What a fun night at Graileys! We started Champagne Friday with 4 Champagnes, three small Growers and 1 famous Champagne House. The first Champagne we poured was the Bollinger Special Cuvee: classic, clean, fresh, easy, and tasty. Next was one of the most interesting Champagnes of the night: NV Vouette & Sorbee Fidele. It was yeasty, with light, sweet brioche notes, juicy Bosc pear and lime zest. I kept it in the glass for about two hours and as the bubbles faded, more biscuit notes developed but this time, with sweet brown butter. It had this lovely richness to it that really balanced bright minerals. This Champagne drinks like a still wine. AJ and Ryan mentioned decanting this one, which is why I left it in the glass for two hours, only going back to it, sip by sip, to check its flavor status. Superb in quality, but very low in quantity, this is one of the most unique Champagnes I have ever tasted.
The last two bubs we poured were Grower Champagnes: the Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Premier Cru and the NV H. Billiot Fils Brut Rose from Ambonnay. The Vilmart & Cie was one of my favorite Champagnes of the night. These wines are full bodied and rich due to oak aging and old vines. The Billiot Rose was more on the clean side with light, just ripe and even green strawberries with a hint of sweetened lemon rind, and sweet cherry gummies. It would not be Champagne Friday without Ruinart Brut Rose! Compliments from a member, this Champagne had deep minerals, riper strawberry fruit, a hint of rose water, and a touch of baking spices. Much more weight and depth of flavor compared to the Billiot Rose; but then again, they are Ruinart.
After all the bubbles were poured, more serious reds came out from the lockers and cages. First red that was opened the 2004 Leroy Musigny. Amazing wine! It was so complex in all degrees. First opened at 4pm, the nose was dried red cherries, raspberries and red plums, dried herbs, and it had hint of hemp and eucalyptus, which reminded me of the 2008 Chateau Rayas. I let this sit in my glass throughout the night, which then developed more earth and mushroom notes in the nose and the palate evolved with a powerful richness of fruit and minerals. My favorite wine of the night!
The next set of reds, we had a chance to compare vintages old and young from classic producers of California and Bordeaux. We started with 1999 Chateau Montelena vs 2005 Favia Cerro Sur. Both completely different styles in production, Montelena being more old school, reserved fruit and alcohol compared to the attention grabbing Favia. The Montelena seemed a bit closed when opened, considering the age and winemaking style, the fruit was soft and lean with baked red cassis and black berries; whereas the Favia was a fruit bomb with plump, juicy black fruits. More secondary notes were present in the Montelena: cedar dust, leather, tobacco with a black and red tea medium finish. The Favia screamed with sweet violets and baking spice, fresh vanilla beans and cinnamon integrated harmoniously in its luscious, powerful palate. These wines seemed like they were from two completely different worlds.
Going to Bordeaux, we tasted a Third and a Second Growth, one old and one young: 1978 Chateau Palmer, 2009 Chateau Leoville Poyferre (respectively). The ’78 Palmer was the more traditional Bordeaux, nothing but earth, black truffle, black pepper, leather, and hints of bitterness from black tea, all balanced by deep black fruit and dusty minerality. It was dirty, but a good dirty. The 2009 Leoville Poyferre expressed riper black and blue fruit in its youth, with fresh, intense purple flowers, sweet herbs, fresh eucalyptus, and gravel. There were layers of sweet cassis, vanilla stalk, and black tea. Much like how the California Cabs tasted earlier, these two Bordeaux also seemed a world apart.
The last memorable wine of the night was a 2000 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Rotenberg Pinot Gris Selection de Grains Nobile. SGNs are really underrated and do not receive the attention they deserve. Intensely aromatic, the glass beamed with sweet apricot, ripe peaches, and caramelized orange zest. This wine is powerful all throughout in sweetness, texture, body, and finish. Without being cloying, the perception of sweetness was beautifully balanced with bright acidity and alcohol strength. The finish was quite lengthy, leaving clues of botrytis on the palate of sweet honey and ginger spice. This was the perfect wine to end another great night at Graileys.
Other great labels from this very fun night…
1990 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron
2000 Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux
2001 Diamon Creek Red Rock Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon
2003 Aubert Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
1996 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la RocheVieilles Vignes
2001 Dominus Napa Valley Cabernet
2006 Radio-Coteau Alberigi Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
NV Pierre Morle Rose Grande Reserve
2009 Arnaud Ente Meursault Les Petits Charrons
2011 Guidalberto Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot IGT Toscana
2004 Stags Leap Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon