Question: I read your Blog dated June 24 about the differences between pinot noirs from the Russian River and the Sonoma Coasts. What would you say the difference is between Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Sonoma Coast/Russian River Pinots? I am planning an event to contrast the OR Pintos from the CA Pinots.
Answer: Will be an interesting comparison. Both Oregon and California are changing rapidly with the benefit of older vines planted in the right spots and the influence of climate change. There are some unique best places being found and developed for pinot noir in both states. For example on the Sonoma Coast quality producers like Littorai are able to achieve just enough rich ripeness (but not too much) to balance out that good fresh underlying acidity. Some don’t reach the same complexity picking grapes too early that are slightly under ripe or too late overripe. Difficult to get everything perfect. Look at the excitement being generated by amazing pinot noirs from Santa Rita Hills. In Oregon you have pinot noirs that are lighter more delicate and fragrant than the denser fuller riper richer ones in California. However there are lots of exceptions to that overly general rule. Good to remember that California has higher temperatures, fewer daylight hours, and a longer growing season while Oregon has cooler temperatures, more daylight hours, but usually a shorter growing season before the Fall rains arrive. Additionally climate change is really affecting Oregon with the last 5 years seeing the warmest increased temperatures on record during the growing season. Over 62% of the grapes grown in Oregon are pinot noir. This presently can be a big benefit for them in achieving perfect phenolic ripeness but also an added pressure to harvest earlier. The best way to explore the fascinating differences between the two states is by tasting the specific bottles you actually open and studying them. Please report back on the findings.
This new reality is certainly cutting back on the feasibility of holding memorable wine events that were much more easily done in the good old days. However this didn’t stop a wonderful couple of Burgundy collectors from carefully orchestrating one last month at their home featuring treasures from their cellar with the theme of Richebourg Grand Cru red Burgundy. Smartly and safely socially distanced with a superbly catered dinner in 3 separate rooms at large tables of only 5-6 persons at each. How comfortable relaxing and thoughtfully done.
What an indulgence to try 17 different spectacular Richebourg in one evening. Almost too much of a good thing but yet an incomparable education on this most important non-monopole in Vosne-Romanee. There are references to this great domain going back to 1512 but presently has 8.03 hectares divided into 2 main lieux-dits or parcels of more northernly cooler Les Verroilles ou Richebourgs with rows planted to run north to south of 2.98 ha and southerly Les Richebourgs of 5.05 ha with east-west rows on 255-295 metre slope with clay, pebbles, sand over hard limestone. Originally it was referenced that the former was only a Premier Cuvee and the latter the Tete de Cuvee but Rodier promoted both and they were unified in 1924. The question remains as to whether they in fact are of equal quality. Also as to whether Les Verroilles may continue to improve with this northern aspect due to continuing climate change.
This occasion provided the rare opportunity to compare 8 vintages of Meo-Camuzet (M-C) with 7 from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC) with 2 bonus choices for comparison of 1999 Domaine A. F. Gros with .6 ha (open elegant more delicate finesse than expected for the vintage + well managed tannins) and 2005 Thibault Liger-Belair .55 ha (dense powerful smooth tannins classic needing more time) with a main dinner course of perfectly paired Coq Au Vin with duck fat frites.
The main focus of our delightful wine study was the difference between the Richebourg M-C of .35 ha nearly all of it in Les Verroilles with DRC largest holding of 3.51 ha (with Leroy second at .78) divided between Les Verroilles 1 ha & Les Richebourgs 2.5 ha. Another major difference was the winemaking techniques of stems or no stems. The legendary Henri Jayer who made the first M-C in 1985 (his last 1987) was a strong supporter of 100% destemming (felt wine “confected” using stems) with some beautiful vintages produced including that 1985, 1978 & 1959. His successor Jean-Nicolas Meo has continued this method though cleverly experimented in 2009/2010 with adding back some riper stems for whole bunch during fermentation achieving added structure and finish but felt the wine lost some charm. On the other hand DRC are big advocates for whole bunch fermentation and 100% new oak with their own casks. Let’s look at your scribe’s brief impressions:
2014 – Loads of fresh fruit with balancing acidity all so young and correct. Patience needed.
2012 – Lovely charm with freshness a surprise for the vintage.
2010 – Cool aristocratic classy fruit with firm structure shows excellent promise indeed to become a classic. Whether experimental stems used or not – still a wonderfully balanced Richebourg.
2009 – Shows full riper “sweetness” and spice of black & red fruits with lower acidity but still an impressive seductive beauty to cellar even though is approachable earlier. Taste experimental stems used for added structure in this hot vintage?
