TN: Tokyo Tasting Group # 4 (Salon, Coche, Jasmin, Pape-Clement, HSS, Yquem, Joly, Diebolt-Vallois)
TTG#4 (SALON, COCHE, JASMIN, PAPE CLEMENT, HSS, YQUEM, JOLY...) -
Rico's Kitchen (1/27/2006)
The Tokyo Tasting Group gathered Friday night for its fourth event at
Rico's Kitchen in Ebisu. The restaurant did a very nice job of
preparing a menu to go with the wines and also with the wine service.
As this is just around the corner from my house and office, I'll have
to visit again. There were only six of us this time and the theme was a
simple bring what you want.
I'm getting senile as I'm having a tough time reassembling the food and
wine lineup. Good notes on the wines, but meager on what we ate.
Somewhere I'm missing the dish with the giant kaibashira (khi-chogae in
Korean, can't remember the species name in Japanese). Apologies for the
1. Welcome Champers
While we all settled and for the first part of a plate of assorted
sushi/sashimi/bites, including an oyster, kohada sushi, and uni.
*1983 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil - France,
Champagne, Côte des Blancs, Champagne*
Mature old-gold color with mousse that is still very fine but
dissipates quickly. On the nose, begins with a first whiff of very ripe
apples that are browning, followed by that Salon trademark of sweet
lemon cream. Also shows rich toasted biscuits and a bit of roasted nut.
With time, a very maderized sherry element becomes more and more
prominent. The palate is a surprise as the wine starts out still taut
and tart. With time it settles into a great creamy texture with
choco-mocha notes and a nutmeg/cinnamon spice on the finish. Never
shows much fruit on the palate. Is recognizably Salon with that great
Salon acidity and some trademark notes, but not up to the normal
standard. Enjoyable but not fully on form
2. Courtesy Buy from the List
With the last of the amuse and with a Chinese crab soup. The Rochioli
was a politeness buy from the list as a thanks to the restaurant for
acommodating us. A small gesture for much greater kindness.
*2004 J. Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc Estate Grown - USA, California,
Sonoma County, Russian River Valley*
Light and bright pale yellow. Nose shows grass, grapefruit and a nice
sweet depth. It may have been power of suggestion, but I thought I
detected a bit of a musky-briny seashell/mineral element as well. This
grows in intensity as it sits in the glass, but doesn't really change
in character. On the palate, a surprising degree of body along with
melon fruit and a touch of balancing acidity. Medium finish. I'm not
a big Cali sauv blanc fan, but this is nice. It was a bit out-of-place
in this lineup and suffered for that, but I would be very happy to run
into it in most circumstances. I'm not buying it for home, but
definitely a restaurant wine list option with fresh seafood.
3. What a Step Up
With kuromutsu in a suppon risotto. But mostly, blissfully, alone. I
love food with wine and that is the way I almost always consume it, but
this one was happy to be savored on its own. I'm very much on the fence
as to whether there was a small degree of advanced age here. It was in
great shape, but just left a sneaking impression that it may have moved
along a little faster than it should. Is the premature oxidation
problem an analog problem? Or is it binary?
*1996 Coche-Dury Meursault Les Rougeots - France, Burgundy, Côte de
Deep gold color with an enticing movement in the glass; when swirled
the wine moves just that tiny bit slower than normal, hinting at real
concentration and building real anticipation. First sniff shows some
candied/brulée/butterscotch elements, but otherwise there is nothing
to indicate any advanced age. There is a lot of nutty, deep, sweet oak
but it has integrated well enough at this point that it does not
obscure the well-delineated apple, lemon, and even peach fruit. Neither
does it block the hint of granite-like mineral on the nose. This just
has a tremendous depth of sweetness on the nose, but it never becomes
tiring. On the palate, this has a level of concentration and richness
that threatens to make dessert wines seem watery. However, that
richness is lifted up by good acid and clean freshly sliced fruit. The
minerals are much stronger here than on the nose and continue from
mid-palate through very long finish, where there is also a lovely
floral element. Great size and concentration, stays fresh with good
acid and lively fruit, oak never dominates (though I would ideally
prefer a bit less of it), minerals and flowers and fruits and such are
all there. Only one worry: While there are no oxidation flaws, this
should not seem so integrated, developed, and mature at ten years old.
Lovely drinking and delicious today, but I have this nagging
nervousness about whether it will develop any more and how long it will
last. Will we begin to find more of a middle ground on the early
oxidation problem? Where some wines are maturing too fast but are still
in good shape at this point?
4. And Now to a Red
With walnut, foie gras and duck confit rolled in cabbage and served in
a mushroom sauce.
*1990 Domaine Jasmin Côte-Rôtie - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône,
Lightish purple with pinkish tinges at the rim. First impression from
the nose is the feminine floral element, then there is a punch of
masculine substance with dusty iron. This one-two is followed by sweet
berry, a very little hint of meat, and sweet cured tobacco. On the
palate, an intriguing tension with a sense of lightness on entry and
acid brightness opposed to a bit of remaining tannin in the front of
the mouth and deep but pretty dust, meat, and plum that grows as the
wine moves through the mouth. On the persistent finish, there is a hint
of very light chocolate and spice and a resurgence of the iron. While
the flavors and scents were appealing, the real measure of the wine was
its tension and balance. It showed the typical Jasmin aspects of
dancing acid brightness and floral elegance, but also picked up an
element of the ripeness and fruit depth of the vintage. There is the
first small hint that, as the youthful sweetness of some of the fruit
fades, the iron dust will start to turn to a bit of muddiness
especially on the finish. To be safe, drink now while at peak. Probably
my favorite producer of Côte-Rôtie and very well priced compared to
5. The Bigger Reds
With a simple piece of wagyu.
