Summer Champagne Evening

My wine group got together last night for our annual summer evening of Champagne.  Our location was the house of good friends Ed & Joan, on their deck over the waters Lake Samammish –  a perfect setting for tasting a lot of wonderful bubbles.  The wine group of 8 guys meets about 10 times per year, and we generally do Champagne in the summer.  This is the one time of year that all of our significant others join us.   My wife is always happy about it, because she loves Champagne.

Most of our wine tastings are blind, but not this time.  Ed and Joan made a wonderful flank steak with green beans cooked in some sort of bacon fat – and the most amazing potatoes cooked in duck fat!  It was the perfect pairing for the Champagne and an excellent way to kick off the pending trips to France that three of the couples are planning this fall.

Everyone agreed that the line-up of Champagnes this year were all excellent – here are the wines that people brought:

NV Guy Charlemagne – Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) – Champagne, France:  Very nice toasty nose of bread and ginger spice.  Medium to full-bodied with baked apples and bread, with a nice medium – long finish.  This is a very nice bold masculine-styled Champagne, especially for the price range of $45.  (91pts.)

NV Besserat de Bellefon – Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) – Champagne, France:  Nice subtle nose of lemon and yeast, medium-light bodied with clean Chardonnay fruit and lemon in the mouth.  Medium lemon/apple finish.  My wife liked this more than I did.  It was more feminine in style and around $35.  (89pts.)

NV Aspasie – Cepages D’Antan – Champagne, France:  This is Aspasie’s high-end wine and they are owned by the Champagne house Ariston.  Exotic nose of ripe lemons and blood oranges, combined with smokey wood notes.  Medium-full bodied with spiced baked apples and lemon, good acidity and a medium-long finish.  This is a very nice Champagne that will age well over the next ten years, $100.  (93pts.)

1998 Taittinger – Comtes des Champagne – Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) – Champagne, France:  This is the high-end wine for Taittinger and it was an absolute beauty tonight.  Big, zesty lemony fruit on the nose.  Full bodied in the mouth with lemon, baking spices and intense electric acidity.  There was great minerality pouring through on the very long persistent finish.  This was the best showing I have had with a Taittinger Champagne in a very long time and it was the surprise of the evening.  This wine is feminine in style and still needs another 10 years to reach maturity.  Once it gets there it will be a show stopper, wow.  $185.  (96pts.)

1996 Egly Ouriet – Grand Cru – Champagne, France:  Smaller producer and not easy to get, but Egly Ouriet makes some great wines in all price ranges.  This was Egly Ouriet’s high-end wine.  Big, rich toasty apple and lemon fruit combined with ginger and baking spices, like nutmeg.  This wine is a big masculine styled Champagne, that just begs you to have food with it, not a delicate sipping Champagne by any means.  Very long, rich, spiced green apple fruit finish, beautiful $125.  (95pts.)

1996 Pol Roger – Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc – Champagne, France:  Big, bold spicy lemon fruit nose that carries through to the palate.  Nice long spicy fruit finish with very good acidity.   This is a Pol Roger middle end wine and they consistently make a great Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc in a masculine style $85.  (94pts.)

1996 Bollinger – Grand Annee – Champagne, France:  Very nice ginger bread and lemon nose.  This Champagne is full-bodied and very smooth in the mouth.  You get baked apples and lemon, combined with again ginger bread and very nice acidity on the very long finish, great wine and getting better $125.  (94pts)

1996 Krug – Champagne, France:  Big, strong nose of baked bread, apples and lemon.  Very masculine in style, huge, bold whole grain bread combined with spicy baked green apples and lemony acidity.  This wine is very smooth in the mouth, but with huge body.  The extremely complex finish of bread, spices and fruit, is incredibly long.  The finish stays in the mouth long after you have swallowed it.  The 1996 Krug is definitely a Champagne to have food with and is one of the best Champagnes that I have ever had.  It is still young, but has a long life ahead of it.  It is hard to imagine, but this champagne will get better with more time in the bottle.  In ten years, the 1996 Krug will be an absolute rockstar $350.  (99pts.)

When we have people over for dinner, we generally start the evening off with some Champagne.  Most people think of Champagne as something you open for a special occasion.  I say Champagne is great for any day of the week – life itself is enough of a celebration, and we certainly proved it last Tuesday night!  Thanks Ed and Joan!

