WLDG Offline June '99

Tasting Notes

The Wine Lovers' Discussion Group Massachusetts/New Hampshire Offline dinner was held on June 23 at Angelo's in Stoneham, MA, one of the few restaurants in the greater Boston area which welcomes diners who wish to bring their own bottles of wine. The food was excellent (as it always is, I'm told), the company was great, and there were plenty of outstanding wines -- not a single dud in the bunch.

I tried to take notes on all of the wines I tasted, but I know I missed trying a couple (including a Cote-Rotie which was floating around somewhere, and the Cloudy Bay '98, which I had tasted recently, so I left more for everyone else), so my list isn't comprehensive. Also, there may be some misspellings, as I was writing quickly (and often illegibly). As the company was getting at least as much of my attention as the wines, I've decided to refrain from my usual ratings and just write up my tasting notes on each wine.


Mossbach Riesling Grand Cru Steinklotz '94 -- Hand-carried from Alsace, and from the same producer as another QPR giant from a previous offline. Anyhow, this was a really nice wine, with an intense nose of apple, peach and stones. On the palate, the peach came to the forefront, along with more apple and noticeable acidic backbone. The finish showed stones and quenching acidity.

Pichler Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Loiben(?) '93 -- This was a huge, intense, classy wine, which I could appreciate even though it wasn't my favorite, at least for now. A giant, powerful nose which projected out of the glass, with piercing herbal notes, but also some sulfur and reduced aromas. Intense herbal, grassy and floral flavors, and a long herbal and citrus finish with plenty of acidity. As I type this, I think I can still taste it... I'd really like to try this one again in a few years to see what happens to it.

Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley '98 -- Fresh and fruity, this is a nice example of the California style SB's. Could have used a little more acidity (but I say that about lots of CA whites), but there's an abundance of citrus flavor to make this a good, early-drinking wine. Unfortunately, my notes are a bit illegible on this one, so I can't provide much more detail.

Chateau Soucherie Coteaux du Layon Chaume '95 -- Honeyed peaches, minerals and cotton candy aromas, along with a slight whiff of acetone, but not enough to matter (and it went away quickly). The honey and peaches carry over onto the lightly sweet palate, along with golden delicious apple and a touch of apricot. A long finish of apples, honey and apricots. Not as much acidity as some from the CdL, but there was still plenty there. A really good way to recover from the humiliation of the mystery wines.

Tempe Riesling Burgrieben '96 -- A real contrast in the nose from the Mossbach, as the Tempe was quite subdued at first, but then opened up with time, showing apples, minerals, and a slight touch of honey. Seemed rounder in the mouth with generous apple, orange peel and mineral flavors, but with less backbone apparent. It turned a little lean and acidic on the finish. I think it needs some age.



Chateau Brown Bag #1 (a mysterious red) -- OK, this one had me completely fooled. A lightish red color, with no apparent bricking, which suggested Pinot Noir or something similar. However, the nose had lots of pencilly oak, some cassis, blackberry and a hint of green pepper, so I started to think Cabernet. In the mouth, it seemed quite extracted, with more oak, cassis, plum, and again, a little hint of green pepper. The finish was fairly long with plum and oak dominating. I really had no idea, and decided to go with a Cabernet from a fairly cool area. WRONG. It was La Bourgoise(?) Sancerre (I didn't get the year).

Chateau Brown Bag #2 (an even more mysterious white) -- This one was just weird. Pale yellow color, with green pepper, grass, banana and tropical-fruit bubblegum aromas. Off-dry with more bubblegum, herbal, and strange tropical fruit flavors, and a short finish. Seemed like a Sauvignon Blanc with a dose of some oddball grape added. WRONG AGAIN. It turned out to be a Kiwifruit wine from New Zealand (didn't get the producer or year). Ok, first I can't get the grape variety right, and now I can't even tell if it's a grape. Back to tasting school for me.



Bahans Haut Brion Pessac-Leognan '89 -- Drinking very well now, this wine starts out with a not-unpleasant whiff of the barnyard, along with oak, plums and earth. Smooth in the mouth, with plenty of plum and some blackberry. Feels smooth and lush. As Thor Iverson said, "...makes me want to drink more Bordeaux..." Though neither of us is sure we actually want to pay the prices to buy more Bordeaux.

Blockheadia Ringnosii Zinfandel Napa Valley '94 -- A good example of 5-year-old Zin, which many people assured me was even better a little earlier, with more expressive fruit. Regardless, it still had plenty of raspberry, black raspberry and a good dose of oak. There was a hint of mint, and a slight hint of dill as well, but you really had to search for it. Plenty of plum and black cherries on the finish, along with a modest dose of smooth tannins.

