Thanksgiving 2016 has been long gone for most people – except at our house. At our house we began preparing and making different things in November well before Thanksgiving. This gives me a chance to try a lot of different wines as well. Then Thanksgiving goes on for a long time. For us our traditional Thanksgiving meal ended a week from the Friday after Thanksgiving. You see, that was the day that we finished the last of our left overs. Yes, you read that right. Eight days after Thanksgiving we moved on. Our turkey, dressing, numerous other dishes, and appetizers were mostly depleted. But, that was not the end.
This year we had three small free range turkeys roasted on the rotisserie and we made an extra large amount of turkey stock (made from a fourth turkey) and turkey gravy. That may sound like a lot for our small group, but there was a reason for this madness. Several days after we had finished almost all of the leftovers from the Thanksgiving meal, we still had leftover turkey, turkey stock, and turkey gravy just as we had planned. We took the leftover turkey, chopped it and added some sautéed fresh Chanterelle mushrooms. This was combined with the rest of the turkey gravy combined with some turkey stock and a bit of cream. For the next four nights we added freshly prepared egg noodles to make a delicious pasta dish which was sprinkled with fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh chopped chive from the garden. So we stretched our Thanksgiving out for nearly two weeks and we enjoyed every dinner. And, with every dinner I had a chance to match different wines. They included old red and white wines from my cellar including some incredible wines from Ridge as well as Rosés and Beaujolais.
But, since this is just the beginning of the Holiday season we moved on to dinner parties and even a birthday celebration. These events featured beef short ribs and standing prime rib roast. And here I chose some other really amazing old red wines from my cellar.
We would never think of Thanksgiving without Champagne. For that matter, we would never think of an evening without Champagne. You see, at our house we have Champagne every night with an appetizer before we have the rest of the meal. In fact, some nights we just drink Champagne. It is supremely versatile and great with almost any food you can imagine. Listed below are a few of the Champagnes that we have enjoyed this season. I have focused on the non-vintage Champagnes this season. I have a lot of different ones and like to give them additional bottle age after I purchase them. In fact, many of my non-vintage Champagnes were purchased just AFTER the millennium. The reason is simple. Before the millennium, US merchants were hyping Champagne to the moon. “Get your Champagne before supplies are gone” many cried out. Nonsense, I said. There was way too much Champagne being imported and there was bound to be an after millennium hangover. Not from drinking too much Champagne mind you, but from importing more Champagne than could be sold. So I told my favorite merchants to contact me with Champagne “deals” after the millennium. And, deals there were! I bought many, many cases of Champagne including a lot of non-vintage Champagnes where many prices were really hammered. I have been drinking them ever since and still have a very good supply. And, I have had very few disappointments with the wines as they age. For despite knowing the exact age of the wines (to read an article on the need for more transparent labeling in non-vintage Champagnes click here), the wines have been aging beautifully. Many that I acquired 15 or more years ago are delicious today. Below are notes on some the non-vintage Champagnes that we have been enjoying over the last several months. This is followed by notes on three very special 1990 Champagnes. Included are many rosés. After all, tis the season!
Drappier Brut Carte d’Or
Drappier has been one of my favorite Champagnes since I first discovered it over 30 years ago. I have been buying, cellaring, drinking, and writing about the wines ever since (to read an article with more information about Drappier click here). I have a lot of Drappier Champagnes in my cellar dating back to 1970. I have never had a bottle of Drappier that has been in decline. So to say that the wines age well is an understatement.
The Carte d’Or is very consistent and it also ages beautifully. The Champagne is made with a high percentage of Pinot Noir which contributes to the complexity. I have no record of when I purchased this bottle, but it was many years ago. It has a light yellow gold color and a lovely crème brulée perfume. And, it is creamy with richness and depth and still maintains its fruit with a nice underlying crispness.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Blanc de Noirs Les Crayères Vieille Vigne Grand Cru Ambonnay
This Champagne was disgorged in 2004 and is made with 100% Pinot Noir. It is light yellow gold in color and has a deep perfume with faint hints of crème brulée tinged with a faint spiciness. Rich and full, there is a citrus tinged intensity of fruit with a creaminess showing just a tinge of citrus. Long on the palate, this is an impressive Champagne that is just now reaching full maturity.
Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs Brut Grand Cru Ambonnay
I have had this wine for many years and have enjoyed many bottles with just a few left in the cellar. It has been very consistent, full, and rich with complexity and depth. At this stage in its evolution it is showing the classic crème brulée complexity while still retaining its fruit and is a pleasure to drink.
Fallet-Dart Grand Sélection Brut
Fallet-Dart is a small family-owned Champagne producer located east of Épernay near Hautvilliers in an area known as “Les Clos du Mont.” Grapes have been grown here since the 7th century and the winery has been family owned since 1610. I first discovered Fallet-Dart over 30 years ago and have been buying, drinking, cellaring, and writing about it ever since (to read an article with more information about Fallet-Dart click here) . Fallet-Dart is consistently outstanding and bottles often carry a sticker depicting a medal earned in French Champagne competitions. The Grand Sélection Brut is mostly Pinot Noir with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. These two bottles are different releases. The first has a brown capsule and a 2008 gold medal Challenge International Du Vin sticker and the second has an orange capsule with a 2010 gold medal Concours Général Agricole sticker. The Grand Sélection Brut is extremely pure and finesseful when young and it ages beautifully.
