(Short excerpts from a longer narrative, which can be found here.)
Château de Fieuzal 1993 Pessac-Léognan (Bordeaux) – Full of pine needles and silty peat moss dust, with something in the licorice family – I proceed through fennel, anise, and pastis before finally arriving back at fennel fronds – with a brassy, tinny aspect.
Mumm NV Champagne Crémant de Cramant Blanc de Blancs (Champagne) – Of indeterminate age, but most definitely not a new release. Smells like a Dairy Queen chocolate shake, though there’s also a malted element to it and perhaps something more custardy from the Ocean City boardwalk would be a more appropriate descriptor. On the palate, there’s some bitter lemon and stingingly tart apple to balance things out, but the overall impression is of a sugary, confected ball of barely-bubbly strangeness.
Chapoutier 1989 Hermitage Blanc “Chante-Alouette” (Rhône) – Lemon peel and peanut oil on the palate, but nothing at all on the nose. It’s less than half a wine, though this performance doesn’t really surprise me from Chapoutier.
Chave 1996 Hermitage Blanc (Rhône) – Manzanilla sherry, creamy puréed earth and chestnuts, but nothing on the palate.
R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1989 Rioja “Reserva” “Viña Gravonia” – Still vivid and – say it ain’t so – possessing something that might easily be labeled fruit, which I point out should necessarily exclude it from our evening. Nonetheless, it’s nice, showing baked pear, baked peach, and a bright, spicy finish. By far the liveliest wine of the night so far.
R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1987 Rioja “Reserva” “Viña Tondonia” – The color…well, basically, there’s no way to describe the color other than “fill the cup, please.” Sour plum, blood orange blossoms and dried flower petals mark a long, complex, and surprisingly pretty wine. Pretty, but with a lot of depth, and probably the best wine of the night.
R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” 1976 Rioja “Gran Reserva” “Viña Gravonia” – Dark brown, with caramel laced with cidered apple and baked potato. It’s juicy and long, with pretty decent acidity, but it’s also rather heavy and thudding, and I find myself going back to the ’87…as does the rest of the group…leaving a lot of this brooding and mud-colored wine still resting in its decanter.
Ramonteu “Domaine Cauhapé” 2001 Jurançon “Symphonie de Novembre” (Southwest France) – Tasty but “off” in comparison to an earlier bottle, and I wonder aloud if it isn’t some of that “romantic and traditional” cork variation that we all know and love (at least it’s not also-much-beloved cork taint). There’s very slightly oxidized sweet spiced peach, bitter skins and light botrytis spice with a balanced, drying finish…but all the lushness of this wine is under some sort of shroud.
Donaldson Family “Pegasus Bay” 1999 “Finale” (Waipara) is much better, showing creamy sweet tangerine, orange, spicy wood and noble rot influences, and a luscious balance and texture.