Wine bottles…Why bigger IS better!

2005_OakvilleRanch_6L Recently I was fortunate enough to try wine from a pretty large bottle. The wine was a 6L (holds 8 bottles) 2005 Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was bursting of red/black fruit, especially cassis, had an excellent mid-palate and a long ROUND finish. I couldn’t believe how soft this wine tasted. I then asked the owner how long the bottle had been open. “Two days”, he replied “and it is finally drinking really well”. “Very tannic when we first opened it”.

So what is it with BIG bottles of wine? They are very hard to store. They are generally difficult to find. They almost ALWAYS cost more than if you had bought the single bottles, separately.

There are obvious fun factors– they are cool to break out at parties and it is entertaining to watch someone pour from the really large ones. However there are some very important reasons to go big…

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Pre-2000 Bordeaux Blind tasting

Bordeaux Pre-2000,
Blind Tasting Dinner

Restaurant 42, White Plains
December 17, 2012

Starter wines:

2011 Hamilton Russel Vineyards Chardonnay, South Africa.
Stony, Mineral, yet with full ripe citrus fruit

1991 Havens Chardonnay,
California (Magnum).

Deep golden color with no browning, good acid with flavors of caramel, almonds. An amazing non Reserve California Chardonnay, still drinking well, after 20+ years.

 

Flight 1

1982 Chateau-Lascombes, Margaux, France.
At first aromas of iron, earth but lacking in fruit continued to open and evolve with
very strong tobacco leaf with building fruit profile. Perfectly integrated tannins.
Drinking beautifully… probably the WINE OF THE NIGHT.

1983 Chateau Pichon Lalande, Pauillac, France.
Detected aromas of mint (eucalyptus?) or cedar also drinking very well. As it sat in glass it continued to change with flavors of grilled meat and tobacco.

1989 Chateau Leoville Las Cases, St. Julien, France.
Compared to first wines, very youthful and slightly tannic- will be a beautiful wine
(has PLENTY ) of life left.

Not sure the next wines can be any better… Continue reading

The “skinny” on Chile- Organic Wines, Excellent Value

South American wines often get lumped together on wine lists and in retail stores, and that is a shame. The two largest wine producing regions of Chile and Argentina have some things in common:

Location (latitude)- they share weather and temperature

Altitude-they are located on either side of the Andes mountains which is a key component in their unique terroir

Very little rain-both countries have very little rain fall but have ample water for wine production due to the melting snow and ice of the Andes.

Very low cost of labor– Virtually all grapes are picked by hand.

All of these factors are beneficial to wine growing. They allow them to produce clean wines (hardly any chemical usage), with very ripe fruit, high acid, and soft tannin.

BUT CHILE IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM ARGENTINA…

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This wine is like a great red Bordeaux only BETTER and CHEAPER!

My wife was out of town so being a “bachelor”… I grilled my dinner (steak). I was looking for a good wine to pair with it and after I tasted this one, it blew me away.

May de Lencquesaing, then owner of the famous Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Bordeaux), purchased this South African property in 2003.

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Is Old Wine Better?

To join in the fun of Open That Bottle Night  I decided to open a wine special to me- a 1986 California Cabernet Sauvignon (this was the year I graduated High School).

Since I am often asked, “Are old wines better?” AND I had a younger   Napa Cab downstairs in the “cellar”- I opened them both.

2006 Atlas Peak (L) / 1986 Beringer (R)

About Older wines… Approximately 95% of wines are made to be consumed within 1 year of their release (when they are first on shelves).

As a general guide, the wines that usually reward aging are the robust reds – the better Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhones from France, their counterparts (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah) from the New World; sturdy Italian reds like Brunello and Barolo; and the rich, strong dessert wines like Port, Sauternes and the fine late-harvest Rieslings from Germany.

 On to the wines…

As you can see from the corks above there is a big difference in the color of the wines. Whites wines get darker as they age but red wines actually get lighter and less saturated (less colorful) as they age.

The 2006 Atlas Peak in the glass, was purple and opaque but the 1986 Beringer was more transparent and brick orange-red in color.

Tasting the wines proved they tasted as different as they appeared.

Atlas Peak 2006 is still a young wine and has some noticeable tannin that will soften as it ages. It had VERY ripe flavors of dark fruit (blackberry, currant), almost jammy, with noticeable OAK.

Made from Cabernet Sauvignon from different Napa Valley mountain vineyards it is a great wine for the price (around $25).

The 1986 Beringer, Knights Valley was much more subtle and restrained. As wine ages in barrel,   the tannins, imparted from the grape skins and stems, become less apparent. The flavors of this wine were less ripe fruit, but still darker fruits, like currant and black cherry, with some earth and iron. Although this wine still had some life left it was nowhere near as  fruit forward as the Atlas Peak.

So which is better?

Kinda like comparing your niece and your grandmother. One is youthful, carefree and full of life, the other has experience/wisdom and has “mellowed” a bit with life and age.

But you love them both.

 

Silver Oak vertical tasting…Does vintage matter?

Silver Oak Napa Valley- 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

The year, or vintage, listed on a the wine label is the year that the grapes were harvested. It is a snapshot of the entire year, in a bottle, (the weather in the region, the weather in the vineyard, and it’s effect on the fruit.)

In wine regions with cooler climates, like Germany or France, there is wider variation in the growing conditions so it is more difficult to consistently get fully ripe fruit. Experts say vintage is VERY important with these wines.

In hotter wine regions like California, the conditions are much more reliable and therefore the wines vary less from vintage to vintage. Let’s see if this is true.

The best way to taste the TRUE difference vintage makes, in a wine, is to drink them side by side, in a vertical tasting. Basically drinking many glasses of the same wine, from different vintages. I know…I know, it sounds like work, but someone has to do it.

I was invited to a vertical tasting, by friends from #Westchester Wine Meetup, of a classic California Cabernet, Silver Oak. My wife and I biked around Napa several years ago and tasted wines at Silver Oak so I know a little about them.

Silver Oak Vineyard- Napa

• They produce full bodied wine, yet they make it ready to drink upon release.

They use 100% American Oak, which gives the wine a spicy quality.

• Silver Oak Cabernet vines are HUGE and are actually a part of the Tolerant Taster web page header above.

• They started out making one wine that contained only 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Now they produce two wines:

1. Silver Oak Alexander Valley- still 100% Cab blended from several of their vineyards.

2. Silver Oak Napa Valley- a Bordeaux style Blend that is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (around 80%). See my tasting notes for actuals.

Now…can I tell the difference from one year to another…

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“Bottle Shock”- Drinking Wine with Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and Heidi Barrett of La Sirena.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to take advantage of an opportunity to taste wine with 2 legends of Napa Valley, Bo and Heidi Barrett.

A little about them…

In 1976, Bo Barrett, working at Chateau Montelena with his father, submitted Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay to the “Judgment of Paris” competition. The Napa Valley wine was up against several top white French Burgundies – and Montelena won. The American victory stunned the wine world and put Napa on the wine map overnight. What’s even more impressive is that the wines were rated by French wine experts.

Click to read more about the Judgement of Paris, and what happened at the “rematch”.

Heidi Barrett, Bo’s wife, was THE wine maker responsible for Screaming Eagle, a California cult Cab, when the wines achieved 99 and 100 point ratings from Robert Parker and  started commanding in excess of $1,000 PER BOTTLE.

Click here to see current prices for Screaming Eagle.

At the event, Bo gave his take on biodynamics: “It’s bullshit.” He talked about how difficult it is Continue reading