July 08, 2006

1990 Burgundies and more

So, would you like to attend a private dinner and tasting of some top examples of 1990 red Burgundy? I know I would.

But when this email invitation came from Craig Camp, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Maybe he had the wrong guy.

I’d never met Craig, though I was familiar with him as a well-known internet personality. [Insert Troy McClure voice here.] You might remember him from the influential Italian wine and food blog vinocibo, his internet home during his three years in Piedmont. Now he’s back in the U.S. as general manager at Anne Amie Vineyards outside of Carlton, OR, and host of winecamp.

Craig had contacted me a few months ago with kind words about this modest site and an invitation to visit Anne Amie that I had yet to follow up on.

I suppose once in a while indolence has its rewards.

Turns out Doug Salthouse of Smart Buy Wine & Spirits in New Jersey was coming to town for this year’s Oregon Pinot Camp. Craig knows Doug, who, being a longtime Burgundy collector, shipped a case of 1990 premier and grand cru wines from A-list Cote d’Or producers from his personal cellar to share with people who’d appreciate them. Craig and the gang at Anne Amie thought they’d bring in Bistro Maison from McMinnville to put together a dinner, invite some other OPC visitors and local wine trade friends, and have a little fun.

Happily, Craig was nice enough to invite me.

So here’s the lowdown on what happened. First, I was not a paying guest, and tasting high end wines in this setting presents a unique critical challenge. How can you not love everything in the face of such generousity and such rarefied producers in a top vintage? If you like them, is it only because you should?

We’ll have to leave that unresolved. These were damn fine wines, not absolutely mindblowing but compelling and delicious. And the food was pretty good, too. If I enjoyed myself only because I was supposed to, fine with me.

We began with an attractive Oregon sparkler, the 1999 Soter Brut Rosé Beacon Hill. Then we turned our attention to the line up – 1990s all:

Volnay, Clos de Chenes, Domaine Michel Lafarge
Volnay, Santenots, Domaine de la Comtes Lafon
Corton, Domaine Cornu
Mazis Chambertin, Domaine Maume
Chambertin, Domaine Rousseau
Chambolle Musigny, Amoureuses, Domaine Roumier
Clos de la Roche, Domaine Georges Lignier
Vosne Romanee, Les Genevres, Leroy
Romanee St Vivant, Domaine de la Romanee Conti
Richbourg, Domaine Anne and Francois Gros

Overall the best wines showed more similarities than differences, due no doubt to the ripeness of the vintage. Burgundy purists complain that 1990 reds are too ripe, that the warmth of the growing season obscured the terrior expression in the wines.

No matter how you feel about that, these wines generally showed terrific purity and Burgundian character and lots of youth and vigor. Colors were generally dark and more youthful than mature. I think these wines generally have at least another decade until reaching full maturity. Some I expect will last much longer still. Of course there are exceptions.

Aromatically, the wines were very complex, without obtrusive oakiness and with beautifully integrated spicy, sous bois (that woodsy note you find in Burgundy) fragrance. Any of these wines would be delicious with dinner. All of them together was a little overwhelming. But we struggle.

Of the two Volnay, the Lafarge was a bit volatile and perhaps showing some medicinal character of brett, but I loved its aromatic complexity. The Lafon was more restrained, with great purity and fragrance.

The next two wines showed the least to me. The Corton was nice, spicy pinot noir that wasn’t too far from Oregon in profile, but a bit lost in this line up. The Chambertin was pretty and delicate, surely not bad wine, but fading in color and very soft and fragile in the mouth. If this bottle is representative, drink up while it’s still hanging around.

Then a complete change, the Mazis Chambertin from Maume. This wine provoked the first oohs and aahs of the evening, showing the ripeness of the vintage and the structure and heft that Maume is known for. Dark color, strapping aroma with more overt oakiness than the others (not in a bad way), full and rich on the palate with fine tannin, this is still a baby but already tastes really good.

Every Les Amoureuses I’ve had has showed grand cru quality, and this Roumier was no different. Terrific aroma, great intensity, and yet so graceful and light on its feet. I wish I had a cellar full of wines from this vineyard.

I was taking my time tasting through the wines, and ended up rushing with the Clos de la Roche from Lignier. My notes were scant, but this wine again showed great youth, power, and elegance, though it too was a bit lost in the line up for me.

Perhaps that’s due to the remaining wines. The Vosne Romanee Les Genevres showed Leroy purity, lacking only the depth of a grand cru. Spicy, woodsy aroma without obvious oakiness, just delicious. Again, such elegance for such a ripe wine.

The Romanee St Vivant from Domaine de la Romanee Conti might have been a bit of a letdown, only because of the impossibly high reputation of the producer and the amazing showing of the following wine. Still, beautifully floral with great length, just terrific.

And finally the Richbourg from A. et F. Gros. Darker than the other wines and just tremendous, perhaps with some life changing properties. What can you say about this one? It was simply the most impressive wine of the night, and darn tasty.

But that wasn’t all. We also had the following two bottles to cap things off:

1964 Charmes Chambertin, Remoissenet
1959 Vosne Romanee, 1er Cru, Les Malconsorts, Girard Giroud

The Charmes showed a youthful color, for a 42 year old wine that is. Immediately fragrant and pretty in the mouth, it showed more tea character with airing. In contrast, the Malconsorts was shy aromatically at first, but opened wonderfully, showing more maturity than the Charmes but with airing more sweetness and fullness. Neither wine needs more cellaring, but both will hang around for a while in a cold cellar.

Needless to say, I don’t usually drink so well. So thanks to Craig Camp for the invitation, and especially thanks to Doug Salthouse for providing such rare, and well cared for, wines. What a treat.


Marshall Manning said...

Lots of good it does finally being in the wine business...I didn't get an invite!

Of course Craig didn't even help me out when I e-mailed him and asked for recommendations on Piedmont visits, so maybe it's just a personal thing?

Maybe I need a blog with 9 readers?

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Hey, I heard the big news. Congratulations.

If you check my site meter, you can clearly see that there are at least a dozen readers, some of whom aren't family members.

Have you met Craig? You guys look like brothers. It's uncanny, or as the Germans might say, unheimlich. What, you're choking? Bahahahaha.

Marshall Manning said...

Nope, I've never met Craig. But if I looked like me, I wouldn't want to meet me either. Or something like that?

Craig Camp said...


Sorry if I dropped the ball on your Piedmont visit. I don't remember you contacting me, but my apologies anyway!

Send me your email so I can get you on our list for future tastings.

Brooklynguy said...

I just had a little mini-heart attack reading this.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Yeah, it gives me pause rereading it. Anybody need a taster for high end wine events? I'm your guy.