blends led by flagship Lady May. Such fond memories of being with her at Pichon enjoying her 70th & 80th birthday celebrations. Thought it would be fun to get together on line with some of her longtime wine friends on June 10 to salute her valuable contributions plus relive so many exciting nostalgic memories. Nine hour time differences meant starting 10 am in Vancouver and 7 pm in South Africa with other participating zones in between. May showed up brightly on screen using brand new Zoom tech for the first time with her usual vibrant knowledgeable contributions to the event. We discussed many vintages including her first one 1978 where she “didn’t know yet how to control the vine selection but even though it is not a big wine still remains fresh vibrant with the aromatic quality of elegance & charm that is so very Pichon”. Delicious 1985, long aging structured 1986, bad beginning + good ending 1988 (weather similar to 1978) tannins late harvest, 1989 early pick September 11. Some pre-May vintages also intriguing with underrated 1975 (some coulure issues on the merlot) finally resolving those firm tannins and exquisite 1953 Nicolas bottling still elegantly singing with such a long finish. Memories of enjoying in Vancouver with May back in November 1986 both the 1962 & 1953 in unique Marie-Jeanne format (a three bottle size of 2.25 liters) now discontinued. At that time May compared “owning a vineyard is like owning a racehorse requiring high maintenance”. Asked her whether she still had this same opinion now at Glenelly. May replied “owners in South Africa are realizing the potential is there to make wines of very high quality”. There the Bordeaux grapes ripen at quite different times extending “picking over a longer 6-8 week period – less quickly than at Pichon – but though the problems are different the issues are similar with big challenges presented to produce the very top wine.”
On June 5 on Vinous Live the Pichon manager Nicolas Glumineau did a delightful presentation on their current releases. Since 2012 they have been replanting the vineyard at about 3 hectares every year increasing from roughly 50% cabernet sauvignon to 70% and reducing the merlot from 40 to 25. Your scribe asked him why they now were using less petit verdot in the blend. Though they used that elegant flavour enhancer of 6% petit verdot in the 2014 they are tending away from it as he “can’t quite understand it as a fragile variety” and prefers instead the use of more cab franc in the mix. Nicolas feels these changes will provide “more backbone to Pichon and deliver more of a Pauillac styled wine.”
We liked thinking back with May to that amazing retrospective tasting over 2 days in Los Angeles mid-November 1987 trying 1986 back to 1875 with a star flight the second one on the second day of 86, 85, 84, 83, 82, 81, 80, and 79 that prompted Harry Waugh to say “it was best of all flights”. All those were wines made by May! Riedel supplied for the very first time all the Bordeaux glasses for this tasting specially embossed on the base with “LOS ANGELES 14.-15. 11.1987”. What a keepsake! Pleased to report that May is well and thriving as a continuing wine legend. Look forward to a virtual tasting of Glenelly vintages with her this Fall. Check out her old style Pichon wines and her new exciting venture as well.