Open That Bottle Night, #3
July 22, 2014

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Every two or three months, R and I get together with our friends and we all bring a couple of "those bottles" -- you know, the kind that you're saving for a special occasion, only when that special occasion comes, you decide that your Uncle Albert would be just as happy with that Yellowtail as he would your Ridge Monte Bello, so back in the closet it goes.

Why not bring your great wine to folks who will appreciate it?  And why taste one great wine when you can taste six?  That's the motivation behind Open That Bottle Night.

We use the following format:

  • One bottle per person. 
  • The bottle should be a special bottle -- a wine or style that you're really geeking out about right now, or maybe something that's one of your longtime favorites.
  • Each bottle should be wrapped completely in foil.  We'll pour each wine once blind, talk about it, write our notes, make our guesses, then reveal it, with the opportunity to re-pour. 
  • No tricks.  Since this is a partially blind tasting format, varietals that are incredibly uncommon or renditions that are completely atypical are actually less fun than wines that allow you to explore and expand your knowledge.

Here's the result of our most recent round:

OTBN3 - VouvrayGlass

Wine #1

Tasting Notes: 

This wine is unreal.  It’s bright gold, with a neon-green undertone.  If you’d presented me with this in a glass, I would have assumed it wasn’t wine at all, but a liqueur or possibly some kind of sports drink.  The nose is equally confusing.  Anise, and several other herby smells.  Almost like Galliano without the sugar!  (R maintains that it’s only visually suggestive of that Italian liqueur, but I think there’s more of a connection than that.)

On the palate, it’s low-acid, smooth and slightly viscous, like a sweet wine might be, but I’m not getting a lot of sugar from it, if any.  Any fruit that was in here has dropped away, leaving beguiling but difficult to classify secondary flavors.  

Analysis:  

Obviously an old-world white wine.  Pinning down the age was difficult.  On the one hand, there were no signs of oxidation in the color or on the palate.  On the other hand, it must be old enough to allow the fruit to have dropped away or evolved into secondary flavors.  What kept the wine youthful during all this time, given that it is not a sweet wine?   I guessed that it was made in the 70’s. 

There are few white wines that can go that kind of distance.  Riesling, obviously.  I’ve had a fair amount of aged riesling, however, and this doesn’t remind me of it in the slightest — between the color, the herbal nose, and the lack of typical secondary flavors like petrol, I’m pretty sure this is not a Riesling.  Top-flight white burgundy ages, sure, but this is definitely not that either.  The green-gold does remind me of some youthful Semillons that I’ve had, so maybe old white Bordeaux?  I don’t have much experience with those, but the few examples that I have had definitely show more color evolution.  Of course there are several ageworthy whites that I have little experience with:  Gruner Veltliner, maybe, and several Italian varietals. 

I actually wasn’t foundering as much as the previous paragraphs imply.  I knew that P&D, who brought the only white wine of the evening, went traveled to the Loire in the past year and brought back several aged Vouvrays.  I know that Chenin Blanc can be quite ageworthy, though I haven’t had a lot of old ones to compare it to.  I’d like to say that this would have been on my list of possibilities even if I hadn’t known about their travels.

Guess

  • Sphere: Old World
  • Location: France, Loire Valley, Vouvray
  • Varietal: Chenin Blanc
  • Vintage: 1970-1975

Actual Wine Information

  • Sphere: Old World
  • Location: France, Loire Valley, Vouvray
  • Varietal: Chenin Blanc
  • Vintage: 1959 
  • Name:  Les Caves Duhard

Conclusion

This was an amazing experience.  I’ve never had a wine like it.  One thing’s for sure — I need more old Chenin in my life.  Thanks, P&D!

Wine #2: 

Tasting Notes:

Dark ruby in the glass, with some translucence.   The nose the package of dark berries, baking spices, and lushness that immediately says New World Pinot Noir, along with a touch of pine resin.  On the palate:  medium-bodied, red-fruited, good acidity.  Relatively low alcohol.  A bit reserved and short, but there’s a lot to it in general and therefore I suspect that it might just need some air, or that it might be in a quiet phase.

Analysis:

The nose alone told us New World Pinot.  The darker nature of the fruit and the bit of lushness in the texture say to me that it’s not Oregon, so probably California.  (Or, I suppose, New Zealand, but I don’t know enough about NZ Pinot to rule it in or out, so let’s run with the California idea.)  Despite the bit of density and luxury, it has all of the hallmarks of a cool-climate wine — e.g., low alcohol, lack of cola or sarsaparilla type of flavors or ripe fruit.  So, not Russian River or Central Coast.  I know that some parts of Santa Maria / Santa Ynez are theoretically cool, but (although I enjoy them) they rarely taste like what I think of as cool-climate, so I’m going to rule that out.  Sonoma Coast is a relatively straightforward choice here, though there are probably several places where a wine with the characteristics that I was able to identify could have been made.

