There was no PnP post last night, because instead of pounding something out on my keyboard for the blog, I was out doing “field research”. It started at Brava Bistro on 17th Avenue (try the potato and honey flatbread!), ultimately ended up at a friend’s place downtown, and was the kind of research where no notes are taken, many glasses are emptied, and the recollection of wines past is not quite as sharp as expected the next day. That said, we had enough interesting and incredible wines that I would be remiss not to pass along at least something about what we enjoyed. The night’s wines were cracked in this order (Editor’s Note: I am not counting the half bottle of Hello Kitty sparkling Italian rosé [don't ask] that worked its way into the lineup at the end of the night and was, to put it kindly, an utter abomination):
2003 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Heimbourg Riesling: Zind-Humbrecht is one of Alsace’s top producers, and this single-vineyard Riesling (“Heimbourg” is the vineyard name) was the kick-off point to a fantastic dinner. It was starting to develop secondary notes like rubber/car tires to go with strong acidity and a fairly austere flavour profile, but it seemed sort of stuck between its youth and its maturity phase and I sort of wondered if it would have been better either a year or two ago or a year or two in the future.
- 2007 Pierre Gaillard Condrieu: We ordered this off of Brava’s wine list for $109 (I would guess it retails for $60ish) and were extremely pleased with it. Condrieu is a white wine region surrounded by red wine areas in France’s Northern Rhone; all wines carrying the name Condrieu are predominantly made from Viognier. Most of my prior Viognier experience comes from California examples of the grape, which are rich and full and hedonistic, with flavours that almost shout at you. The Gaillard couldn’t have been more of a contrast in style, with a toned-down body, a healthy streak of minerality and more restrained stone fruit flavours. Killer wine.
1996 Chateau Troplong Mondot Saint-Emilion Grand Cru: With the main course at dinner we opened this 15 year-old Merlot/Cabernet Bordeaux, which was a fascinating drinking experience. Much of the up-front fruit flavour had tapered off, but the wine still had a deep, inky colour and strong tannic grip, so I don’t think it was nearing the end of its useful life by any stretch. While we drank this wine, I learned that I have been misusing the wine term “cigar box” for the life of this blog — apparently it doesn’t just mean the smell of cigars mixed with the smell of the box they come in, but it suggests a complete mixture and integration of these two aromas, like when the old wooden storage box still smells a bit like cigars even when it’s empty because the tobacco flavour has been infused into it. Now you (and I) know.
- 2000 Michele Chiarlo Cannubi Barolo: What better way to start the post-dinner component of the evening than with decade-old Barolo? The story of this wine for me was its remarkable tawny colour — it was almost brown in some lights, but was still lively, clear and bright. This wine was also a little quieter than expected, but it had a nice mix of fruit and earthy notes, and it had aged for long enough that it wasn’t a wall of tannin like younger Barolo can be. Definitely better with a bit of food than on its own.
- 2007 Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard: A complete personality reversal from the previous wine, this one overflowed with oceans of ripe black fruit. Andrew Will is a top flight Washington State producer, and the 2007 Champoux is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Franc (over 50%), Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. This wine was super easy to sip by itself and had an amazing silky, supple texture with a hint of mintiness, but it lacked the complexity and layers of flavour that the Chiarlo brought to the table.
2007 Petrolo Galatrona: The last two wines of the night were the shining stars of the evening in my opinion. Petrolo’s Galatrona is a 100% Merlot Super Tuscan wine from central Italy and is out of my wine budget’s stratosphere at around $150 a bottle, but yesterday we all realized why some wines cost what they do. Unlike every other wine mentioned in this post, which was just popped and poured (the Troplong Mondot was briefly decanted, but for sediment only), the Galatrona was decanted and left to breathe for 7 hours before we touched it. Even then, it clearly had a lot more unfolding to do, but what was showing was simply spectacular. Intense and focused dark fruit, powerful structure, but also a sense of lightness in how the flavours played out on the palate. Without question the best Merlot I have ever had, and it will be even better in 5-10 years. Amazing wine.
- 2008 Betz La Cote Rousse Syrah: The night (or morning, by this time) wrapped up with the wine that first got me to notice Washington State wine. This is a genius Syrah where sweet fruit melds effortlessly with an armada of secondary flavours, most prominently medicinal notes like linament/iodine. Usually these additional non-fruit flavours develop over time as a wine ages, but this 2008 already had them in spades, and its finish was extremely long and lingering. It was almost an unfair task to ask any wine to grab my attention after the half dozen that came before it, but the Betz did it effortlessly. I am VERY glad to still have one more bottle of it left.