My wife, Christina, with good friend Bill Schallert from Youngs Market Co.
My wife, Christina, with good friend Bill Schallert from Youngs Market Co. at the  champagne tasting.

2013 Auction of Washington Wines Gala

We were delighted to be the guests of Kris Middleton and Tony Lupino of Caderetta Wines on Saturday night for the Gala Auction.  Before heading to the auction festivities, we got together with friends for a quick drink and photo opp.  Here’s the crew in action:

Pam Harrington, Chris Figgins, Maura and Drew Bledsoe, Greg Harrington, Kris Middleton, Tony Lupino, Christina and Bob Watt.
Pam Harrington, Chris Figgins, Maura and Drew Bledsoe, Greg Harrington, Kris Middleton, Tony Lupino, Christina and Bob Watt.

The auction vibe was great this year – there was a pervasive sense of community and camaraderie in the room.  An impressive $2,000,000 was raised, a testament to the very well-run auction.  We very much enjoyed the company of the guests at our table, along with their great wines.  Unfortunately, we were having too much fun with our hosts to remember to take notes on the vintages, but we loved getting to taste the crisp SBS white, as well as the Caderetta Cabernet. Springboard and Windthrow.  Next time we’ll have to do less talking and more note-taking!

2013 Gramercy Cellars and Doubleback Winemaker Dinner

We had a beautiful night on Friday at our winemaker dinner for the Auction of Washington Wines. We very much enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with our friends Pam and Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars, and Drew and Maura Bledsoe of Doubleback. Not only do they have great taste in wine, but as my wife says, they also have great taste in wives – we had a blast catching up with all of them this weekend.

Joey’s provided the food for the evening, and created some very inventive pairings, such as the crab with curry sauce that played perfectly off the flavors of Gramercy Cellar’s limited release rose.  Greg’s rose is a nice, dry wine in the provincial French style – it was a treat to be able to enjoy it, as he typically only makes it available to his wine list members.

Pam and Greg Harrrington of Gramercy Cellars with Christina and Bob Watt.
Pam and Greg Harrrington of Gramercy Cellars with Christina and Bob Watt.

Our highlights from the evening, besides seeing great friends, was the Gramercy Cellars ’06 Tempranillo, which was a nicely complex wine with good acidity, that makes it such a great food wine.  It’s still drinking young and appears to have a long life ahead of it.  We also enjoyed the Gramercy Cellars ’08 Lagniappe Syrah.  This wine was rich in fruit with spices, and paired well with the lamb course.

Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars with Drew Bledsoe from Doubleback.
Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars with Drew Bledsoe from Doubleback.

As always, the ’09 and ’10 Doubleback wines were full and lush, with dark berries and chocolate.  These tend to be big wines that will take years to mature and truly realize the complexity.  While drinking well now and a perfect pairing with any meat dish, aging these wines will definitely pay off.

Big thanks to Brian and Laurie Flynn for opening up their beautiful home, and to Greg and Drew for the great wines!

Cellar Gems: Doubleback and Gramercy Cellars

We are very much looking forward to our weekend.  It’s the annual Auction of Washington Wines – several days of good wines and our winemaking friends from all over the state come in to celebrate.

For the past few years, good friends Brian and Laurie Flynn have hosted a Friday night winemaker dinner at their beautiful Capitol Hill home. There are usually one-three winemakers in attendance, and a fantastic local chef who puts together the food pairings.   This year, the wines will be Doubleback and Gramercy Cellars, two of our favorites from Washington State, and arguably my wife’s absolute favorites.
Not only are the wines great, but Drew Bledsoe of Doubleback and Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars are also just great guys who clearly love what they do – it should be a good night!

Here are two recent write-ups from tastings of their wines:

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2010 Doubleback (Walla Walla – Washington, USA) – Nice dark reddish purple color.  Nose of sweet black fruit and a hint of charred oak.  On the palate, sweet ripe blackberry/blueberry fruit and a touch of vanilla oak.  Very nice persistence in the mouth.  A big wine with a long sweet fruit filled finish, but with enough tannin to age gracefully for 10-20 years.  There are good things to come for those able to wait another 5 years before opening.  (95pts.)

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2007 Gramercy Cabernet Sauvignon (Walla Walla – Washington, USA) – Nice dark reddish color.  The nose had sweet blackberry and red currants, with a hint of oak.  In the mouth, the sweet black and red fruits came through with a lively tang of acid that electrified the taste buds.  This wine really got the salivary glands going.  The slightly higher acid made this wine a great wine to go with food.  The wine had a nice long fruit filled finish, with an acid zip at the end, that makes you want to come back for more.  Great wine for the money (94pts.)

