Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lance's Tasting Notes: The Best of '07

Stimmels' Thursday, December 6 tasting featured only wines from Wine Spectator's prestigious list of the top 100 wines of 2007. Does it get any better than that?

Still, there's one problem with tasting truly great, or even very good, wines: sometimes they're so seamless, so well-integrated, that it's hard to pick out specific flavors and aromas. When that happens, I turn to other facets of a wine--body, mouthfeel, balance, etc. So, while the descriptions below may contain some of the same taste and aroma descriptors (how, after all, can one say a wine smells like smoked salmon when one can barely discern smoke at all from among the superfine mesh of flavors that it comprises?), there will be noticeable differences in descriptions of these other facets. Maybe as my skills as a taster develop, I'll be able to consistently distinguish pine from resin, saddle leather from worn boot, or roasted game from charcuterie. But for now, I'll make do with the tools I've got. Here goes:

(Numbers in parentheses indicate the wine's rank on Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of 2007)

1. Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc 2006 (California) $13.99/bottle (#35)
Nice, shimmery-silver color, with very pleasant aromas of citrus, herb, and something suggestive of richness I can't pin down. The simple flavor profile of lemon tart, herbs, and light cream is very well-integrated in this medium-bodied, very smooth and supply-textured wine.

2. Amisfield Pinot Noir 2005 (New Zealand) $35.99/bottle (#22)
Pretty brick red color. Aromas of cherry, strawberry licorice, smoke, and damp earth unfold in the flavor as well (with a hint of spice thrown in) in this crisply acidic pinot. A great food wine.

3. Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras 2005 (France) $26.99/bottle (#97)
Dark magenta color. Aromas of sea, green olive, white pepper, and blackberry. Medium bodied, with nice flavors of blackberry, intense peppery spice, brine, and pencil lead. This red from the southern Rhone would be a perfect match with just about any dishes (esp. mediterranean) made with olives or rosemary.

4. Chateau Pontet-Canet 2004 (France) $49.99/bottle (#34)
Dark red with a lightly brownish tint, this medium-full Bordeaux shows lots of leather, earth, and red ripe berries on the nose. Behind the firm, still-young tannins, one can sense ripe currant and loads of leather and minerality wanting to burst through. In time. Very smooth mouthfeel.

5. Owen Roe Ex Umbris 2005 (Washinton) $29.99/bottle (#69)
This syrah didn't show me much on the nose, with faint spice, ripe blueberry, and something like tree bark (or another term for a mix of earthy and woody). But the taste was a different story: bold, lush, and kinetic, flavors of superripe blue and purple berries, intense peppery spice, and hints of graphite and licorice zipped around in my mouth. This full-bodied wine is like a fine suede: deeply textured and tactile but fairly elegant at the same time.

6. JC Cellars The Impostor 2005 (California) $37.99/bottle (#52)
This full-bodied blend of zinfandel, mourvedre, petit syrah, and syrah is dark purple, with aromas of blackberry liquer and wild brambles dominating. The wine is so ripe and concentrated it's almost syrupy, with extracted flavors of sweet berry liqueur and superripe berries, zippy spice, and a lightly salty, sanguine note. When I hear people say they don't drink fine wine because they couldn't appreciate it, I know they've never had a wine like this one. It's hard not to love something with this much sheer flavor and texture.

7. Mollydooker Carnival of Love 2005 (Australia) $79.99/bottle (#8)
Did I say "The Impostor" was thick and concentrated? Geeeez. This very full-bodied, inky, purple-black wine smells like blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream, and in the mouth it is absolutely decadent--oozingly ripe, spicy, thick, syrupy, chewy, luscious almost to a fault. Parker gave it a 99. I wouldn't go that far (it's almost too much), but this is a wine you need to try before you die.

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