A Masters’ Wine Tasting To Remember

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - October 12, 2011
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Defies description

I had an awesomely good time at the inaugural Hawaii Food & Wine Festival held last week at several venues in Waikiki. All the events I participated in were absolutely stellar! But there were a couple of legendary master tastings that no one will soon forget.

The first was themed Masters’ Picks. I and fellow master sommeliers Richard Betts and Larry Stone chose four wines each to share with the attendees. Larry Stone unfortunately could not make it, but we were fortunate to have Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat describe Stone’s picks. We started off with a quartet of Krug Champagnes. Did I mention we started the seminar at 10:30 a.m.? Yes, there is probably nothing more decadent than Krug for breakfast. Amid the greatness of the Krug Champagne line, there is one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest. The Krug Grande Cuvee was a beautiful symphony of flavors and aromas. The 1998 Vintage Krug was fresher, more apples and pears with a vivacious palate of fruit and minerality. The Krug Rose was so creamy and mellow with nuances of red fruits abound. It is a luxurious rose that captivates the palate. But the 1998 Krug Clos du Mesnil a Blanc de Blanc made only from Chardonnay is an utterly stunning virtuoso. It defies description and is hauntingly seductive, flavorful and pedigreed. It is unlikely that you could find a better Champagne from 1998. It is stunningly, soaring higher in complexity and intensity than all the others.

We moved onto four dry whites. Two were from Evening Land Vineyards. The first was its 2010 Pouilly Fuisse from France, which was beautifully endowed with fruit and mineral. It was perhaps the greatest value in the tasting for the price being asked for it. The second was the 2009 La Source Chardonnay from its Seven Springs Estate in Oregon. It showed more depth and elegance than almost any other Chardonnay from Oregon. Everyone on the panel was very impressed.

But the next two wines were absolute rock stars. The 2009 Raveneau Clos Grand Cru from Chablis was riveting. It washed us over with seashells and fruit yet was completely ethereal.

Its sense of place and terroir was unmistakable. This is a supreme example of purity and the nobility of terroir a serious wine. The 2009 Domaine Roulot Meursault Perrieres was hedonistic, to say the least. It has a luxurious texture with expansive flavors of white fruit, mineral and a lace of vanillin. It is so joyful and seductive at the same time.

Vintages so different

And for the reds, two more came from Evening Land Vineyards. Its 2009 Cote de Nuits Pinot Noir was a great example of the vintage and another stellar value. And its La Source Pinot Noir is as earthy an example of New World Pinot Noir as they come, in the best sense of the word. The 2008 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape was predictably spicy with warm, fresh red berries and heated rocks. The complexity of the blend really showed through and was more than satisfying. Unfortunately, they were all dwarfed by the 2006 Gaja Sori Tildin. This wine is a monumental expression of Nebbiolo. Anise, currants, cranberries, roses and cinnamon come off in waves from the glass. The structure is like an Adonis: balanced and taught. It is not bashful and grabs your attention from beginning to lengthy, intense finish truly impressive.

The second master tasting was “Two Vineyards, Twelve Grand Cru Wines” featuring Maison Louis Latour and six vintages each of the Grand Crus of Corton Charlemagne and Batard Montrachet. Bernard Retornaz, president of Louis Latour, also was on the panel. It was so interesting to see the matrix of differences, not only between the two vineyards but the vintages as well: 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2002 and 1999. The Corton Charlemagne was always more mineral, more restrained and cerebral. The Batard was more open, giving and generous.

In my mind, it was futile to talk about which one was better than the next because they were all showing so well and everyone has a different taste. It was much more fun and interesting to enjoy each one for the expression that they had. One expects greatness from vintages such as ‘09, ‘05 and ‘02, and they were not disappointed at this tasting. The ‘07s to me are wines that one need not wait too long to enjoy. Those are opening up quite nicely already. The 1999s are coming into bloom and showing their pedigree through the complexity. The consistency of quality and style through the entire tasting was also self-evident.

How often do you get to taste wines like these in the presence of such genius wine minds? When the festival comes around again next year, you should definitely sign up for these master tastings.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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