The wines noted below are nearly identical in taste with very subtle differences. They are both drinking beautifully.
Fallet-Dart Grand Sélection Brut (Brown capsule – 2008 Gold Medal sticker)
Light yellow gold in color this Champagne has a lovely floral perfume with a faint touch of spice and faint hints of crème brulée. It is beautifully balanced with elegance and a nice creaminess and shows floral nuances with subtle spice tinges. It has been lovely to drink from the date of release and will age effortlessly for many more years.
Fallet-Dart Grand Sélection Brut (Orange capsule – 2010 Gold Medal sticker)
Light yellow gold in color this Champagne has hints of citrus and spice with a crème brulée nuance. Creamy and rounded with a faint underlying citrus quality it is balanced with nice richness and lots of finesse. Delicious to drink now there is no hurry. It has many years of evolution ahead.
Fallet-Dart Rosé Brut
For as long as I can remember this has been one of our very favorite Rosé Champagnes. Always made with predominately Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, it is amazingly consistent and has great finesse and style with loads of fruit. It is nearly irresistible young and ages slowly and gracefully.
I never seem to have so much that it stays around too long in my cellar. I don’t know how long I have had this bottle, but would guess maybe 5 years or so. It is very light red in color with a pink hue and has a stunning perfume showing a myriad of red fruits with a floral tinge. Creamy and lush with very pure fruit tinged with citrus, this rosé is really delicious.
Franck Bonville Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru (Magnum)
Franck Bonville is located in Avize and has about 50 acres of vines in the Grand Cru districts of Cramant, Avize, and Oger. After the Second World War, Franck Bonville and his wife Jeannine marketed their first wines. Their son Gilles and his wife Ingrid followed in the family business and began making and marketing more of their wines. Today, their son Olivier is in charge with his parents and grandparents working along side. Franck Bonville is one of my very favorite Champagne producers. I buy the wines every year and drink them often. They age beautifully and can develop over a period of many decades. About five years ago I had a 1961 that was absolutely stunning.
The Blanc de Blancs Brut is always one of the greatest values available in top quality Champagne. Made entirely from estate grown Grand Cru Chardonnay grapes it always exhibits great purity and depth. This magnum was really lovely. Light yellow gold in color it has a gorgeous perfume with floral notes, faint hints of apple and citrus, and a touch of crème brulée. Very elegant and stylistic with a nice creaminess and a faint spice tinge this wine is aging beautifully.
Gaston Chiquet Brut Blanc de Blancs D’Ay
This Champagne was disgorged in 2003. It has a light golden yellow color and a lovely faintly floral perfume. Creamy and quite rich and full with very nice fruit, this is a delicious older Champagne.
Jean Milan Brut Spécial Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
This is a really lovely older Champagne. It has a light yellow color and a lovely spice tinged perfume with a faint crème brulée nuance. Flavorful, rich, and creamy with very nice spice tinged fruit it is aging beautifully.
J. Lassalle Brut Rosé Premier Cru Chigny-Les Roses
Founded in 1942 by the late Jules Lassalle, this Champagne house is now run by his wife, Chantal Decelle-Lassalle, and daughter, Angeline Templier who is also the winemaker. These Champagnes have been imported into the U.S. since the mid-seventies by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkeley, California and I have been buying and drinking them for all these years. The winemaking style is very traditional with low yields and minimal handling and filtration to preserve freshness and delicacy.
This is consistently a delicious and very finesseful rosé. It is lovely when young and also ages beautifully. I have been buying, cellaring, and drinking it for many years and pay very little attention to the age. This wine has a light pink color with a faint golden hue. It has a gorgeous perfume with tinges of cherries and rose petals with a kiss of spice. Very elegant with a lot of charm and a nice creaminess it has lovely cherry tinged fruit and is simply a gorgeous rosé.
Launois Père et Fils Brut Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Reservée Le Mesnil sur Oger
Launois Champagne was founded in 1872. Today the Launois family owns nearly 46 acres of vineyards mostly in the Grand Cru village of Mesnil. All Launois Champagnes are Blanc de Blancs and all are Grand Cru. This producer consistently makes some of the very best Blanc de Blancs Champagnes, and the quality/price ratio is exceptional. This is a must visit if you are in Champagne, not only for the fabulous Champagne, but to visit Bernard Launois’s private museum. It encompasses a large portion of the Mesnil village underground. And it has virtually everything that has to do with Champagne from centuries old wine presses to ash trays with Champagne themes. Words cannot do it justice. You have to see it for yourself. But, if you want to go, you must arrange your visit in advance.
This is an older bottling of Launois Blanc de Blancs. In recent years they have switched the style of the bottles. But, no matter the style of the bottle, Launois Champagnes are some of the best values in Blanc de Blancs and they age beautifully. This wine is light golden in color and has a great crème brulée perfume. It is very creamy with a nice richness and lots of flavor with floral nuances and faint hints of crème brulée and citrus. Long on the palate, this is a wonderful example of a well aged Blanc de Blancs.
Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut
I remember this wine young when it was a bit austere. Now with some age it has blossomed. The newer styled no dosage Champagnes do not have as much austerity at the outset so I really did not know what to expect from this bottle, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It is light golden yellow in color and has a deep perfume with floral citrus notes. Creamy and elegant this Champagne is also very pure and bright and beautifully balanced. All in all, it is a delicious Champagne.
