I could not have asked for more this holiday season. I spent my days surrounded by friends, celebrating with the team at Morrell, and let’s not forget, eating like a king and tasting great wine. Christmas Eve was particularly special this year. With each arriving guest came another amazing bottle of wine. The best part is that a number of my top-scoring wines can still be found at retail, and I assure you that I’ll be stocking up. This was truly a holiday to remember.
I started my tastings of the day with the 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, which was a real “WOW” wine. I kid you not when I tell you that the first thing I did after tasting it–was to buy another bottle. While the 2002 needs another decade, the 2004 is open for business and seductive to the core. This would be a great Champagne for New Year’s Eve or any occasion for that matter.
The Ruinart was quickly followed with a blind tasting of a gorgeous red wine which baffled us all. It was gorgeous with its dried fruits, spice and exotic citrus tones on the nose, all leading to a youthful and exciting performance on the palate. To find out that this wine was the 1987 Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único was quite a surprise. What a shame that so few people understand what the Ribera del Duero is truly capable of.
2004 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs – The nose was fresh, intense, and utterly Burgundian with crushed flowers, saline minerals, white cherry, stone fruits, and smoke. Wonderfully textured on the palate with mineral-infused stone, peach, sour apple and inner floral tones. The 2004 Dom Ruinart grabs your attention and keeps you coming back to the glass. It’s a Champagne you can spend time with and never grow tired of. (96 Points) (Morrell)
1987 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único – The nose was wonderfully alive with rich dried cherry, sweet spice, dusty potpourri, baker’s chocolate, hints of orange peel, and undergrowth. On the palate, it was tense with silky textures and a mouthwatering bitter twang, as dark fruits with a hint of citrus gave way to savory herbs and beef broth. The finish was long with tart, dark fruit and hints of herbs. It was fresh and youthful yet maturing all the same; what a gorgeous wine. (94 Points) (Morrell)
The next set of wines were paired with German cuisine in my home. Each guest received a heaping plate of Kassler Rippchen, sauerkraut, potato dumpling with pork reduction sauce, braised string beans and creamed spinach. Not to mention a variety of sides and salads. I can’t stress highly enough how well German food pairs with both bold whites and mature red wines. As for the Champagne, what better a pairing than smoked pork?
The ‘08 Larmandier-Bernier simply floored me; yet another bottle which I must buy more of. So deep and layered, yet so refined. The ’98 Hermanos Peciña Rioja Gran Reserva was incredible and a serious value in wine for today or twenty years down the road. This was a wine of poise, yet there’s so much potential for the future. The ’05 Carlisle Syrah, on the other hand, was a lesson in intensity and balance. Yet another Carlisle to convince me that I should be on this mailing list. Mike Officer of Carlisle is simply knocking these wines out of the park. Imagine the best of Northern Rhone and the best of California together in perfect symmetry. And what is there to say about the ‘89 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc? Stunning, intense, superior quality, amazing youthfulness–yet drinking beautifully–drop-dead gorgeous! This family has been making world-class Barolo for decades. You may not be able to find the ’89 too easily—but you owe it to yourself to start putting younger vintages away.
2008 Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru Brut Nature Vertus – The nose was pure and lively with saline minerals and apple up front, followed by fresh brioche and spring floral notes. On the palate, it was smooth with lively bubbles giving way to spiced apple, inner florals and minerals, which lasted through the finish. Expressive, detailed and fun; what more can I ask for? (93 Points) (Morrell)
2005 Carlisle Syrah Dry Creek Valley – Intense yet finessed on the nose, showing mushroom, undergrowth and musk up front; yet with time its fruit began to emerge, revealing dark wild berry, savory herbs, pepper and spice. On the palate, it was velvety-smooth with pleasing textures, as ripe blackberry, plum and exotic spice seemed to saturate the senses. It was intense with a hint of heat, yet never tiring with notes of dark chocolate and menthol lasting throughout the finish. This was a perfect synergy of Rhone meets and Cali, and it’s a wine I will look for again. (94 Points)
1998 Bodegas Hermanos Peciña Rioja Señorío de P. Peciña Gran Reserva – Utterly classic Rioja, as my first foray to the rim of the glass revealed dark fruit, vanilla and spice, yet quickly blossomed to show dried florals, leather and dark soil. On the palate, it was soft–almost weightless–with red berry, plum, leather, notes of spice and pepper; all kept lively by its brisk acidity. Notes of tobacco, dried fruits and a hit of red licorice lingered on the finish. This was still remarkably young and should continue to gain in both complexity and presence on the palate. (93 Points)
1989 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc – Dark, rich, elegant, balanced and utterly seductive; the 1989 Paolo Scavino Bric del Fiasc is a dark beauty of incredible depth and intensity. The nose opened to reveal a sweeter side of Nebbiolo with ripe, dark red fruit, spice and tobacco; yet with time in the glass, more detailed notes of dried flowers, soy, undergrowth and menthol emerged. On the palate, it remained youthful and slightly firm, yet set perfectly on its evolutional path. Dried cherry, leather, spice and baker’s chocolate seemed to saturate the senses with a contrast of brisk acidity keeping it lively and fun. This is perfect example of just how classic 1989 Barolo truly is. (96 Points)
There were other wines served in between these giants, but this where it was at. Each of these thrilled me with each visit to the glass. Plus, being surrounded by family and friends made the whole thing that much better. As I mentioned before, some of these can still be found at retail—I’ll be off to grab some myself—and I urge you to do the same.
Happy Holidays! Here’s to 2015 and even better times ahead.