Holiday wine survey Part 1

Welcome back to Killer Hooch. I’m going to be going through the trash (I should have planned this a little better) and reviewing some of this holiday’s numerous beverage selections.  So at Christmas Eve dinner, I assembled a team of tasters to work through some of these wines and champagnes/sparkling wines with us.

First up was a 1990 Chateau Potensac Medoc Delon Liguard.  I split a case of this with my friend Heidi Richman at this Spring’s Spectrum Wine Auction at Charlie Palmer in Orange County.  I can’t account for the whereabouts of one bottle but we gave another to our tasters to celebrate their engagement and it was corked.

This bottle wasn’t.  It was everything a 20 year-old Bordeaux blend should be: subtle, complex, mildly spicy, not TOO much of anything–a greater challenge after drinking single varietal Californians most of the time.  Superb and satisfying.  We decanted it to remove sediment and air it a bit.  Robert Parker gave it an 86 whenever he reviewed it; I am convinced he’s give it above 90 if he came back to it today.  I paid just about on market for it at auction; online surveys seem to price this bottle in the $40-60 range if you can find it.

Then, after arguing over whether to open our guests’ Laetetia Pinot Noir 2008 first (I wanted to keep that for a year but was reminded we should drink what our guests bring)  we opened a family favorite: Navarro Vineyard’s 2005 Pinot Noir Methode A L’ancienne.  We had to wait to get on Navarro’s waiting list and since then have loved getting two or three cases a year of this Anderson Valley wine, some of which we cellar and some we drink right away.

For readers of Stephen King and watchers of Fringe, they’ll know what I mean when I say that the fabric separating our universe from theirs is tissue paper thin in Philo and Boonville, Navarro’s Anderson Valley provenance.  There’s a peculiar, technicolor color to the light.  You’re aware of someone, something watching you.  They speak Boontling, a language invented in the 1800’s to hide Boonters’ doings from outsiders.

After the Chateau Potensac, though, the single-vineyard Pinot was nothing like my wife and I remembered.  I KNOW it was supposed to be VERY good, but the wine tasted strong and slightly sweet, a loud, insistent one-instrument performance after the Medoc’s symphony of flavors.  I expected the aging to increase its complexity but it didn’t.  It just bounced off us, an unexpected reaction.  Perhaps this was a fluke, because Navarro seldom disappoints.   Although almost 5000 cases were produced, you can’t even find this wine to buy anymore, so it’s hard to say what it would cost.  Navarro, which I think does most of its business through direct mail and a very select group of restaurants, is at

Next up was Laetitia’s 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. Our friends are Central Coast wine fans and Laetitia’s Arroyo Grande Pinot was yummy, smooth, delicate with spicy cran-cherry flavors and even a hint of, dare we say it, bacon.  Maybe we should have drunk this before the Navarro. It bloomed up very nicely on the palate with a woody flavor I associate with Carneros Pinots like Acacia in particular.  Very fine, and easily available for a little over 20 bucks.

We went back to Navarro for their 2006 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, “Cluster Select.” Gewurtz (along with Pinot Gris and Rieslings one of Navarro’s standout varietals), and even with a fair amount of wine on board this was a true standout, a reminder that Alsatian style wines can be very good indeed.  We served it very cold in my father’s old sherry glasses.  They looked sort of dorky but worked just fine.  Honey-sweet but sharp with a thick but not syrupy consistency, this wine’s delicate stone fruit notes combined with an appropriately holiday, dare I say cinnamony finish.  Navarro still sells this for $29 from the vineyard.

Next post?  Sparklers.


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