Marquet-Bonnerave Brut Rosé Grand Cru Ambonnay
This is an older rosé. I am not sure of its age, but it is lovely. Very light pink in color with a golden hue this Champagne has a great perfume with subtle floral and cherry nuances with a tinge of spice. It has beautiful subtle fruit flavors and is creamy, rich, and full. Very flavorful with elegance and beautiful balance this is a delicious rosé. Sadly, it is the last bottle
Marquet Pere et Fils Blanc de Noirs Brut Grand Cru Ambonnay
This Champagne is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier from the 2006 and 2007 harvests. It was disgorged in January 2010. Now at a peak the wine is delicious and should age beautifully for many years, but I will never know as this is my last bottle. It is light yellow gold in color and has a great floral tinged perfume. Creamy and rich with faint citrus tinges, the wine is balanced and harmonious and a pleasure to drink.
Michel Arnould & Fils Brut Rosé Verzenay Grand Cru
The Arnould family owns some 27 acres of vineyards in the village of Verzenay. They are planted to 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. Several of the plots have vines that are 40-50 years old. The rosé is consistently delicious and drinks beautifully young or old
Paul Bara Brut Grand Rosé Bouzy Grand Cru
Domaine Paul Bara was established in 1833 and has been handed down for six generations. Paul Bara and his daughter, Chantale, are the current proprietors. The domaine consists of 27 acres of vineyard located in Bouzy (a renowned Grand Cru) in the heart of the Vallée de la Marne. This location is noted for Pinot Noir and their vineyards are 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.
Paul Bara is one of my favorite fruit driven Rosé Champagnes that I have been buying, cellaring , drinking , and writing about for several decades. I do not know how long I have had this bottle, but what I do know is that with all the bottles I have had over the years I have never had one that has been in decline. With age they soften and mellow and revert to a different fruit profile, but they never are devoid of fruit. This wine has a pale reddish pink color and a lovely perfume showing subtle hints of raspberry and strawberry fruit. It is flavorful and creamy with lots of fruit showing raspberry tinges and is beautifully crafted and delicious.
Pierre Moncuit Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Les Mesnil
Pierre Moncuit is another excellent producer of Blanc de Blancs Champagne. I have enjoyed many of them over the years. I do not know the age of this bottle, but it is a beautiful expression of an older Blanc de Blancs. It is light yellow in color with a lovely perfume showing just a tinge of crème brulée. Creamy with a citrus tinge, it is balanced and flavorful with a lot of finesse.
Pierre Peters Blanc de Blanc Brut Cuvée Reserve Grand Cru 100% Les Mesnil-et-Oger (Magnum)
I have enjoyed many Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs over the years. I recently opened a case of magnums of this wine which I have had for some time. True to form, it is drinking beautifully now.
Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue this Champagne has a great perfume with just a hint of crème brulée. On the palate, it is full rich and creamy with subtle hints of crème brulée and citrus. Beautifully balanced with a lot of finesse, this is a really delicious Champagne.
René Collard Brut Carte Or a Reuil
The late René Collard was a genius. Sadly, the wines do no longer exist. After his death the remaining stocks were sold. When we visited there years ago, René Collard was ill and we were unable to see him, but we had a nice visit with his secretary at the cave and tasted many old René Collard Champagnes. They were brilliant. René Collard’s Champagnes were made with 100% Pinot Meunier and he was a great champion of this lesser known variety. The wines are amazing across the board and they age for a very long time. At the time of our visit we tasted a 1961 that was absolutely brilliant. It was one of the very last bottles of the 1961 and it is a Champagne that I will never forget. His secretary told us that René thought the 1990 would one day be its equal. We tasted the 1990 and it too was superb. After our visit I bought a large quantity of every René Collard Champagne I could find including cases of the 1990. I have René Collard Champagnes back to 1985 and always enjoy drinking them. They are very special.
This Brut Carte Or is light golden in color with a very complex perfume of honey, crème brulée, spice, and baked bread. On the palate it is full, rich, and creamy with a similar flavor profile accented by a tinge of citrus. Amazingly, with air the wine developed an intriguing exotic nuance. It is, for sure, fully mature and I have no idea how old it is. Also, I have no idea of how the wine might age from here, but I would guess that it will keep well into the future which is the case with the old vintage wines.
René Collard Brut Brut Nature Cuvée Ultime
I do not know much about this wine other than I have had it for a long time. It is made without dosage and is also different from the Carte Or bottling in that it seems to be more finesseful. Otherwise the flavor profile is similar with citrus and a lot of intensity. Beautifully balanced, the créme brulée is there along with a faint spice nuance. It is also fully mature, but would seem to have all the components to also age well into the future.
Tarlant Brut Tradition Oeuilly
This Champagne is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier, and 15% Chardonnay harvested from vines more than 25 years old in 1996 and 1997. It was aged 6 years on the lees and disgorged in March 2003.
Now with 13 years of bottle age this Champagne has blossomed into something very special. It has a light golden yellow color and has a great complex perfume showing floral nuances, hints of spice, and a touch of citrus. Full flavored and rich the same elements carry through on the palate accented by a kiss of crème brulée. This is a gorgeous, fully mature Champagne that is great to drink now yet I expect to be enjoying it for many years to come.