Chave Hermitage '96 -- (double decanted) Big nose of plum, along with notes of violets and the slightest hint of dill. Lots of plum and other black fruit in the mouth with a tiny bit of orange-blossom. Plenty of acid and tannin, but not as brutal to taste as I would have thought (probably due to the decanting). An excellent wine.

Edmund St. John Syrah Durell Vineyard '90 -- (decanted from magnum) Didn't show as well as the last time I had this wine, and seemed closed down. Showed a lot of barnyard and some alcohol on the nose, but after a while, it opened up to show black cherries, leather and a touch of eucalyptus. Seemed muted and acidic in the mouth at first, but with a little coaxing, the fruit and leather flavors showed up along with plenty of tannin. I've had better experiences with this wine in the past, but I'd leave this unopened for a few years, based on my (limited) experience with other ESJ Syrahs. For another note on this wine (from a regular bottle), see the Edmund St. John Durell vertical tasting from the 1998 Boston Wine Expo

Guigal Hermitage '90 -- Not as big or bold as the Chave, but smoother and more elegant. Plenty of plum, black cherry and some leather here, along with some black olive, and surprisingly smooth tannins. I have to admit that I don't drink much Hermitage, but I'm still surprised at how accessible this was. Well-balanced and well-integrated, this was a pleasure to drink, but I think I personally preferred the Chave.

Hardy's Shiraz Padthaway McLaren Vale Eileen Hardy '95 -- My notes are incomplete on this one. I remember that I liked it quite a bit. It was a very deep, intense red-purple, and had plenty of fruit and oak, but I seem to have forgotten to write the details.

Lehmann Clancy's Barossa '96 -- A blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and the first of the bottles I brought. Just out of the bottle, this shows expressive blackberry and plum aromas, along with quite a bit of oak. As it got warmer (the restaurant was on the warm side) the fruit seemed to fade, and the oak and alcohol dominated. A few minutes on ice cured that, however. A nice big Barossa wine, with just a bit much oak for my taste, so I was slightly disappointed. However, it did give good value for the price.

Littorai Pinot Noir One Acre Anderson Valley '96 -- Missed this one the first time around, and it probably wasn't fair to taste it after the big Cabs and Syrahs, but I had to try for completeness, right? Piercing nose of black cherry and some barnyard odors, along with a slight herbal note. Sweet red cherry and plum notes in the mouth with a long, raspberry-dominated finish.

Phelps Insignia Napa Valley '94 -- Decanted. Definitely a big wine, with lots of plum aromas and flavors, plenty of toasty oak, and a touch of eucalyptus. Much easier to drink than I expected, and has the soft tannins that I've found in other vintages of the Insignia. A well-integrated wine with plenty of fruit and oak, and a nice long finish.

San Vincente Tempranillo Rioja '94 -- (a single-vineyard Rioja) My second offering, and one which I think got lost in the shuffle (for many people) as the meals were being served and several of the heavy hitters were being passed around. By the time I noticed that the bottle hadn't gone far, it was getting pretty late and people had moved on to dessert. It's too bad, because I really like this wine. A nose of oak, earth, leather and plum lead into a palate with more of the leather, plum and other dark fruit flavors, and a long finish. There are some tannins in this wine, and it has some acidity behind it too. A good food wine, IMHO, and one that can keep for a while.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars SLV '94 -- A lovely wine, with plum, black cherry and leather aromas, with a touch of green pepper. More leather, plum and cherry flavors fill the mouth in this smooth, well-integrated wine. Has enough tannin to stay around for a while, too.

Viader Napa '95 (53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Cabernet Franc) -- Buttered popcorn jumped out of the glass at my nose, followed by plum, and a pleasant earthy/leathery aroma. Plenty of plum and oak in the mouth, but turned a bit lean on the finish, with a hint of apple(?!).


Baumard Clos Ste. Catherine Coteaux du Layon '88 -- Light yellow gold. Expressive nose of honey, pear, peach, and something I can't quite place, but reminded me of fresh corn tortillas (hey, I'd had a lot of wine by now), and a bit of sulfur/reduced aromas. The palate showed a lot of peach, pear, apricot and honey, and the finish was long, generous and harmonious, with plenty of peach and honey. Can you tell I liked this?

Furst Von Metterich Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Auslese '76 (not too sure about this label as my writing is a bit messy) -- Dark yellow gold, but lighter in color than I might have guessed. Big nose of botrytis, apple, peach and complex aged Riesling smells. Not overly sweet, with plenty of acid to balance. Honey, peach, apples and some petrol in the mouth lead to a long, satisfying finish. I don't think I'd hold this much longer, especially since it is awesome now.


If you're interested in attending a dinner like this, you might try visiting the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group to see if you can drum up interest in an offline in your area. Board participants hold offlines in many cities all over the world, and I have yet to hear of an unsuccessful one.

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