*1988 Chteau Pape Clément - France, Bordeaux, Graves,
Surprisingly young looking, with a dark ruby/bright purple core, almost
solid to the rim. The nose is rich and smooth with ripe cassis,
graphite, and a little plummy/earthy Graves note. With time, the fruit
remains and earthiness passes over to tobacco. On the palate, there is
a little initial tannin, but this is overwhelmingly, pleasantly, and
surprisingly smooth and easy. More of the plum and cassis fruit expands
in a nicely full mid-palate. With time, the tannins grow but always
remain genteel. Acid is there to provide balance and a real sense of
lively youth. The finish shows some iron, sweet fruit, and tobacco.
Very easy and sexy for the vintage but also well-balanced with acid.
Seems bright and lively but has reached an elegant drinkability that
seems best of class for a sometimes rough and slow-moving vintage. Only
complaint would be that this shows slightly less earthiness and brick
than I normally seek from Graves. No sense of the green notes that
others have sometimes found.
*2000 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select - USA, California, Napa
Valley, Stag's Leap District*
Deep and dark purple, still looking very primary. Nose shows a richness
of dark blackberry and very pure cassis fruit wrapped in some
vanilla-oak sweetness. With a little more time, this gets into a little
bit of choco-coffee spice. On the palate, this is voluptuous with a
sweet tannin entry and a load of graphite-accented berries expanding in
the mid-palate. Along the way, there is blueberry, blackberry,
raspberry - all sweet and delicious but somehow shy of jammy or
cloying. Never notice any acid or greenness, but something must be
going on underneath to keep this in balance. Tannin and spice come out
again on a long and sweetly concentrated finish. A type of wine I very
seldom drink and one I'd have a hard time matching with the food I
eat. However, this is undeniably delicious in a lip smacking way and a
good indicator of why I sometimes prefer "off" vintage wines. Any
more ripeness or fruit stuffed into this package might just be too much
of a good thing. Matt Kramer describes SLD in general and Shafer
SLD/HSS in particular as having a "corseted voluptuosity". He said
it better than I ever could. Great fun to drink.
6. Dessert Time
With cheeses and such. I never thought the moëlleux existed for the
'82 vintage, but there it was in front of my eyes. In fact, much more
like a sweetish demi-sec than a moëlleux. Like all things with Joly,
just when you think you know the facts you learn something new.
*1982 Nicolas Joly Savennières-Coulée de Serrant Moëlleux Clos de la
Coulée de Serrant - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur,
Savennières-Coulée de Serrant*
Yellow tending toward gold, but decidedly lighter than the Yquem. Nose
shows a hint of oxidation and leesiness that is somewhat typical of the
estate, as well as some ripe fig and apricot fruit and a lacing of
honey. The palate has a little viscosity and a little sweetness, but
this comes across much more in the demi-sec range than the moëlleux,
especially next to the '01 Yquem. Good bracing acidity and an
incredible concentration of liquid extract of minerals. Medium finish
with no discernable botrytis. From a lesser year and a controversial
producer, there are many people this won't please but I like it.
Distinctive, absolutely of its place, and built for food (cheese
especially). Another great shot across the bow of "vintage chart
mentality"™ (Kermit Lynch). Need to taste it again without such a
stunner in the glass next to it. Joly is a bit like Ponsot, who is a
bit like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When she
is good, she is very very good, but when she bad, she is horrid. In
this case, we caught Joly's good side.
*2001 Chteau d'Yquem - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes*
Attractive deep and concentrated yellow. Nose is absolutely bursting
with honey, citrus, tropical fruit, stone fruit, brulée, sweet cream.
Palate shows all of this and more in an amazingly delineated, detailed,
balanced, and quite structured form. How many flavors or aromas are
there? Well, how long do you have to sit with it? Every few minutes
represents a shifting and swirling of accent that reveals something
new. Even the long and concentrated finish evolves as it fades away
ever so slowly. Enough conventional notewriting. This is simply too
young and intense and packed with goodness to describe that way. This
is like a hand grenade with all the chemistry and power and material to
overwhelm a large area condensed inside a compact package. However,
while the fuse on the grenade lasts ten seconds or less, the fuse on
this Yquem is bound to last seventy-five to a hundred years or more.
Like a Noah's Ark of wine, it's got two of everything. There go the
lemons, and the limes, and the apricots... You get the point.
Monumental wine with amazing balance and complexity. Believe the hype.
7. Just Can't Quit
In the name of symmetry.
*1979 Diebolt-Vallois Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs - France,
Champagne, Cramant, Champagne*
Deepening gold with a surprisingly lively and persistent mousse of
medium fine bead. On the nose, there is not much maderization or
sherry, but there is that advanced dry honey note that signals full
maturity or a bit more. Also, shows baked ripe apples, mushrooms, and
brie. In the young D-V wines, I always find a very Chardonnay/Burg-like
nose. I find the same here, but just barely peeking out from behind the
mature Champagne notes. On the palate, the mousse shows more life than
expected and there is more of the ripe browned apple, allied with a bit
of mineral. All of this turns to dry honey on the finish. A bit tired
and a bit past it and a bit devoid of acid, but still a delicious sip
for those who like the Vallois style and who like their Champagne
Good company, good food, good drinking. Highlights for me were the
absolute concentration and purity of the Coche and the Yquem, the
balance of ripeness and elegance of the Jasmin, and the hedonistic fun
of the HSS. Also, the Pape Clement threw in a damn smooth showing for
an '88. If it had a little bit more baked earth, it would be da bomb.
The Joly did a great job of representing '82 Loire, but it was lost
more in demonstrative company. By all reports, the '79 Diebolt-Vallois
is the least of the recently released trio of '76/'79/'85 Vallois wines
(and the most mature), but it was good enough that I'm going to have to
pick up some of the others.
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