There is another similar Tarlant bottling that is designated “Cuvee Louis.” It is made from grapes grown on vines grown in “les Crayons” soil that are over 45 years old. The blend is 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir harvested in the years 1997 and 1996. The wine spent 7 years on the lees and was disgorged in December 2004. It is very similar to the “Tradition” with a bit more complexity and richness. It is a magnificent Champagne that is drinking beautifully now and will continue to evolve over many more years. It will be a real treat to enjoy both of these Champagnes in the coming years.
Varnier-Fanniere Brut Rosé Grand Cru Avize
Pale golden orange pink in color this older rosé has a lot of complexity and appeal. The perfume is multi-faceted with subtle hints of peach, cherry, and spice with faint tinges of honey and baked bread. Elegant and very finesseful with subtle hints of red fruit showing floral tinges and just a hint of crème brulée, this is a really charming Champagne that is fully mature. How it will age from here I will not know as this was my last bottle.
And, we recently enjoyed three very special 1990 Champagnes that rank among the top Champagnes at the Tilson house this year:
1990 Alain Robert Brut Rare Tradition Fleur de Mesnil
I have always enjoyed Alain Robert Champagnes, but this 1990 is really special. I acquired a few bottles many years ago. Early on I had a bottle and it was really lovely. But over the years it has really blossomed. At this stage in its evolution it is an absolutely amazing Champagne. Light yellow gold in color the wine has a stunningly complex perfume that has very faint hints of peach, citrus, and spice with subtle crème brulée nuance. Seamless and silky on the palate, the wine is impeccably balanced with complex flavors accented by just a kiss of crème brulée and a very long lasting finish. This great Champagne is at a peak now, but with the promise of aging well into the future.
1990 André Beaufort Brut Le Mesnil Grand Cru
I purchased quite a bit of this wine many years ago. It is Lot number 90A and was disgorged in 1996. We have enjoyed many bottles of it over the years. It has always been superb and this bottle is no exception. It is now fully mature, but surely will hold for many more years. The wine is light gold in color and has a gorgeous perfume of crème brulée intermingled with a nice spiciness. Very rich, full, and creamy with hints of crème brulée, citrus, and spice the wine has intensity and is very long on the finish. A monumental Champagne to be sure, but harmonious and balanced. This is a great example of well aged Champagne and it should keep for many more years.
1990 Drappier Brut Grande Sendrée
This is Drappier’s prestige cuvée from a special vineyard. It is always rich and flavorful and ages beautifully. This 1990 is one of the best. It is light yellow gold in color and has a gorgeous perfume that is floral with subtle hints of spice. On the palate, the wine is full and rounded with lots of underlying structure and there is a lot of fruit with a faint honeyed citrus tinge on the finish. This Champagne is delicious now, but it will continue to evolve and keep for many years into the future.
Rosés are always a part of our Thanksgiving. This year we had a young Tavel and three older rosés. All were lovely. And, yes rosés are capable of aging for quite a long time (to read an article on old rosés click here).
2015 Château D’Aqueria Tavel
Tavel is a great wine to have with Thanksgiving turkey and we serve one almost every year. Tavel is a flavorful and very fruity wine and Château D’Aqueria is consistently outstanding. This 2015 is rounded, supple and lush with loads of red fruit. It is balanced with a depth of flavor that is a beautiful match with roast turkey.
2009 Pascal Cotat Chavignol Rosé
This is a really stunning rosé that has gained complexity with bottle age. It is light orange red in color with a golden edge and has a great perfume with exotic floral nuances and tinges of cherry. On the palate the wine is lush and rounded with complex flavors showing hints of persimmon and cherry with a tinge of exotic spice and a kiss of lemon-lime on the finish which gives a nice crispness.
2005 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé
Bandol rosés are some of the best rosés in the world and Domaine Tempier is consistently one of the very best. It is delicious young and can age for a very long time and gain additional complexity. This 2005, at 11 years of age, is really gorgeous. Light reddish orange in color it has a deep floral perfume with an exotic tinge and underlying hints of guava. Lush and rounded with faint hints of yellow peach and a faint hint of Kaffir lime this is a remarkably complex rosé. It may be at a peak now, but I would expect it to continue to drink well for many more years.
2002 Charles Melton Rosé Barossa Valley Australia
In years past many vintages of Charles Melton Rosé have graced our Thanksgiving table. The Charles Melton Rosés based on Shiraz and Grenache were always some of the fruitiest and most delicious Rosés imaginable. But at some point about 10 years ago the Charles Melton wines stopped being imported here. Five or so years ago I found a bottle of 2004 Melton Rosé in my cellar and served it at Thanksgiving. It was wonderful. I thought it was my last bottle, but I found another and served it the next year. Again, it was wonderful. This year, to my great surprise I found a few bottles of the 2002 Charles Melton Rosé and served one. It was amazing! Cherry red in color the wine had a stunning berry/cherry perfume and was delicious, supple, and brimming with fruit accented by a nice crispness on the finish. What a great Déjà vu!
Cru Beaujolais is also always a part of our Thanksgiving. Sometimes I serve young wines and sometimes I serve older wines. This year we had two gorgeous older wines from two of my favorite producers. As I have said many times Cru Beaujolais is one of the most underrated of all the red wines in the world. It is very food friendly and delicious to drink young and old (to read an early article with more information about Cru Beaujolais click here)
2007 Jean Foillard Morgon “Cuvée 3.14”
Jean Foillard is one of the famous “Gang of Four” producers in Beaujolais who lead the campaign in the early 1980s to make very pure and classic Beaujolais by returning to the old traditional viticulture and wine making practices. The others are Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Marcel Lapierre who became affectionately known as the “Gang of Four.” Importer Kermit Lynch has this to say about Jean Foillard’s wines: There is something no-nonsense and straightforward about Foillard’s wine. It seems to say, let’s cut straight to deliciousness. Deliciousness with class….
