This is still a work in progress as I upload tasting notes and wine labels from as far as 1999... Check back once in a while to get the updates.

February 29, 2008

Newton Vineyards tasting

Dinner at Conrad Hotel tasting wines from Newton Vineyards, with Dr. Su Hua Newton.

2004 Newton Red Label Chardonnay - this was easy to drink and nothing to write home about, but who's complaining given the price tag?

2005 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay - much more complex than the Red Label. It was at this point that Dr. Newton explained that the winery is bio-dynamic, meaning that there is no use of chemicals and only natural ingredients. They clean the winery with more frequency and without the use of chemicals, use only wild yeasts, and no SO2 is used in bottling. I asked her whether she practices bio-dynamic farming the way some others - such as Mme Leroy in Burgundy - where harvests are done according to the lunar cycle. Her reply was "no" and again made a comment about this notion of bio-dynamic farming being another one of "I think, you think, I think, you think, I think"... more about this later.

To combat diseases such as phylloxera and Pierce's, young wines are planted between rows of old vines so that the young vines can lend a hand. Again, no sulfur is used in the vineyards to combat mildew. The solution is to blow-dry the clusters - an expensive and laborious process.

2005 Newton Red Label Claret - made in classic claret style from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Red Label wines are the only wines which are filtered. I found this wine easy to drink, but uninteresting as filtration essentially rids the wine of character, a fact Dr. Newton readily acknowledges.

1999 Newton Unfiltered Merlot - clearly drinking very well this evening, having 3 more years of bottle age than the 2002. Tannins were softer.  Too bad the 1999 isn't on sale here...

2002 Newton Unfiltered Merlot - this comes from a stellar vintage in California, and it has a lot more aging potential. However, it is still too young and at 15% alcohol, packs a big wallop. 

2002 Newton The Puzzle - this is a wine made in only great vintages, and as such it wasn't made in 2003 but re-appeared in 2004. This is made from the winery's top parcels, and the blend changes each time to create the optimal wine - hence the name. While I thought this was a good effort - big nose of sweet, wild strawberries emerged after rigorous swirling of the glass - it was still a bit too young. Needs another few years of bottle age.

Full post on the dinner is here.

February 27, 2008

Domaine Ponsot 2005 tasting

Tasting of the 2005 vintage held by Laurent Ponsot at the China Club.

2005 Ponsot Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Clos des Monts Luisants - this is a monopole white made from old vines Aligoté, planted in 1911. Laurent Ponsot explained that many people do not know that in the old days, Aligoté made up a significant portion of the white wine production in Burgundy. The nose was a little "hot", with notes of pear and minerals. Acidity was on the high side, with a slightly bitter after palate. While Laurent is obviously very proud about this special wine, I think I would stay with Chardonnays in Burgundy...

2005 Ponsot Chambolle-Musigny Cuvée des Cigales - sweet grassy nose, with notes of strawberries. In fact it smelled a little like a new world Pinot...The tannins were evident, while there was a lot of acidity. This combination should actually make for a good one in the long run.

2005 Ponsot Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée de L'Abeille - my favorite of the three village wines, an opinion shared by others at the table. The nose was very sweet, fruity and forward, much more fragrant than the Chambolle. Compared to the Chambolle, the tannins here were much lighter. Overall this wine drinks much better now in its youth.

2005 Ponsot Morey-Saint-Denis Cuvée des Grives - situated between Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny - this was not very attractive. The nose smelled a bit medicinal and the fruit only showed up much later in the tasting. Tannin levels were between those of the Gevrey and the Chambolle, and I could taste the significant acidity. On the palate it probably was the middle ground between Gevrey and Chambolle.

2005 Ponsot Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes -  a significant improvement over the village wines. The nose was very intense, sweet with a hint of grass and a strong dose of iron and minerals. Here we have again a wine that reminds me of blood. Tannins were soft and the acidity was well-balanced. Very nice.

2005 Ponsot Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Cuvée des Alouettes - a very ripe and forward wine with an even sweeter nose. I tasted a bit of tannin but the wine was pretty well-balanced. Very enjoyable and significantly higher on the quality scale than the village wine.

2005 Ponsot Chapelle-Chambertin - sweet, grassy nose with black cherries. The wine very very smooth, ripe but not "hot". There was a bit of acidity on the palate. Very, very enjoyable and again a notch above the 1er Crus.

2005 Ponsot Griotte-Chambertin - the wine Laurent Ponsot described as the "lolita" readily displaying her charmes was for me the wine of the tasting. It was a ripe and powerful wine, with an explosively sweet nose that blew me away. Drinking today, it showed a bit better than the Chapelle-Chambertin - the "lady" as Laurent would describe it. Views were divided across the table as to which one performed better. The vines were planted with the same clone, and the harvest dates were almost identical. But the terroir of the wine showed through...

2005 Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes - everyone had high expectations, and I dare say that most were at least somewhat disappointed. The acidity was quite high, and the nose was very muted - I didn't get any fruit out of it. As Laurent said, this wine would probably reach maturity only in 20 years, so I guess we will wait and see.