2008 – Some developing bouquet of chocolate-coffee. Deep clean fruit helped from northern winds has more acidity to hold it with further aging. Opened up as aired and warmed up to become rather accessible already.
2007 – Lighter quite cool year stylishly fragrant and more tender supple for an earlier drinking plateau of an elegant vintage better with food.
2006 – Dark colour. Surprisingly bright and almost sumptuous ripe cherries. Like the lively balance and open charm to make a memorable bottle to enjoy while waiting for those 2005 to come around.
1995 – Further developed in an earthy spice ready to drink manner but lacks velvet texture because has some of those drier tannins of the vintage. Ready.
DOMAINE DE LA ROMANEE-CONTI RICHEBOURG:
2007 – Very light and controversial year for DRC. Lacks depth. Reminds of the old leaner fantastic elegant bouquet and flavours of those three-packs from the property of the sixties from off-years? Evolving quickly.
2006 – Also light but more precise. Some rounder richer notes. Approachable. Showing already brilliantly complex tonight. Note both 2006 & 2007 much lighter and mature looking than same vintages of the deep bright M-C.
2005 – What a difference here! Much better intense generous fruit. Still stern but some underlying distinctive Asian spices peeking through. So much potential and probably ultimately the best wine of all these for sure.
2004 – Delicious exotic surprise here. Open ready amazing complexity with some violets but mostly herbal tea with wild cherries. Finish goes on.
2002 – Paler than expected but lots more of that unique DRC exquisite flowers, spice and exotica on the nose. Still so structured with no rush. Will still develop a better smooth texture with more aging as loses tannins. The textbook example of a powerful Richebourg style.
1998 – Different with an unusual caramel sweetness that makes it quite ready for drinking. Variable year but hoped for more weight and pure fruit. Approachable but a puzzle.
1996 – Reductive and funky at first pouring. Blew off to show some purer fruit elegance. A bit stemmy from those whole bunches and not together at this time. Prefer it over 98 but has some of that usual 1996 tannic hardness. Would try it again.
What a Richebourg Masterclass. Interesting discussion among the knowledgeable attendees about the showing of diverse styles. Many preferred the easier more bright fruit vigour of the fresher M-C. Some liked the muscular power and tannic structure plus unique bouquet of DRC – especially in 2005 but also 2002. We were all amazed about how Richebourg from M-C and DRC can be so different in their styling of this most special terroir.
Question: Where can I taste the heritage Mission grape variety in a wine?
Answer: Yes the historic Mission grape is coming back in vogue. It is the earliest vitis vinifera grape imported to the New World with some old vines still remaining as a hardy easy to grow low acid quite different variety that can grow into monster size vine stocks as we see with old ones. Believe the revival is being fueled by many factors including the natural wine movement and the growing in popularity similar grape in Chile named Pais. Check out Miguel Torres Reserva de Pueblo made from 100% Pais. A good example in California is from Story Winery that has the 2017 Mission (using 1894 plantings) from Shenandoah Valley for $28. Some interesting new work with the “Mision grape” becoming recognized by Bichi (“naked”) in the Baja Mexico from their first vintage in 2014 worth checking out and available in LA. Also a useful grape with fortified brandy in dessert wines of Angelica produced by Heitz Cellars, Trentadue and others. Intriguing.
Today Monday August 3 is a celebration for British Columbia recognized as BC Day as well as being a Civic/Provincial Holiday in many parts of Canada. It also is the weekend for Food Day Canada which your scribe posted about here last year on July 22, 2019. There were some restaurants featuring culinary delights of Canada on their menu this weekend – a good regional example is this one from The Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino. However due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic issues the emphasis was on experiencing in your own home some of the local food treasures presently available seasonally. Check out the fooddaycanada.ca website and interesting postings at #FoodDayCanada on both Twitter & Instagram.
We have been joining in with several choice food items we enjoy using at home. Some amazing fresh fruits and vegetables highlighted our weekend. A wonderful selection of three different home garden grown green beans (including choice thin French variety) and peapods, lettuces, baby potatoes, fresh corn, and baby zucchini. A cornucopia of fruit including personally foraged blackberries, blueberries, figs, cherries, strawberries (even fully ripe red in the middle) and peaches. A special treat dessert of Joan’s deep dish blackberry pie with no bottom crust! Mushrooms are available with a harvest of morels, porcini and chanterelles all seeming to emerge almost at the same time. A fantastic main course of fresh wild King Spring salmon from the Fraser River roasted in the oven with a glaze of lime, soy & honey really hit the culinary spotlight for us.
What are some of your favourite foods from Canada?