As 2016 wound down, and as 2017 emerged it was a chance to visit with friends, enjoy a spirited night of friendship and then on New Year's Day travel to a friend's house to celebrate their marriage.
On NYE I had the good fortune to pull six wines from my "Deep Cellar" and enjoy them with my dear friends at Akasha in Culver City, CA.
The 2015 Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rose was a great starter wine. As reviewed below, this was one of my favorite Rose wines of the year along with the Chateau Vignulare from outside of Aix and the translucent Corsican from Domaine de Marquiliani. I can also add the 2015 Margerum Riviera Reserve Rose, 2015 Chene Bleu Rose and 2015 Mourchon Loubie to that list. The Pradeaux on New Year's Eve showed exceptionally well though as:
"the blend of Mourvedre and Cinsault, with possibly some Grenache, is such a perfect match. This wine has body, but is delightfully dry. It's perfect on a hot summer day, or a cool winter night. You can drink it at any part of the meal, or all by itself, but what makes it such a standout is the fact that it is loaded with fruit that never stops coming your way. The wine starts out with a hint of high Provence grown lavender scents, and follows with an appealing orange blossom and red currant bouquet. Then on the palate you taste white peaches, blood orange, black raspberry and some sour cherry flavors."
But that was just for openers. The real wine experience would follow with five outstanding red wines:
1985 Mas de Daumas Gassac Vin d'Pays
If the Languedoc ever had a Grand Cru designation, the wines of Daumas Gassac would have for many years been at the very top of that list. The 85 was exquisite as it was still youthful and full of life. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Pinot and Tannat was something magical at age 31. Having been tasting this wine every so many years since 1988, it was a joy to uncork perhaps the greatest year ever at Gassac as a requiem to Aime Guibert who founded the winery 37 vintages ago, and passed away in May, 2016. The wine would rival any 1985 Bordeaux with its fruity richness and may have surpassed them in forward development as well.
One could contend that the blend of Bordeaux varietals in the Languedoc is the exception rather than the rule, but having now enjoyed the 1985 Gassac for the last time from my cellar, along with Sylvain Fadat's Le Plos de Baumes 1998 and 1999 this year, some of the most enjoyable Bordeaux and Napa Valley style wines I've had this past year were those delightful bottles, and all three are not what one normally finds in the Languedoc at all.
Given Fadat's Domaine d'Aupilhac winery is best know for his Carignan, and his Cocaliares and Montpeyroux blends, showcasing his Bordeaux blends showed how well the Languedoc's best producers can make wines that are well outside the normal Rhone varietal arena.
If the Gassac wine wasn't enough to end the year with, there were two Bandol's from Chateau Pradeaux which needed to be enjoyed. The 1989 Pradeaux Classique is a blend of 95 percent Mourvedre and 5 percent Grenache while it's sibling, the 1989 Pradeaux Vielles Vignes is all Mourvedre, made from the wineries oldest vines of more than 50 years of age. As with the Gassac these were the last two bottles of the wine in my "deep cellar" with the last opening of the two Pradeaux's a few years back at a memorable 43 bottle all Bandol dinner.
At that dinner tasting and again on New Year's Eve the two Pradeaux wines showed me that perhaps other than the 1985 Tempier's I've ever had, that this vintage from them, was the best Bandol wines in my collection as far as forward development, complexity, richness and ripeness of fruit. The difference between the two wines were so subtle at times my dinner companions and I could hardly tell them apart, other than the clear cut herbs de Provence appeal found in the Classique. The wines were jammy, ripe with fruit, balanced and elegant. They showed all qualities of a perfectly aged Bandol, without any of the brett or barnyard that Mourvedre can sometimes throw off.
New Year's Eve ended with two of my own wines that I blend and Doug Margerum and his crew makes from all Santa Barbara County fruit.
The 2013 Comunicano Wine Company Grenache is ever improving. Initially upon release the wine was all fruit, but now some 18 months in bottle, the wine made from Rodney's, Colson Canyon and Black Oak Grenache is evolving into that very Rhone like, baby Reyas we envisioned.
The big brother, the 2013 Comunicano Wine Company Hat Trick Special has entered that big bold and brash stage Doug and I envisioned when we came up with Northern Rhone Cornas clone blend. The 91 percent Syrah based wine has the balance of the fruit made from Grenache and Mourvedre. There's also a light lacing of Viognier in the wine that comes from the Uber co-ferment that makes up the Syrah base. The wine has gotten BIG.. Loads of fruit, it needs an hour or two in the decanter to open and show itself off, and clearly needs more years in the cellar, something that isn't a surprise. What is, though is how so many wine buyers and restaurant owners wish I had this wine to sell to them....It's touching to hear as I made these with Doug for friends only.
On Sunday I had the good fortune to then open the 2015 Comunicano Wine Company S5. The S5 is very different from the 13s as the wine is 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and the balance Cinsault, Mourvedre and Counoise. This is a very different blend than Doug's M5 but from similar vineyard selections made to my own blending. The wine now five months in bottle is becoming what we expected it to be. A soft, forward drinking Cotes du Rhone and Languedoc style wine made in California. In many ways drinking it side by side with Sylvain Fadat's 1999 Domaine d'Aupilhac Lou Maset, his Vin d'Pays red, there were more similarities. The S5 has a nice garrigue like flavor riding on top of the very berry, cherry and red currant and plum flavor. There's a moderate menthol like taste that underpins it.
The 1999 Domaine d'Aupilhac Lou Maset is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah, and Alicante Bouchet. It was fruit forward, with no oak or tannins left. The wine while opened for a few hours came to life, full of black and red fruits, jammy blueberry and blackberry, aromas of the Garrigue and had a meat loving flavor.
The 2004 Aupilhac La Boda remains one of the most exciting wines Sylvain Fadat has ever made. I've now had this wine three times in the past year, once with Sylvain in Seattle, and it remains a tour de force. A blend of grapes from his two vineyards of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, the "union" of the two parcels of old and young vines is a treat.
Other wines enjoyed from Collections of Friends:
1988 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape (3L bottle)-aged to perfection, my view continues to be that 1988 was a fabulous year for Beaucastel, and overshadowed by the super hyped 1989 vintage. I think the 88 was the better wine and also feel 90 was lost in the shuffle. Blackberry, raspberry, red plums, currants, lots of white pepper, oriental tea, truffles, grilled bread, herbs and a long sour cherry finish.
1989 Chateau de Beycheville (3L) Another amazing wine that was at peak. This was consumed 18 hours after it was opened, and it was truly an amazing wine. Perhaps the best wine I had on Sunday, this was classic Bordeaux all the way, and all you want in a wine. Aged and cellared perfectly, acquired by the owner upon release, there was no fault with the wine and it was a tremendous treat.
Here's the net-net. My friends who supplied the last two wines cellar as I do. In 55 degree or better refrigeration from the time we acquire the wines. They age gracefully and properly. It's why I feel that having a deep cellar and checking in on the wines development from time to time helps know what to drink when.......
Happy New Year...to all.