Conclusion? 1. Don't buy the village wines (which I did not). 2. 1er Cru is worth buying (bought the Chambolle-Musigny). 3. The two Grand Crus from Chambertin are better value than the Clos de la Roche VV (bought all of them, but my allocation on Griotte and Chapelle was smaller than the Clos de la Roche!)

After the tasting I went off to dinner at Bonheur with a couple of friends, and opened up 2 bottles of wine.

1985 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde - I have served the three single-vineyard Côte-Rôtie LaLaLa's in an MNSC tasting 3 years ago, and was looking forward to tasting their cousin. It drank beautifully - especially for the price paid. It was a classic Côte-Rôtie with the telltale perfumed nose from the Viognier. Very smooth after more than 20 years' of aging, the tannins were soft and yummy.

2002 Pax Syrah Walker Vine Hill - from one of my favorite Californian Syrah producers, it's basically a fruit bomb weighing in at 15.2% alcohol. We decanted the bottle, each had a couple of sips, and poured the wine back into the bottle. I will be having it tomorrow after 24 hours...

Full post on tasting and dinner is here.

February 25, 2008

MNSC Dinner - Caprice

MNSC dinner at Caprice, hosted by Alexandre.

We started with a bottle of 2002 vintage Champagne, a blanc de blancs from a house whose name I do not recall. Not bad although it's clearly a bit young.

2005 Marc Colin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets - this was an amazing wine! Powerful and explosive nose of flint, minerals, sweet corn, butter and toasty oak. This was probably the wine of the evening. Very impressed and dying to get my hands on some.

The theme for the rest of the evening was 1966 horizontal.

First flight:
1966 La Lagune - classic Bordeaux, with nose of sweet fruit, sweet grass, green peppers and smoky, gravel

1966 Calon Sègur - madeirized with nose of stewed prunes

Second flight - a trio of St - Julien
1966 Beychevelle

1966 Léoville Poyferré

1966 Talbot

All three wines showed amazing concentration, with tell-tale grassy nose with a hint of green pepper. The wines were amazingly young and there was no way that we could have guessed that the wines were 40 years old! All of us guessed that the wines were from the better vintages in the 80's - '85, '86 and '88. Needless to say we were 20 years off the mark!

Full post on dinner is here.

February 20, 2008

90s Californians

Dinner at Fook Lam Moon (福臨門).

1995 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley in magnum - this was fairly good with classic minty and sweet fruit nose. The wine was smooth on the palate, but had enough concentration to go with the meaty dishes like the suckling pig.

1997 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - this was a big disappointment for me.  The nose was very green and vegetal, and I was wondering if the wine was "off" or slightly corked. It revealed none of the characteristics that I was expecting from this wine.

Full post on dinner is here.

February 13, 2008

Dinner with 3 Froggies

Dinner at San San Trois.

1999 Kaesler Old Bastard - made from 110-year old Shiraz vines. Kaesler is an Australian winery whose main shareholder is Ed Peters, the head of Deutsche's Asian asset management arm and former head of Asian equities. As a result I've always wanted to try this wine. It was unfortunately a little disappointing. It was neither a classic, powerful Aussie Shiraz nor a Syrah in the Rhone style. Somehow it just didn't open up well.

2001 Kistler Pinot Noir Kistler Vineyard - the wine performed reasonably well, with nose full of black cherries. However it was not as powerful as I imagined it would be. Perhaps the wine needs more time to age.

Full post on dinner is here.

February 12, 2008

'97 Burgs and then some

Casual dinner at Benson's.

1997 A.-F. Gros Richebourg - naturally smooth but a bit on the weak side due to the vintage, and faded quickly in the glass.

2006 Araujo Viognier Eisele Vineyard - this is quite a rarity, since the grapes are grown to be blended with the winery's Sauvignon Blanc as well as co-fermented with the Syrah. The bottling of the Viognier only occurs in vintages where there are excess grapes, and apparently only 30 cases were made. This was very interesting - very Californian - and the nose was a bit sharp with a hint of tropical fruit.

1997 Dominique Laurent Charmes-Chambertin - I had opened this in the office, and the wine had more than a hour of breathing time when we got around to it. This was classic grand cru Burgundy, and much more powerful compared to the Richebourg. Nose of five spice and smoked meats. Given the weak vintage I was satisfied with the performance.

2000 Prieure-Roch Chambertin Clos de Beze - this was a couple of years younger, and it was easy to sense the youthfulness of the wine, and the black cherries in the nose was also a lot more obvious. Overall it was pretty good.

Chateau du Terte - unfortunately I don't remember the vintage, but the wine performed better than I expected. It was, after all, a Fifth Growth Margaux that I had never tried before...

2001 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - surprisingly this was not as "Cali" as I expected, and the alcohol level as well as concentration were more in line with Bordeaux classed growths of recent production. Very nice indeed.

Full post on dinner is here.
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