13 July 2010

Monthly Group Tasting - methode champenoise

Last night was our second group tasting and as expected it was quite interesting and educational if maybe a slight let down.  The requirement was just that the wines had been made by methode champenoise, which means that the second fermentation occurred in the bottle and then after riddling, slowly collecting the yeast in the neck of the bottle, the wine was disgorged, removing the small amount of sediment and corked.  I did forget my camera so no pretty pictures unless I track down some labels on the web.  We tasted 11 wines, from all over:  California, Oregon (3), Washington, Australia, Italy (2), France (2), England.  I think the let down came from the fact that the wines were at different temperatures and so not all showed as well as they might and I believe there were two corked wines.  Both were quite subtle though they did get worse as the evening went on, a sign of cork taint, and unfortunately the taint made both wines seem quite simple.
We did taste them blind this time and the group ranked them before the unveiling so there were some surprises.  Interestingly for me, the overall winner was one of my least favorites, mostly because it had some reduction problems and even if the wine did get better with air it's not a flaw I easily forgive.  I would have liked to go back and tried it a second time but didn't get the chance.  I did like the second favorite though and, pleasantly, it was a wine out of Oregon and by a friend who recently started his own label.  I didn't even know he was making sparkling wine but I had his pinot noir about 3 months and it was also very well done. 
The group's third ranked wine didn't do much for me, I found it rather boring but non-offensive.  I think it would be good in mimosas, my solution for bubbles that I like but don't love.  Pleasantly surprising for me, the wine I brought was my favorite.  I hadn't had the wine before and bought it purely because it was the only English sparkling I could find in the states.  I attended a lecture at ASEV about England's growing sparkling production and was interested in trying a bottle.  I did order two bottles to help disperse the shipping and am now very glad I did.  I can't wait to try it again after it has had time to settle after shipping.  Side note, I recommend letting wine sit about 2 months after shipping.  That is probably longer than necessary but the wine does go into bottle shock, especially if anyone inadvertently dropped your package, and the time lets it recover. 
My third favorite was one of the corked bottles.  Now how could that be a favorite?  Well let's just say I am guessing.  I really liked what was there, some great fruit and a nice core of acidity, and felt that mostly the wine was dumbed down.  Now I admit that it might not be any better if it were not corked but I think that it has good potential and I'll be tracking it down to try again.  We also had one muscato and it was such a refreshing change from all the others that it stood out.  It was well done, nicely balanced and fun if just a hair too warm for that much sweetness.   It's the label above.
Group 1st ~ 
Roederer Estate Brut, California
My 1st ~ Nyetimber
Blanc de blancs 1996, England
Group 2nd ~ 
J Albin Blanc de noir, Oregon
My 2nd ~ 
J Albin Blanc de noir, Oregon
Group 3rd ~ Yellow, Australia
My 3rd ~ Lamarca Prosecco, Italy

I always think it's great when an inexpensive, easily available wine shows well in a blind tasting.  I had no idea Yellow was there but looking back at my notes it showed like I would expect.  Nice fruit and honey notes with a lingering sweetness that balances the acidity.  A little to sweet for me, especially as it warmed up, and as I said before nothing remarkable, but to its credit well made and I expect very consistent from bottle to bottle.  Let me repeat myself, perfect for mimosas!  And just to list, in no particular order, the remaining wines; Lucien Albrecht cremant d'Alsace, brut, NV Elk Cove, brut, 1999, Capitello, brut, NV, Domaine St. Michelle, brut, NV, Langlois cremant d'Loire, brut, NV.

So enough dreaming about mimosas on the patio and back to the winery.  This week I am putting together the first blends of the pinot noir.  Mary and I will sit and taste them tomorrow or Thursday and that will give me a starting point.  I hope to have the blends decided by August 8th as that is when I am flying to Ohio to sell wine for a week.  It feels like a difficult time to be leaving the winery but if I stay on track it should be okay.  We'll see.

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