WLDG Offline September '99

Tasting Notes

The Wine Lovers' Discussion Group Massachusetts/New Hampshire/Connecticut September Offline dinner was held on Wednesday the 8th at Il Fiorentino in Woburn, MA, one of the few restaurants in the greater Boston area which welcomes diners who wish to bring their own bottles of wine, and which doesn't have a corkage fee. The company was great, as were the wines. I thought that the food and service were a notch below Angelo's (the site of the previous offline), but it was also a little cheaper. The glassware at Il Fiorentino leaves much to be desired, so anyone who plans to bring a really good wine there should also consider bringing their own wine glasses.

I tried to take notes on all of the wines, but I may have missed some, and my notes weren't always perfectly legible. In fact, I was actually trying to socialize a little instead of just geeking out and writing wine notes (which is basically what I did at the last one). Anyhow, please be patient with any misspellings or errors on the names of the wines, and with the brevity of some notes. I have again decided to refrain from my usual ratings and just write up my tasting notes on each wine because, in my opinion, the atmosphere wasn't ideal for critical evaluation of the wines.


Burkin-Wolf Ruppertsberger Hoheberg Riesling Spätlese '71 -- Yes, that's a 28 year old wine, just to get us warmed up. Gold color with peach and petrol aromas. Interesting complex flavors of peach, along with cream, just a small dash of herbal flavor, and a spicy, almost peppery element. Long finish, and seems very well balanced. I'm not sure I would save it much longer, as the acidity seemed to be waning in the glass, but it's quite nice now.

Studert-Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese (Gold Capsule) '83 -- "Only" 16 years old, but I actually don't think this wine will outlive the Burkin-Wolf. The nose was a bit odd with some fresh sugar snap pea along with the more usual peachy notes. A little botrytis is evident in the mouth, and there are good peach flavors at first, but seems a little hollow in the midpalate. The finish was quite dry, but not really acidic. This is a very nice wine, but I really expected more given the producer, vineyard and vintage. One caveat, though: I arrived a bit late, and this was opened before I arrived. It may have been better earlier.

Jordan & Jordan Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese '93 -- A baby when compared to the above two wines, and one with a great life ahead of it. One of WLDG member Peter Jordan's wines, which he tells me is sold out at the winery, and is selling at rather high prices on the secondary market in Germany. I found three bottles at Brookline Liquor Mart, selling for $17.99, which is quite a bargain for this wine (I only bought one, but another WLDG member also snapped one up...). I brought my bottle, thinking that there could be no better audience for it than people who are familiar with Peter Jordan's valuable contributions to the group. Impressive, intense nose of peaches, apricot, stones and a bit of petrol. The flavors included minerals, apricot and grapefruit. An interesting mouthfilling texture which we decided was was best called "waxy", but the roundness and softness in the mouth gave a striking contrast to the razor-sharp flavors. Long, mouthfilling, but not at all cloying, finish, with plenty of apricot and a hint of coconut. The initial impression is one of sweetness, but the wine finishes fairly dry with plenty of acidic tang -- a really well- integrated use of sweet and sour flavors, reminding me of some excellent Asian dishes (and, no, I don't mean Sweet and Sour Pork). I sampled this several times over the evening, and petrol flavors and aromas became more evident over time, but the fruit also remained strong. Thor brought the bottle home, and tells me that it was excellent the second night too. Peter is quite right to be proud of this wine; it's a shame that we don't get more Jordan & Jordan wines here in Boston.

Schoffit Tokay Pinot Gris Cuvee Prestige '97 -- Intense floral, peach and apple aromas. Much heavier weight than the Rieslings above, with perhaps just a little too much alcohol (or maybe it was served too warm). There was a hint of herbs on the nose (dill?). Intense flavors of peaches with a touch of honey. Prickled the tongue a bit, but seemed strangely fat on the finish, so I wonder how well this will age. Regardless, it is very nice now, and should remain that way for a while.

Trimbach Tokay Pinot Gris Reserve Personnelle Vendange Tardive '85 -- Huge nose of peaches, and again, just a touch of herbs (and no, this wasn't in the same glass as the Schoffit). There is a bit of residual sugar, but not much. Generous peach and stone flavors coat the mouth smoothly. Long finish, with good acidity. An excellent wine.

Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV -- Expressive aromas of apples, cream and yeast. Plenty of flavor with apples and leesy notes, along with a spicy, almost peppery, hint at the end. The nose seems almost Californian in its exuberance, but there is no mistaking the elegance in the palate, which says, "Champagne". I really enjoyed this wine, and I'm not generally a fan of Blanc de Blancs.


Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Valpolicella Classico Superiore '95 -- I contributed this chameleon wine. When first opened, it was tightly wound, all acid and tannins. I held off on passing it around for a few minutes, hoping it would show better when the food arived. It was still tight when I started it around the table, but I kept some in my glass for a while, and in about 15 minutes it blossomed into an entirely different wine. By the time the bottle made it back, it had transformed into the "new" wine. The first tasting notes read: shy nose with minimal plum and a bit of acetone. Very tannic and acidic, with little pleasure on the palate. Disappointing. My later notes: Opens up into a different wine in the glass. Expressive nose of tobacco, plum and blueberry. Generous palate with more plum, blueberry, tobacco and some leather. Still some acidity on the long finish. Paired very well with a variety of Italian appetizers. I hope everyone got to try the "second incarnation".

Chapoutier Les Meysoniers Crozes Hermitage '89 -- Decanted prior to serving. Shy at first, but with some swirling, plum aromas jump out. Firm tannins along with a good dose of fruit and leather flavors, and a slight hint of something herbal. Medium length finsh.