Cellar Gems are reviews of bottles aged in our cellar.

Cellar Gems: 2004 William Fevre

2004 William Fevre – Bougros Cote Bouguerots (Chablis, France) – I believe William Fevre is one of the best producers in Chablis for the money.  It’s a favorite in our household!

The 2004 had a nice light straw yellow color.  The nose smelled of granny smith apples, wet limestone and sea air.  In the mouth, the sweet high acid green apple fruit combined with lemon, wet stone, oyster shell and just a touch of spices like nutmeg.  The dense sweet fruit carries through the very long mineraly finish, with an electric acid snap that makes you take notice.  This was my first foray, since release, into our collection of 2004 Chablis wines.  The 2004 vintage is a very “classic”  and wonderful vintage for Chablis.  They say “Good things come to those that wait.” and this wine has a long life ahead of it.  (96pts.)

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Cellar Gems are reviews of bottles aged in our cellar.

Cellar Gem: 1999 E. Guigal

1999 E. Guigal – Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde (Northern Rhone, France) – I got this bottle on release in roughly 2002, and we opened it about a month ago.   It was dark ruby red in color with a little bricking at the rim.  The nose smelled of sweet red fruit, subtle baking spices, beef blood, and forest floor.  In the mouth, sweet red cherries are combined with cured meat, baking spices, pepper and dried leaves.  The cherries and beef continued through to the nice medium-long finish.  This wine appears to be on its plateau of maturity, where it should stay for another 10 years.  (93pts.)

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Cellar gems are reviews of bottles aged in our cellar.

Cellar Gem: 2001 Chateau D’Issan

2001 Chateau D’Issan (Bordeaux – Margaux, France) –   When our twins were born back in 2004, my wife gave me a case of wine to celebrate, with the idea that we would drink one bottle every year around their birthday, and hopefully toast ourselves to a job well done.   I look forward to this tradition each year, and cooked a good steak dinner to enjoy this bottle with.  Now that the kids have turned 9, we only have a few more years before we’ll need to buy more “birthday” wine!


The wine had a deep red color, and there was nice spicy red fruit on the nose.  In the mouth, the combination of red/black fruits and subtle baking spices came through, with good acid keeping everything alive.  The sweet red fruit followed through to a nice medium to medium-long finish.  This was a better showing than the previous bottle 2-3 years ago, which was still somewhat closed in on itself.  This bottle was open for business and will have a great future over the next 10+ years.  (93pts.)

Cellar Gems are reviews of bottles aged in our cellar.

Wine With Friends: NV Billecart Salmon

NV Billecart Salmon – Brut Reserve (Champagne, France).  Some good friends brought this over to have before dinner – thank you, Dave and Kelly Bonewitz.  Judging from the cork and the color of the wine, I estimated that this Champagne was purchased 5-6 years ago.  The Champagne was a light golden yellow color.  The nose smelled of a sweet/spicy baked apple pie.  In the mouth, the baked apple and pear came through, with cooked pie crust and breadcrumbs to back it up on the nice very long smooth finish.  The smoothness and elegance of this Champagne is what you get only from extended aging.  (94pts.)more wine blog aug. 2013 001

Cellar Gems: 1989 Cordeillan Bages

In anticipation of our upcoming trip to Bordeaux, I pulled an ’89 Cordeillan Bages out of the cellar last week.  I remember buying this bottle when I first started getting into Bordeaux wine in about ’92.  We are actually staying at the Cordeillan Bages estate in Pauillac on our trip, so we thought this would be an interesting bottle to taste now.

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This ’89 Cordeillan Bages was a dark ruby red color, with just a slight bit of bricking at the rim.  The nose smelled of forest floor with dried leaves and damp earth and a little sweet red fruit coming through.  In the mouth, the taste of the moderately sweet red fruit was complicated with the earthy flavors (leaves, moss and dirt).  The wine had a slight rustic medium length finish and a little bit of dryness on the end.  After several hours of air, the fruit was a little more dominant over the forest flavors and the finish was smoothing out, while still maintaining a little bit of its rustic character.  (89 pts.)

We look forward to trying the more current vintages of this wine in just a few short weeks.

Cellar Gems are reviews of bottles aged in our cellar.