Wines of the Month

May, 2000

The First Vintage

Looking Back

This month,Vintage Voice celebrates its first birthday with a look back at its "first vintage," a look at the upcoming "vintage," and -- most importantly -- a bunch of tasting notes. One year ago, Vintage Voice was launched as Marcel's Wine Page, starting with the first wines of the month -- a short report on a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Rioja (May Contrasts, May '99) -- and not much more. Content was quickly added, and readership followed, growing at a fairly consistent 30% per month. With the steadily increasing popularity of the site (despite the fact that Vintage Voice doesn't advertise, and won't compromise the quality of the links page by indiscrimantly swapping links just to gain exposure), something must be going right.

Even so, at the end of the first year, it seems fitting to re-examine some previously recommended wines, to see how the original notes stand up. Besides providing a good benchmark to evaluate the consistency of my notes, it also gives me an excuse to drink some of my favorite wines from the previous year. Regular readers won't be surprised to find that the chosen wines include two Rieslings (easily my favorite white grape) and two Zinfandels (one of my favorite red grapes). In general, the wines performed similarly upon retasting, though some minor differences were evident in the tasting notes. Overall, I'd say that the results are much like Vintage Voice's first year -- not bad at all.

Müller-Catoir Riesling Spätlese Trocken Haardter-Herzog Pfalz '95 -- Tightly wound at first, with little nose, but with a little time, the nose develops huge aromas of grapefruit, lemon and cola. Lush in the mouth but quite dry. Reveals many layers in the mouth, with flavors of lemon, grapefruit, apple, cola and minerals that just seem to keep building. A very concentrated wine with a long finish. The aftertaste turns slightly acidic, and the wine shows better with food than alone. Not quite as intense as the bottle tasted in December.
Read the first report in the December '99 Wines of the Month (Rating: A-)

Jordan & Jordan Riesling Spätlese Scharzhofberger Mosel-Saar-Ruwer '93 -- Not quite up to the bottle tasted earlier, but there was seepage evident around the cork, possibly indicating some storage problems before it was purchased. The nose was muted at first, but developed nicely in the glass, with sharply defined aromas of petrol, apple, pear, a little honey, tea and slate. Slightly spritzy on the palate, with generous fruit flavors of honeyed pear and apple along with some petrol and minerals. Like the earlier bottle, it had a somewhat waxy texture. It isn't particularly sweet for a Spatlese, but isn't completely dry either. Long finish, with more apples, pears and honey, but also some cherry, and a very slight hint of tea. Plenty of well-integrated acidity. A thoroughly enjoyable wine that manages to achieve complexity while remaining easy to drink. Still available at retail for around $17-18, which is a steal.
Read the first report in the September '99 WLDG Offline (Not Rated)

Howell Mountain Zinfandel Black Sears Vineyard Napa Valley '96 -- Aromas of plum, blackberry, leather and tobacco draw you into a lush palate with matching flavors, plus the addition of some black cherry. Long finish of black cherry, plum and tobacco. Seems less structured and fruitier than the previous bottle, but may still have a bit too much tannin for the fruit. Will probably be better in a year.
Read the first report in the November '99 Wines of the Month (Rating: B+)

Marietta Zinfandel Sonoma '95 -- Smells like blackberries and raspberries, with a dash of spice and dusty earth. A little alcohol is apparent on the nose, but not too much. Generous blackberry, black raspberry, plum and spice flavors, with a tiny hint of mint. Good, clean finish with pure berry and cherry fruit. The finish also seemed slightly more acidic than many California wines, reminding me a little of an Italian red. Just enough tannin to provide a backbone. Not quite as impressive as the earlier bottle, so I'd drink these up soon. An excellent deal for $14-16 retail.
Read the first report in the June '99 Wines of the Month (Rating: A-)


Looking Ahead

So what's next for Vintage Voice? In the quickly changing world of the web, who can know for sure? Given the success of the first year, I don't plan to change too much, but I do hope to expand the site. In the coming year, I plan to add content, such as some companion pieces to the popular Unofficial Punt FAQ. Since the most visited page on the site is Marcel's Wine Links, I'm also considering ways to expand and improve it. And of course there will be plenty of new tasting notes. If you have any suggestions for new content or features you'd like to see on the site, or even if you would prefer to see things left as they are, please let me know by emailing I'm always glad to hear readers' comments and suggestions.


Let the Party Begin!

You can't have a birthday without a party, so I've chosen a few wines that I think are good for a celebration. For many people, parties call for bubbly, so I've picked a couple of sparkling wines from California. And since the reviews usually focus on good value wines, it's only appropriate that you can find these sparklers for around $13-16. But sparkling wines aren't the only way to celebrate, and I love a big red wine for special occasions, so I decided to write about a good one from France's Rhône Valley. Admittedly, it's too young, and it's not cheap, but it sure was fun to drink (which is the crucial factor for a party, right?), and given the quality, it's still a good deal. Next time you're having a celebration, give one (or more) of these wines a try. You won't be disappointed.

Domaine Mumm Blanc de Noirs California NV -- Made entirely from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (the red grapes used in Champagne), this wine has a somewhat muted nose with relatively simple berry notes. It has straightforward cherry and berry flavors. Seems lean and restrained, but not exactly elegant. Good acidity on the medium-length berry-filled finish. Drier and leaner than many California sparklers. Not complex, but a pleasant quaff at a reasonable price.

Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs Napa NV -- Although this wine is labeled "Blanc de Noirs," a small amount of Chardonnay is present in the blend, along with the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It has a very pleasing salmon-pink color, and features aromas of yeast, grapefruit and cherries. Complex flavors of red cherries, strawberries, lemons, apples and fresh bread. Long finish with plenty of cherry, grapefruit and apple flavors. Plenty of acidity to keep things fresh and lively.

E. Guigal Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde '95 -- Decanted an hour before tasting, this wine showed a powerful nose of leather, meat, roasted spices and plums. It doesn't disappoint in the mouth, either with plenty of plum, black chery, leather, game and meat flavor. After some time in the glass, the flavor profile changed a little, with more blackberry and blueberry flavors and some spicy notes, coming through. Long-lasting aftertaste, with strong but smooth tannins, plenty of fruit, leather, meat, and tar flavors. May be a touch acidic at the very end. A powerful wine that manages to remain balanced and harmonious, matching very well with grilled or roasted meats.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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Copyright 2000 by Marcel Lachenmann.