The “Cuvée 3.14” is made from 100 year old vines. It is always a wine of great intensity and purity and meets the above definition perfectly. This 2007 has a deep color and a lovely complex exotic perfume with hints of mint tinged plums. With great fruit on the palate, the wine is lush, rounded and supple with plum like fruit showing faint floral exotic nuances. Yes this is absolutely deliciousness with class. It is a great example of an aged Cru Beaujolais that, while really delicious now, will age gracefully for many years. If you have never experienced aged Cru Beaujolais you do not know what you are missing!
2005 Michael Tete Domaine Clos Du Clos Du Fief Juliénas “Cuvée Prestige”
Always a gorgeous wine this is a Beaujolais that I have been buying for years. The 1995 is just now approaching a peak with a long life ahead. It has a deep color and a stunning perfume of black cherry with floral nuances. These components carry onto the palate and the wine is soft and supple with a deeply imbedded core of flavor. Beautifully balanced with a nice underlying crispness this is really delicious Cru Beaujolais.
Old Ridge Vineyards Chardonnays
Although I normally do not serve Chardonnay with Thanksgiving dinner, earlier this year I had an old Ridge Chardonnay. I was impressed with its richness and character, so I decided to serve some old Ridge Chardonnays at Thanksgiving this year. I selected wines from 1987 to 2010. They were delicious and a nice match with the Thanksgiving meal and leftovers. But, they were also really good after several days when we enjoyed them with the pasta made with turkey and fresh sautéed Chanterelle mushrooms!
1987 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ATP
1987 was the last harvest for the old, heavily virus vines on the Monte Bello vineyard as well as part of the Mikulacu block and the major plantings on the Jimsomare Ranch. Light golden in color this old Chardonnay has a lovely perfume that is slightly nutty with hints of butter, apricot, and spice. It is lush, rich and full, but not at all heavy. The wine is well balanced and has intriguing flavors with hints of apricot and a faint nuttiness accented by a faint tinge of spice. It is hard to imagine the wine in its youth given the complexity and vibrancy that is evident at nearly 30 years of age.
1988 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ATP
Golden in color, this Chardonnay has a complex perfume with hints of crème brulée and spice with a faint floral note. Rich and full with faint hints of caramel and burnt butter there is an underlying floral citrus note that gives the wine lift. Very flavorful with depth and a lasting finish, this Chardonnay is amazing. It actually began to show its full flavors a week after it was opened!
1994 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
In 1994 40% of the total wine was held out and bottled as “California” Chardonnay. The early indication was that this wine would be at its best over the next five years. Well I don’t know about 5 years, but I do know that at almost 20 years the wine is lovely. It is light golden in color and has a deep perfume with faint hints of apricot and spice. It has great intensity with a buttery spice quality and tinges of apricot accented by a faint citrus nuance.
2008 Ridge Vineyards California Chardonnay Monte Bello
In November 2009 Eric Braugher had this to say about this wine: Complex fruit, mineral notes from the limestone subsoil and firm acidity set a classic style. The 2008 will develop more fully over the next eight to ten years. Indeed this is a beautiful California Chardonnay. It has a light golden yellow color and lovely perfume that is very faintly tropical with very subtle buttery, spicy, citrus nuances. Balanced, lush, and rounded with lots of fruit and a great underlying structure this is just as advertised – a classic California Chardonnay just now hitting its stride with a long life ahead.
2010 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Chardonnay
Light yellow gold color this wine has a great perfume with tropical fruit tinged with citrus. Lush and full of fruit with a citrus spice nuance it is a full throttle California Chardonnay, yet it maintains a great sense of elegance and place. Like the 2008, this is a great definition of California Chardonnay. I would expect it to be long lived and develop additional complexity over time. Still it is lovely now and a pleasure to drink.
Old Ridge Red Wines
Our Thanksgiving meals have always featured domestic red wines. And every year we have some red wines from Ridge as well as other domestic red wines. This year was true to form with some differences and a repeat of some wines from past Thanksgivings.
With the meal this Thanksgiving I served a repeat of the 1994 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville (68% Zinfandel, 20% Carignane, 8% Petite Sirah, and 4% Mataro) and the 1994 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Pagani Ranch (75% Zinfandel, 18% Mataro, 4% Alicanté, and 3% Petite Sirah) from Thanksgiving a few years ago. I felt this would again be an interesting comparison and it was just that.
1994 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
I have been drinking this wine for some time and it has always been wonderful. Starting in 2011 this is the third year that I have served this wine at Thanksgiving. This 1994 Geyserville was exactly as before – rounded, balanced, complex and delicious. The color is deep and the wine as an intriguing perfume of spice tinged berry fruit with a faint briary quality. On the palate there is a myriad of red and black fruit flavors with briary spicy nuances. The wine is now fully mature, but with a long life ahead. It is a really great wine with Thanksgiving dinner and I am looking forward to enjoying more of them in the years to come.
