It was packed in the foyer of Saint Ann Court on Friday night as attendees gathered for the 2010 Côtes du Coeur Grand Tasting. This is the event where the 35 participating wineries each pick one of their best to serve in a walk-around tasting. This doesn’t just make for an excellent tasting in its own right but, since most of the wines are current vintages, many attendees view it as a chance to do some market research on what to buy. The full list of wineries that were represented is here. However, here are my five highlights. 2004 Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France. This winery is more than just a featured winery this year. Its proprietor, Alfred Tesseron, is to be honored as the 2010 Tete de Cuvee Award recipient. That means he gets to receive one of those trophies that has to be put in checked baggage for the flight home. He was pouring his wine at the tasting and talking effusively about Bordeaux, wine and the effects of the recession on wine in general. Apparently Pontet-Canet has experienced very little reduction in sales revenue despite the economic situation. He thinks the winery has been buffered by long-term relationships with the Bordeaux brokers who maintain purchases in good years and bad in return for stability of supply. Similarly, he has tried to maintain prices that his long-standing retail customers can afford despite increasing demand for fine wines from Asia (China in particular).
The 2004 vintage in the Médoc region of Bordeaux where Pontet-Canet is situated is not regarded as a classic but Pontet-Canet nonetheless made a good wine. Furthermore, it is pleasant to drink now, although the tannic backbone likely means it will improve for several years. As an ‘off’ year, buyers can pick it up for a third less than the ‘ballistically-altered’ prices of the 2005s.
2008 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California. Dan Kosta and Michael Browne are rock stars of California Pinot Noir. After tasting this wine it is easy to see why. The fruit is massive but its complexity means that it doesn’t come across as a fruit-bomb. Rather, everything is in balance. The taste is pinot noir fruit, raspberries and chocolate. The finish lasts half a minute in the mouth.
2006 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Reserve, “To Kalon Vineyard”, Napa, California. Robert Mondavi invented the Fumé Blanc name back in the 1960s to describe Sauvignon Blanc that he vinified dry and aged in French oak barrels. The taste was very different from the typical Sauvignon Blancs of the time. It was a commercial success and the name was copied by others. Although overshadowed in recent years by newer styles from places like New Zealand, this wine could bring the focus back. It is a powerful mouthful of fruit with notes of peach and lemon. The oak contributes a lushness not typical of this grape. The acidity is unmistakable but not uncomfortably high. This wine was penalized, I think, by being tasted outside a meal. It has all the hallmarks of a great food wine. Note: The program reports, erroneously, that the 2007 was served.
2007 Siduri Pinot Noir, “Rosella’s Vineyard”, Santa Lucia Highlands, California. Siduri Pinots tend to have a powerful New World style. This one is no exception and it earned 93 points from wine magazine, The Wine Spectator.
Proprietors Adam and Deanna Lee (former Dallasites) were in town and Adam told me the following news at the Saturday night dinner. In the ‘special projects’ department he has made a Gewürztraminer (a spicy white wine). I am not sure what label he will put this under. Another project is Nebbiolo. This is ultra-ambitious as this unique grape has a long record of dismal failure just about anywhere outside Italy. Adam cautions us not to expect a Barbaresco on the first shot, but just an authentic wine would be an achievement.
2007 Torii Mor Winery Pinot Noir, “Olsen Estate Vineyard”, Dundee Hills, Oregon. Put this Pinot Noir in a flight from Burgundy and you couldn’t pick it as the odd man out, so French is its character. This may be partly due to its origins in Oregon rather than California but also to the fact that winemaker, Jacques Tardy, is from the Burgundy village of Nuits St. Georges. This wine is a soft combination of Pinot Noir fruit, oak and dark berries with a long finish. While this wine can be drunk on its own it would be great with pork or veal.