Jaffer Hospice de Beaune Volnay Santenots '85 -- Impressive nose with complex aromas including violets and plums. Plums, black cherries and earth come out in the mouth, along with medium tannins. A very enjoyable wine.

Sean Thackeray Orion '93 -- Plum and a big dose of eucalyptus dominate the nose, leading into a mouthful of plum flavors, along with a spicy, black pepper note. Seems to be drinking pretty well now, with not too much tannin.

Saintsbury Pinot Noir Reserve Carneros '95 -- Herbal aromas are quite apparent initially, but some cherries appear with a little coaxing. Better when given some time (and swirling) in the glass. Plum, eucalyptus and cherries are the major flavors at first, but later a lot of vanilla and oak appear. Also seems more tannic than I would have expected.

Dominique Laurent Charmes Chambertin '94 -- Got some acetone odors out of this at first, but they seemed to blow off fairly quickly. Good cherry and plum flavors with medium tannins. Some oak came through on the finish, but it wasn't as obviously oaky as the Saintsbury.

Rene Engel Clos Vougeot Grand Cru '94 -- Again a little acetone showed through at first, but blew off. Good black cherry aromas and flavors. Medium tannins appeared in a chocolate-covered cherry finish.

B. Levet Cote Rotie '90 -- Meat, leather and slightly funky (in a good way) aromas lead you to the oak-dominated plum, leather and meat flavors. Oh, and did I mention the oak? There was plenty on the finish, too. People who are less oak-phobic will probably likethis much better than I did, but I still thought it was quite good.

Mystery Wine #1 -- Decanted earlier in the day into a different bottle. Mint and medicine dominated (and I mean dominated) the aromatics of this wine when it was on my side of the table. And those aromas carried over into the flavors. There were also some plum flavors underneath, and not much tannin. In retrospect, I probably should have guessed California Cabernet, but with the aggressive mintiness, I really had no idea. Other people got a lot more out of this wine than I did, and I enjoyed it the one other time I tasted it, so I think I caught it at a very awkward time or temperature. What was it? Gallo of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon '95, Thor Iverson's bargain find of the night.

Muga Prado Enea Rioja Grand Reserva '89 -- Continuing my "tradition" of bringing a Spanish wine, I supplied this. Unfortunately it was very slightly corked. So slightly, in fact, that I didn't pin down what was wrong until after about 10-15 minutes in the glass (and after it was sent around the table), and that no one else called me on it, though some others thought something was wrong. Of course, I immediately withdrew it from circulation. This bottle had modest leather and cherry aromas and flavors, and was fairly tart, with moderate tannins. Unfortunately, there was that slight undercurrent of TCA, which probably muted all of the flavors and may have increased the perceived tartness as well. Also unfortunately, I thought it would be difficult to return less than half a bottle of a wine which most people wouldn't easily be able to pick out as corked... Disappointing, but fortunately there was plenty of other great wine with which I could drown my sorrows.

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon '94 -- Big plummy aromas with some currants. Plums and eucalyptus on the palate. My notes are sparse on this one, but I remember liking it quite a bit.

Arrowood Caberent Sauvignon '94 -- Vanilla and plums in the nose, and quite a bit of vanilla flavor, too. Good fruit with lots of oak. The tannins were moderate and fairly soft.

Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection '94 -- Oak. Lots of oak. I think there was some fruit hiding underneath a 2 X 4 somewhere. This wine was just not my style. I know lots of people love it, and it was incredibly generous of the person who brought it; however, I just didn't get it. Am I missing something, or did I catch this wine at an awkward time? The only other Caymus SS wines I've tried have been a bit younger (basically right when released), and they seemed to have more fruit beneath the oak.

Pride Mountain Cabernet Franc Sonoma County '97 -- There's a good dose of oak in this wine, too, but it has plenty of fruit underneath. Mint, plum and tobacco flavors lead to a finish with smooth but firm tannins. A really nice wine, and probably the best California Cabernet Franc I've had (not that I've had very many).


R. Mazzi Vigneto Le Calcarole (?) Recioto della Valpolicella '91 -- Deep plum, port-like aromas along with sweet vanilla. Medium sweet on the palate, with very rich, voluptuous plum and coffee flavors. Smooth finish. Very nice.

Quinta do Noval Vintage Port '70 -- Somewhat lighter than most Vintage Ports I've tried. Some mint appears on the nose, along with plums and a bit of tobacco. Complex flavors, along with some plummy primary fruit assert themselves on the palate, lingering on the very long finish. Seems elegant, rather than powerful, and quite enjoyable now. I would probably drink this sooner rather than later, though.

Mystery Wine #2 -- Medium gold color. Strong peach and apricot aromas, and the palate follows through with more of the same, though leaning more toward apricot. More honeyed fruit on the finish. Not a lot of acidity, though. I thought that it might be a late-harvest Scheurebe, or maybe one of the less well-known, not very acidic, grapes (e.g. Bouvier) from Austria. However, it seemed a bit more New World in style than Austrian, but I had no idea where in the New World it might come from. So what was it? Duck Walk Vineyards Late Harvest Gewurztraminer '96 from Long Island, NY. An enjoyable wine, even though I would never have picked it as Gewurztraminer.

Domaine des Baumard Cuvee de Ste. Catherine Coteaux du Layon '88 -- This wine may be becoming a tradition at the offlines, since this is the second straight time we've had one. Aromas of peaches, pears, herbs and fresh corn tortillas (I noticed this aroma both in this bottle and the one at the last offline). Mouthfilling, with a smooth, waxy texture. Honeyed peach, pear and golden delicious apple flavors lead to a long, generous finish of honeyed peaches. Showed much less sulfur and reduced character than the bottle tasted 3 months ago, but also seemed to have a slightly less expressive nose. Overall, both bottles, though slightly different, showed very nicely.

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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