1994 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Pagani Ranch
The Pagani, on the other hand, was different and absolutely still brimming with fruit. Lush and rounded with exotic spice nuances that have evolved over time, it too is at a peak and totally delicious to drink with layers of flavor. Dark in color it has a deep perfume with plums and cassis showing an exotic nuance. On the palate it has loads of fruit showing a faint exotic tinge and underlying cedar spice quality. This 1994 Pagani Ranch Zinfandel will no doubt drink beautifully for many more years. So the side by side comparison will live on! Life is good!!
Then we enjoyed more old Ridge red wines with the Thanksgiving leftovers and several meals featuring braised short ribs and rare roast prime rib.
2000 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
Made with 66% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, and 17% Petite Sirah here is what Paul Draper said about this wine in December 2001: There was a short crop in 2000. Delicious now, this beautifully balanced Zinfandel will be at its best over the next five to seven years.
The wine has a deep color and a complex perfume showing a myriad of black fruits with faint exotic nuances and tinges of spice and vanilla. With great fruit, the wine is rich and rounded with a spice tinged complexity and is beautifully balanced. Now at a peak after 16 years, the wine is delicious and gives every indication of aging gracefully well into the future.
2003 Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs
Made with 76% Zinfandel. 18% Petite Syrah, and 6% Carignane here is what John Olney and Paul Draper said about this wine in November, 2004: This classic Lytton Springs is enjoyable now. It will soften with a year or two in bottle, and develop fully over the next eight to ten years.
The 2003 vintage was the 25th vintage of Lytton Springs. It has a dark color with a plum like perfume tinged with spice. On the palate it is lush, soft, and rounded with lovely fruit showing cedar and spice nuances. This is a really lovely wine to drink now and should remain so for many years to come.
As I was selecting the Ridge wines for this year’s Thanksgiving I could not help thinking about one of the greatest Zinfandels I have ever had it my life. It was a 1977 from Ridge and we had it at Thanksgiving five years ago (others would include some of the old Zinfandels from Joe Swan). Alas, I have only one bottle left. I will have to open it one day. But, for now I will share this note with you again:
1977 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Zinfandel
In our first post Thanksgiving Day dinner we had the great fortune to start with another WOW wine. I never suspected that the wine could be this good. But, guess what? It was mind boggling and left every one with a smile and a sense of awe and amazement after the first taste. This is one of the very greatest moments in wine and food. It is a time of great joy and appreciation to know that you are enjoying something that defies all expectations. Made from the second drought year in a row with yields of under 3/4 ton per acre, less than 500 cases were made. There cannot be much of it left on the planet. This bottle and one other have been in my cellar since release over 30 years ago. And who said that Zinfandel does not age? The wine consists of 100% Zinfandel grapes sourced from two great vineyards on Monte Bello Ridge, Jimsomare and Picchetti. The fruit was very similar from both vineyards so it was combined from the very beginning. The wine was described early on as having deep fruit and firm acidity. The alcohol was 12.8%. Paul Draper, in his very understated way, commented at bottling in April, 1979 that the wine would “open within six months and improve with 3-4 years bottle age.” The aging ability and tremendous quality of this wine surely is something that no one could have predicted. So, with that in mind, this wine gets my vote as the best old “Under The Radar” red wine of all time. With a deep color showing a faint amber tone and an amber edge, the wine has a simply fabulous perfume that is intense and complex with floral and spice nuances and a faint cedar, forest, and exotic berry undertone. The flavors are intense, complex and balanced with subtle floral, spice, foresty, and dark cherry nuances. Supple, lush, and rounded the finish goes on and on and has a gorgeous underlying crispness that carries the wine beautifully. This wine defies comparison, but I would say it is more Burgundian than anything else. And, as great as the wine is now, it shows absolutely no sign of fatigue – Extraordinary.
Funny how some things stay with you. This is truly an unforgettable wine! It is a great testament to the genius of Ridge and one of the multitude of superb wines from Ridge over more than a half century!
Old California Cabernet Sauvignons
Inglenook and Ritchie Creek
These wines we enjoyed after Thanksgiving with short ribs and prime rib. They share one very positive thing in common. The wines are classic examples of Cabernet Sauvignon that is balanced and expressive in a traditional style. The English often referred to Bordeaux as Claret and Claret became known as a wine that defined refinement, complexity, and balance. Many of the old Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignons also carry the designation (Classic Claret) after Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, both Inglenook and Ritchie Creek share another very unfortunate thing in common. They both no longer exist. Inglenook lives on in name, but the wines are not at all like the great old Cabernet Sauvignons of years past. Ritchie Creek does not exist at all. The vineyards remain, but there is no Ritchie Creek wine.
Below is the background on Inglenook taken from an earlier article:
Inglenook was one of the first wineries in California with a production history dating back to 1882. Under the direction of John Daniel Jr. the winery emerged from the era of prohibition. And, beginning with the 1933 vintage Inglenook produced some of the greatest wines ever made in California. This is totally amazing, but what is even more remarkable is how great these wines are today.
I was first introduced to the old Inglenook wines in the mid 1970s. This was shortly after I started drinking wine. The wines were well known by some people way back then and my friends and I began our quest to buy, drink, and cellar the wines. Early on we had a blind tasting of 1949 First Growth Bordeaux with the 1949 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon added as a “ringer”. What a “ringer” it was! The wine was as good as any of the first growths and some of us actually preferred it over the First Growths. This was a revelation and I resolved to search high and low to find old Inglenook Cabernets. Over many years I was very successful in finding the wines representing the years 1933 into the 1960s. After the winery was sold in 1964, the wine declined sharply in quality. Today, there is an Inglenook Cabernet. But, sadly it bears no resemblance to the great old Inglenook Cabernets from the years 1933 to 1962.
