Trios - Diamond Creek, Guigal, Hugel
Notes from a tasting dinner featuring wine trios, arranged by Albert
Givton in Vancouver.
The first trio was from a producer few will have heard of – Bill
Roddis. From the Von Strasser site: “In 1978, Bill Roddis bought the
Bounsall ranch (on Diamond Mountain) and started Roddis Cellars. The
wines where made by Andre Tcheistcheff, and in their days where
considered by many to be the biggest wines made in the Napa Valley.”
In fact the wines were so big and tannic that Rudy Von Strasser says
they were maybe twice as tannic as Diamond Creek itself was producing
in those days. Result, wines that were unapproachable and hard to
sell, as well as very rare, as Roddis bought in 78, made a little 79,
and then made only 4 vintages that were available for normal sale,
1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. They were made in very small quantities
and are rarely seen in the aftermarket these days, and we were lucky
enough to be able to taste all of them from 1980 through 1983.
Bill was a helicopter tailgunner in Vietnam, and although a
quadriplegic, he decided to become a grape grower and later winemaker
until he could no longer get around well enough, and sold out.
1983 – good cabernet nose with hints of mint, firm and slightly
astringent on palate
1982 – a vinyl nose with a eucalyptus component, balanced and with
good length, and more approachable.
1981 – better fruit in this nose, and significant vanilla, sweet
entry, the tannins not as hard, tasty and long.
1980 – mellow cedar nose, riper and less well balanced, probably due
to the vintage. No rush.
These wines were ultimately interesting but unsatisfying, being (for
me) on the one dimensional side, a criticism that applies to many
California Cabernets, in comparison to, say, Bordeaux.
We then tasted an interesting palate cleanser:
2005 Latour Giraud Puligny Montrachet Champs Canet – atypical nose,
but pleasant – lemon pudding, tropical fruit and slightly high
acidity. Had me thinking it might be a Loire rather than white
Getting into the dinner itself, we started with seared foie gras and
foie gras tourchon, with three 1990 Pommards, all from Dom. Pothier-
Clos de Verger – pinot nose with a slight metallic note layered over
good red fruit, good fruit and stuffing on palate, nicely tuned
acidity and good length.
Epenots - clean nose with hints of caramel and some spice, full bodied
with good length and balance
Rugiens – very good fruit in the nose, mostly black, still carrying
significant tannin, weighty but tasty. Needs time. Best of flight for
With quail terrine stuffed with mushrooms and walnuts:
Back to Diamond Mountain, this time for a trio of 1980 Diamond Creek
Gravelly Meadow – knock out nose on this one with earth, cassis and
cedar. Complex, smooth, mellow wine, finished medium long with good
acidity. Compared to these wines, the Roddis seemed even more simple.
Red Rock Terrace – more mushroom and wet leaves in this nose, but good
balance and length. Less satisfying.
Volcanic Hill – best of the three with cleanest jammy black fruit in
the nose along with vanilla and herbs. On palate there was a sweet
entry followed by excellent fruit levels and a long balanced finish
with soft tannin and clean acidity. Ready to drink.
Next up was grilled beef tenderloin with all three of the Cote Roties
from Guigal in 1986:
La Mouline – good colour, a nicely lifted nose with some bacon but no
flowers, still tannic in the mouth but soft enough to enjoy, and
La Landonne – the nose on this one was more closed, showing less
complexity and more tannin in the mouth, but also some good fruit and
a nice cocoa thing near the end. Not sure if this one is on the way
La Turque – best of the bunch, with a lovely smoky meaty nose, huge
body and tons of soft tannin, long and with significantly more
complexity than the other two, I’d call this a ‘complete’ wine with
absolutely nothing out of place or proportion. It doesn’t get much
better than this, although in better vintages it certainly all gets
With cheese, a trio of rare 1976 Hugel Gewurtraminers, all single cask
Vendage Tardives Selections des Grains Nobles, ‘Sélectionneé par Jean
Hugel’. The labels looked ‘normal’ but had an additional lozenge on
them naming the ‘fut’ they were bottled from.
Cask 28 – sweet lychee nose, the wine now getting fairly dry, although
with nice intensity. Finished a tad warm.
Cask 67 – more a citrus nose in this one, (none seemed particularly
varietal at this age) but this seemed more Gewurz on palate and
retained a bit more residual sugar.
Cask 20 – Wow! Fresh spicy lemon nose with peach overtones and some
nutmeg. Sweeter wine, having retained more RS as well as having nicely
balancing acidity. Clearly the best and most youthful wine, and the
only one that you could keep – the others will continue to dry out and
decline. Have to say that this would be just about my perfect foie