OTBN3 - RhysGuess:

  • Sphere: New World
  • Location: USA, California, Sonoma, Sonoma Coast
  • Varietal: Pinot Noir
  • Vintage: 2007-2010

Actual Wine Information

  • Sphere: New World
  • Location: USA, California, Santa Cruz Mountains
  • Varietal: Pinot Noir
  • Vintage: 2006
  • Name: Rhys, Alpine Hillside

 

Conclusion:

I don't know much about wine in the Santa Cruz area, so this was a very interesting result for me.  

This wine continued to evolve over the course of the evening.  I wish I’d kept notes about the changes.  I think this does bode well for this wine’s ageability.

Wine #3

Blood-colored.  Bricking at the edges.  Some slightly cooked odors, along with some oxidative smells, though not too much.  Is this still wine, or has it given up the ghost?

Yes, yes it is definitely still wine.  Very curious.  The fruit doesn’t taste cooked like I feared; instead, it’s almost caramelized — not in the sense of being sweet, but developed, like a seared steak.  No, that’s not a good descriptor.    In any case, despite my fears from the smell, this wine still going strong.

Analysis:

I’m always at a loss when trying to analyze these older wines.  In particular, I find it hard to tie attributes I perceive in them to typical varietal characteristics, as many of the latter have dropped away or significantly evolved.  I picked this to be an aged Bordeaux, from the mid-70’s.  It seemed similar to some Bordeaux that I’ve had about that age.  Besides, what else are you going to bother to age that long?

Guess:

  • Sphere: Old World
  • Location: France, Bordeaux
  • Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
  • Vintage: 1975-1979

Actual Wine Information

  • Sphere: Old World
  • Location: Spain, Rioja
  • Varietal: Tempranillo
  • Vintage: 1973
  • Name: Bodegas Berberana Riserva 

Conclusion: 

One answer to the previous question:  Rioja!  I’d love to do a side-by-side tasting of old red wines from different varietals.  What did I miss that could have pointed me in the right direction, I wonder?

Wine #4

Relatively dark in color; more at the purple end of the spectrum than red.  The nose is a bit intriguing; I get camphor, mainly, and strangely, a bit of honey.  The palate begins with a sour cherry attack, moves into a smooth mid palate with dried cranberry and grilled meat, and finishes with a flash of coarse tannin.  It's medium-bodied all of the way through, with a great acid balance.

Analysis:

This is the first of the two wines that I brought, so I can hardly be objective.  Worse yet, it's not an ideal wine for a blind tasting format, despite the guidelines that I gave above.  Still, I'd like to think that, given the medium weight, consistent acids, and the sour cherry / cranberry fruit, I'd have picked Italy as the country of origin.  Because of the fruit, I might have picked something Nebbiolo-based, like a Barbaresco. I think that even the age would have been a tough pick, as this grape often drinks younger than it actually is.  I'd probably have said 2005-2008.

Guess:

  • Sphere: Old World
  • Location: Italy, Piedmont
  • Varietal: Barbaresco
  • Vintage: 2005-2008

Actual Wine Information

  • Sphere: Old World
  • Location: Italy, Campania
  • Varietal: Aglianico
  • Vintage: 2001
  • Name: Feudi di San Gregorio Irpinia Serpico

Conclusion:

Other folks were generally confused about this wine, and rightly so.  I think it was generally well-regarded, however.  It's a wine that I've wanted to open for quite some time, so I still think it was a good choice for OTBN.

OTBN3 - DemuthWine #5

This was the second bottle that I brought, and I didn't keep great notes about my own wine, sadly.  The only notes that I have for the nose are: "generous fruit with a touch of jalapeño."  My notes for the palate say: "smooth, sliding all the way to a peppery, fine tannin finish.  The fruit seems to start dark, but somehow ends redder and tarter."  Not incredibly in depth.

I do love this wine, and I wish I had written my own impressions down more.  Better yet, I wish I'd written down other folks' impressions -- after all, I have a few more bottles, so I can record my own thoughts another time.  It's just an excuse to drink another bottle.

Actual Wine Information

  • Sphere: New World
  • Location: USA, California, Sonoma, Sonoma Coast
  • Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Name:  Demuth Kemos, Bei Ranch

 Wine #6

Mostly reddish-purple, but just barely starting to change color at the edges.  Smells like a Cabernet to me; a bit of spice, some cocoa, some fruit, some earth.  On the palate:  clearly a Cabernet or Cab-driven blend.  Starts off tasting like an older, evolved wine, but it maintains an even, persistent clarity at its core, all the way through the rather long finish.

Analysis:

Definitely a Cab, but from where and when?  The nose said Bordeaux to me, but although the palate showed some evolution, the purity at its core suggested that it's probably New World.  It's about in line with what I'd expect from aged Napa Cabernet, so I ran with that.  Since it's just starting to brick, I put its age at 15-20 years old.

Guess:

  • Sphere: New World
  • Location: USA, California, Napa
  • Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vintage: 1995-1999

Actual Wine Information

  • Sphere: New World
  • Location: USA, California, Napa
  • Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vintage: 1996
  • Name:  Groth

Conclusion:

Luck was on my side on that one.

Overall:  what a great field of wines!  Thanks to the other attendees, particularly P&D for hosting and serving a wonderful dinner and snacks.  I had great time, and I'm looking forward to the next OTBN in a few months!

July 22, 2014 in wine | Permalink

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