Sunday, October 19, 2008

148th Hospice De Beaune Tasting at Christie' New York

Started 148 years ago by the Hospice De Beaune to raise money for the hospital, this annual auction event sells at auction red and white Burgundy wines by barrel to the highest bidder. This was just a promotional tasting event in New York to raise awareness of the auction and to allow the trade to get a taste of what lies in Burgundy up for auction. Buyers from Japan, the US, the UK and many more vie to take home the best and most prized barrels of wine from vineyards owned by the Hospice De Beaune. The Hospice, formerly a 15th century hotel called the Hotel-Dieu, turned into a hospital to serve the poor of the region and never looked back. Instead of monetary donations, the Hospice was quite often given a vineyard or plot of vineyard as a donation as the French in this region believed that if they gave a vineyard they would be guaranteed entry to heaven. What a brilliant idea because the gift gave every year by creating wine which could then be sold each year for use by the hospital.

Whites (Chardonnay)

2005 Pouilly Fuisse, Francoise Poisard2006 Pouilly Fuisse, Francoise Poisard
2004 Meursault-Charmes, 1er Cru "Cuvee de Bahezre de Lanlay"
2006 Meursault-Charmes, 1er Cru "Cuvee de Bahezre de Lanlay"
2004 Meursault-Genevrieres, 1er Cru "Cuvee Philippe Le Bon"
2006 Corton Charlemagne, Grand Cru "Cuvee Francois de Salins"
2005 Batard Montrachet, Grand Cru "Cuvee Dame de Flandres"

Reds (Pinot Noir)

2005 Beaune, 1er Cru "Cuvee Dames Hospitalieres"
2005 Beaune, 1er Cru "Cuvee Guigogne de Salins"
2005 Pommard, 1er Cru "Cuvee Dames de la Charite"
2005 Volnay Santenots, 1er Cru "Cuvee Jehan de Massol
2003 Savigny-les-Beaune, 1er Cru "Cuvee Arthur Giraud"
2005 Beaune, 1er Cru "Cuvee Nicolas Rolin"
2002 Corton, Grand Cru "Cuvee Charlotte Dumay"
2003 Corton, Grand Cru "Cuvee Charlotte Dumay"
2005 Corton, Grand Cru "Cuvee Charlotte Dumay"
2005 Clos De la Roche, Grand Cru "Cuvee George Kritter"
1999 Mazis Chambertin, Grand Cru "Cuvee Madelaine Collignon"

What a line-up! I will make this an annual event that I attend. This was for me the best Burgundy only tasting I have ever been to. Now, by Burgundy standards and representation of the region this is a drop in the bucket! Most of the wines were from the Beaune, known best for its whites and also for solid reds, and two wines were from the Cote de Nuits, known for the most complex and sought after reds. The vineyards of Burgundy are more or less named for the villages in which the vineyards lie. The designation Grand Cru is the best parcel(s) of the vineyard(s), Premier Cru, or 1er Cru, being the second best individual sections of a vineyard(s) and then followed by "Village" and then regional, such as "Burgundy" or "Bourgogne", the latter are typical blends of different villages from the Cote du Beaune or the Cote de Nuits. It’s the hardest region to get to know, but the best to discover as they have some of the wine world's most cherished wines and define terroir in the wine world. Burgundy is difficult to learn, not only because of the name designations, but there can be multiple Grand or 1er Cru versions of the same vineyard. Many of the vineyards are so divided because of inheritance that they are sometimes just a few rows amongst a large vineyard.

My favorite white was the 2004 Meursault-Genevrieres, 1er Cru "Cuvee Philippe Le Bon" which was graceful, highly complex and very intriguing because of a note juniper I detected but could not pick out what it was. A purchasing agent from a NYC wine shop said it was a note of Juniper that came from the trees the bordered the vineyard - now THAT is terroir folks! These were great chardonnays, classic white Burgundy!

The reds were all delicious and varied in style. We were treated to a 3 year mini-vertical of Corton, Grand Cru "Cuvee Charlotte Dumay", 2002, 2003, and 2005 - 2002 being my favorite. The 1999 Mazis-Chambertin, Grand Cru "Cuvee Madelaine Collignon" was a real treat and a testament to what a great Burgundy with almost 10 years of age can be like. My favorite wine was the powerful 2005 Clos De la Roche, Grand Cru "Cuvee George Kritter". A true example of what 2005 red Burgundy is like, the wine was powerful and complex, yet still light on its feet and elegant. This was my first Clod de la Roche wine I have had. They are quite rare and are in high demand. Thus they are expensive and sell themselves because of their reputation and are not typically tasted at a public wine tasting.

Tomorrow is the Zachy’s Fall Wine & Food Extravaganza! Talk about wine sensory overload!


Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Altesino, Rosso di Altesino, Vendemmia 2006, Montalcino, Italy

One would hope to learn something new everyday - and hopefully for me it has to do with wine. While checking out the label of tonight’s wine I noticed to word “Vendemmia” on the label. After a quick Google search I found that it is the Italian and Spanish equivalent for Harvest or Vintage. Duh, it sure does make sense as it is next to the vintage date on the label.

And how is the wine? As good as it gets for $13.98!

A delicious blend of 80% young Sangiovese Grosso and 20% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon - a “Mini-Super Tuscan” of sorts, this is one of my favorite wines under $15. The Rosso di Altesino wine sees no oak and is typically aged in stainless steel tanks for 6-8 months. By young Sangiovese Grosso, I mean the fruit from Sangiovese Grosso vines likely 6-12 years old and not up to the quality standards used in the highly regarded Brunello di Montalcino’s that come from this and other estates in the village on Montalcino, Italy. Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese Grosso. A Rossi di Montalcino is 100% young Sangiovese Grosso, the more complex stuff goes into the Brunello. In a general sense, anytime you blend Merlot or any other non-native Italian varietal from Tuscany (i.e. Cabernet or Syrah) with native varieties (such as Malvasia, Canaiolo Nero, or most commonly Sangiovese) the wine can not be called Brunello or any other DOCG designation, but are commonly called Super Tuscans. For more details on the Italian wine designation system, see a past blog of mine here.

Color: Dark red and ruby

Aromas: Typical Sangiovese: tart cherry, some flower notes, some violets, a bit of leather and touch of spice

Palate: Well balanced, excellent fruit, mild tannin and that perfect acidity that Italian wines get so right! Bright cherry, some dark flowers, a touch of leather and plum detail the flavor spectrum.

Finish: Clean and refreshing, nice fruit some tannin on the back and acidity drive the finish.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bella 2003 Big River Ranch Syrah, Alexander Valley, Sonoma $35

Our last bottle of the Big Ranch Syrah that brings back memories of our New Year's day trip to Sonoma where there was torrential rains and flooding (Jan 2, 2006). Stored at home in the cellar for almost 3 years, upon opening it was in great shape. Could easily go a few more years, but is likely peaking now through the next 6-12 months.

Color: Dark purple center, dark red/ruby edges

Nose: Chocolate, blackberry, bacon fat, subtle sweet oak

Palate: Exploding with layers of chocolate and black fruits like cherry and blackberry. Some bacon fat and a touch of sweet oak and ripe structured tannins finish it off.

Finish: Outstanding 60+ second finish! More of the above flavors that draw you back for another sip!


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