My old Inglenook Cabernets came mostly from cellars in the Bay area and I bought them from dealers, individuals, and at auction. My stash grew to include nearly every vintage with many in case quantities. Over the years I have drunk them often. My old friend Edward Lazarus, who is one of my earliest wine friends and was involved with The Underground Wineletter from the very beginning, also purchased, cellared, and drank a lot of old Inglenook Cabernets and also has some of the wines today. Without question, these wines are some of the greatest Cabernets ever made in California. The alcohol levels were generally 12 1/2% and the quality and consistency is simply amazing. Out of the hundreds of bottles that I have consumed over the years there hasn’t been a bad bottle from the wines I have cellared. Has there been slight bottle variation? Yes, a few times. But, a bad bottle? Never! And, fortunately, I still have a large number of bottles covering nearly every vintage and bottling (in many years there were “cask bottlings”) from 1933 to 1962. These old Inglenooks represent some of the finest wines in my cellar and I feel honored to be the custodian of these wines! (To read the article from last year which featured a dinner with 5 Inglenook Cabernets from 1949 to 1960 click here).
Below is a picture of the 1960 Inglenook back label. It explains the Inglenook background and history. And it is also remarkable in the fact that Inglenook began after prohibition with a very strong commitment to quality and was a true pioneer in following the European tradition of estate bottling. What a legacy!
1960 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon (Classic Claret) Napa Valley
Way back in the 1970s when I started buying old Inglenooks, I was very fortunate to come across a very large quantity of the 1960 Inglenook. I was able to buy a lot of cases. I don’t remember how many, but it was a lot. The wine came directly from Inglenook and it had been perfectly stored when I bought it from a dealer in the Bay area. Most of the wines were in original cardboard. Over the years, I have consumed scores of bottles of this wine. I still have many bottles stored in racks as well as two cases still in the original cardboard. And, while I have consumed hundreds of bottles of old Inglenook Cabernets over the years, the 1960 is the one I have consumed the most often. It has been amazingly consistent and I have never had a bad bottle. This latter statement is also true for all the bottles of old Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon that I have consumed. This is a great tribute to the wines, but also a tribute to the storage. Remember, in the case of wine (no pun intended) the answer to experiencing it at its optimum is storage, storage, storage (to read an article on storage click here).
With a deep color just faintly amber at the rim, this 1960 has a gorgeous cedary perfume and is impeccably balanced with lovely cedary tinged flavors. Very full, yet elegant this a great definition of “Claret” showing a lot of refinement and finesse.
1962 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon (Classic Claret) Napa Valley
Always showing just a bit less depth than the 1960 and 1961 there is a lack of clarity as to whether this is a reflection of the 1962 vintage or the decline of Inglenook. I do not know. But what I do know is that the succeeding vintages of Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon from 1963 onward are lighter wines. There are a few that are better than the others, but for the period into the 1990s most are decidedly lighter that the great years before. This 1962 is, for me, the last of the era for the great old Inglenook Cabernets. Very nice color with amber at the edge, the wine has lovely cedar tinged perfume and is soft and elegant. With not as much depth as the 1960, the 1962 is still a very harmonious and lovely claret that is a pleasure to drink.
Ritchie Creek Winery was founded by Pete Minor and was located on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. Pete was a one man gang. He single handily cleared the land, planted the vines, tended the vines, built the winery, and made the wine. We discovered the Cabernets (there was also a small amount of Chardonnay) in the 1970s and loved the wines. I still have some bottles of the Cabernet from the early days in my cellar and even have a bottle or two of the Chardonnay. The Cabernets have aged beautifully and are delicious now with every indication that they will keep for decades beyond much like the old Inglenooks. Sadly, Ritchie Creek Winery no longer exists. The vineyards remain, but I am told that the grapes are sold and blended. However, the old Ritchie Creek Cabernets remain as a legacy to the vision and skill of Pete Minor. Pete, a modest man, was a true genius and it has always been an honor to drink his wines. The 1985 is simply remarkable (to read my article on Ritchie Creek and more background and history click here).
1985 Ritchie Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain Napa Valley
This wine was 12.7% alcohol at bottling. At over 30 years of age the wine is just reaching maturity and showing every indication that it will age effortlessly for many years into the future. The color is dark without a trace of amber and the wine has a great complex perfume of cedar and spice with cassis and plum fruit underneath and a very faint chocolate nuance. On the palate, it is complex with a myriad of black fruit flavors accented by hints of cedar and spice and has great intensity with great balance and a long finish. This is a really stunning wine!
Old Woodward Canyon Red Wines
Woodward Canyon was founded in 1981 in Walla Walla Washington. Woodward Canyon was an Underground favorite in the 80s and 90s and the wines have aged beautifully. I was introduced to the wines by Phil Woodward who was then the president of Chalone. I first thought that he had started a new venture. But, the fact was that he had visited Woodward Canyon and was very impressed with the wines. We then tasted them and wrote them up in The Underground Wineletter. After that I began buying and cellaring the wines and have been drinking them ever since. The wines from the 1980s and 1990s have aged beautifully and are a pleasure to drink. All of the wines listed below were served with our after Thanksgiving meals with featured short ribs and rare prime rib roast.
