We went over to Marshall and Carolyn Manning’s house for Marshall’s birthday celebration the other night. As usual, there was lots of nice wine that, given the social setting, was fun to taste but not analyze too critically. Nice seeing old friends and meeting even more local winos. The Mannings are simply terrific folks.
Among the whites, the 2003 Donnhoff Riesling Niederhauser Hermannshohle Spatlese was terrific with fresh riesling flavors and light sweetness. A 1999 Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris “Brand” was showing some age, with rich, lightly sweet flavors but a maturing profile and a cidery edge. I brought the 2003 Evesham Wood Chardonnay “Les Puits Sec” from their estate vineyard near Salem, OR. Some thought it too oaky, but I thought it was delicious and worth aging for a few years to see how it develops. The rareity of the evening was an old Oregon wine, the 1985 Eyrie Vineyard Chardonnay that smelled interesting and mature but tasted just a bit tired. Perhaps it was the setting, as this wine hasn’t cracked, but it just wasn’t as compelling as I hoped.
Rosé? There were a few, but I tried only the nice 2005 Domaine Gaussen Bandol Rosé, which is brightly fruity and crisp. As Marshall said, the value rosé of the season.
And then there were reds. I also brought the 2001 Raspail-Ay Gigondas, on close-out locally and worth twice the $16 price. Old school grenache-based southern Rhone wine here, lots of stones, red fruit, earth, and herbs. Not tannic as I expected, but bright and probably worth aging 5 to 10 years. Then came a progression of terrific reds, and I didn’t even try everything.
With lamb kebabs, the 1995 Domaine Tempier Bandol "La Tourtine", opened by the host (thanks big fella). Still young, but beginning to show bottle sweetness, softly tannic and just terrific with the lamb. Really nice wine.
The 2001 Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape “Cuvee Laurence” is a huge wine with more than a little alcohol and such extract and weight, and finesse despite its size. Rich in the mouth with young but already complex flavors, this is powerful wine but savory, not jammy and candy sweet. Apparently this sees small oak casks, but I didn’t pick up much woodiness. I remember feeling the same after trying the ’95 “Laurnece” a few years back, which was also outstanding.
In contrast, the 2003 Copain Syrah “Cailloux & Coccinelle” from Washington grapes was clearly new world in color and fruit aroma. I was impressed with the natural texture and smokey signature of this wine, without being overly oaky or creamy. My first Copain wine and I enjoyed it, though as with all these wines, I didn't have much to taste and I didn't spend lots of time pondering each.
Then a pair of old Sonoma zins appeared. First, the 1984 Lytton Springs Zinfandel from the Valley Vista vineyard. This wine is huge, port like with clear residual sugar. It’s holding together well but a bit jarring on the senses. Not so much like the ’81 Lytton Springs I tried last summer, which was terrific, supple zinfandel without the late harvest notes. In contrast was the 1982 Joseph Swan Zinfandel Sonoma County, more claret in style as Joe apparently favored in the 1980s. We should have tried these zins in reverse order. This wine showed a bit lean following the Lytton Springs. Reminiscent of the ’81 Swan Sonoma tried a few years back, both are very cherry and bright, not so much evolved as pleasantly alive in their place. No rush here.
What’s this, Califonia Pinot Noir in Oregon? The 2003 Hitching Post Pinot Noir Highliner was just as nice as I remember Hitching Post wines to be, never blockbusters but always nicely ripe with just the proper amount of earthiness to keep things interesting. The only downside here was a touch of sulfur on the nose.
Then came the 1993 Chevillon Nuits St. Georges “Les Chaignots” – a lively, still youthful Burgundy that’s drinking well. Fragrant with lots of floral notes, not tannic but firm in the mouth, this showed a little floral bitterness but otherwise nicely ripe fruit with good length.
Finally, after the pair of Montevertine Riservas I tasted recently, thank you to whomever brought the 1995 Montevertine Le Pergole Torte, made from 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany. Take the old school richness and fragrance from the ’95 Riserva and add just the right amount of sweet fruit and florals to give even more depth and you have the ’95 Le Pergole Torte. Wow, this was delicious and another favorite from the night.
And would you believe I skipped a bunch of wines and we left early before the dessert bottles? Sometimes there is too much wine, not a bad problem to have, and as it was the next morning was looking to be a bit foggy. So off into the night.