Beginning with the first vintage in 1981, a dedication series wine was annually produced and named for a person who contributed to the agricultural heritage of the Walla Walla valley. They were either 100% Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Sauvignon blended with other Bordeaux varietals.
1983 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Dedication Series #3 H.P. Isaacs Columbia Valley
This is the oldest Woodward Canyon wine that I have in my cellar. The back label says in part This wine…will benefit greatly from additional cellaring and should carry easily into the 1990’s.
Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon this wine at 33 years of age is mature, but showing no sign of decline. It has a deep color with some amber at the edge and a lovely perfume that is cedar tinged with floral spice nuances. Plum and berry fruit are evident on the palate and intermingled with notes of cedar and spice. Supple and rounded, the wine is balanced and flavorful with a nice finish and should age gracefully for many more years.
1993 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Dedication Series #13 Mabel Baker Anderson Columbia Valley
Made with 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.5% Merlot, and 6.5% Cabernet Franc this wine has a deep color with a very faint amber edge. The perfume is lovely showing plum like fruit with hints of spice and floral undertones. Supple, rounded, and very flavorful the wine is very stylistic and beautifully balanced. It has lovely fruit showing a cedary tinge and, while fully mature, the wine has many years of life ahead.
1994 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon Dedication Series #14 Captain Z.K. Straight Columbia Valley
This wine is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.1% Cabernet Franc, and 6.9% Merlot. It has a dark color with a faint amber edge and a lovely complex perfume of plum and boysenberry with cedar and spice nuances. On the palate, the wine has lots of fruit with a cedary complexity and is structured with a balanced underlying core. It is really delicious now for the depth of fruit, but I would expect with time additional complexity may unfold. It should age and improve over the next 10 years and keep well beyond.
1994 Woodward Canyon Merlot Columbia Valley
Dark color with a faint amber edge this Merlot has a great plummy perfume with floral undertones and hints of cedar and spice. It is rounded and supple with lots of plummy fruit showing a tinge of cedar and is flavorful and balanced. At a peak now, this is a delicious Merlot that should keep for many more years.
1993 Woodward Canyon Charbonneau Columbia Valley
This wine was made from 83% Merlot and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a lovely silky wine that is now fully mature. The color is deep with amber tones and an amber edge. The perfume is lovely and offers hints of plum and spice with a floral tinge. Seductive and supple there is a mélange of fruits with intermingled spices and the wine is flavorful and expressive. It is probably best consumed over the next several years.
Old Vintage Port
Old Vintage Port is truly one of life’s great pleasures. Sadly, many people dismiss port without ever having tasted a real Vintage Port. And, some people may have had a young Vintage Port, but never have tasted an old Vintage Port. The two are distinctly different. When the weather is cold it is time for Old Vintage Port. So depending on where you live you may drink more or less. Where we live we have only a few occasions each year to drink old Vintage Port. And, that time is now – Thanksgiving and cool weather!
1983 Graham’s Vintage Port
1963 is considered to be the last year that traditional winemaking was used to make vintage port (to read an article on vintage port, it’s history, and notes on wines from 1927-1963 click here). However, since that time there have been some wonderful vintage ports and I particularly like some of the 1966s, 1970s, 1977s, 1983s, 1985s, and 1994s. There are also some excellent newer vintages, but I really prefer vintage port with a lot of age where it is complex, soft, and silky. Although not as highly rated as some other vintages, the 1983 Graham’s is really delicious and great to drink now. We enjoyed this bottle after a light dinner with stilton and fresh cracked walnuts (the classic food combination with vintage port) and fresh popped popcorn with French butter and sea salt (a favorite food match with vintage port in our house).
Our bottle of 1983 Graham’s vintage port was true to form. Dark in color with a faint amber tone and amber edge the wine has a stunning cedary perfume with plummy fruit and hints of chocolate and spice. Lush and rounded with sweet plummy fruit the wine has a wonderful balance and intensity with a long finish. At a peak now and really delicious, there is no hurry to drink the wine as it will keep for many more years.
And, a 1970 Graham’s Vintage Port which we enjoyed earlier this year was very similar to this 1983. But, there’s more! A bottle of 1948 Graham’s Vintage Port from my cellar which we drank last year was off the charts great. 1948 has long been one of my all-time favorite years for vintage port and the best of them are simply remarkable and still great to drink today.
So there you have it – the Thanksgiving season with wines from Champagne to Vintage Port. But, wait a minute. It is not quite over. Next is Christmas dinner with our traditional Swedish Christmas Ham accompanied by scalloped potatoes baked with lots of Jarlsburg cheese and fresh cooked green beans with bacon as well as many appetizers before dinner. With appetizers, we will have Champagne or Sparkling Bourgogne with French cherries in cherry liqueur. And with dinner and our great traditional Swedish Christmas Ham we will have Rosé, Red Burgundy, and Cru Beaujolais. Then on to New Year’s eve where we will have another Prime Rib accompanied by Yorkshire Pudding, fresh sautéed spinach, and roasted beets. For wines, we will have Champagne (of course) to start with our assorted appetizers. With the Prime Rib we will have red wines to be determined and no doubt a few other last minute surprises. Tis the season! Cheers!