Top Three Wines of February: Champagne and Valdeorras
February delivered a landslide of Champagne discovery and liquid treasures from a heretofore unknown producer in Northern Spain. The month’s top three wines represented such immense drinking pleasure that they will linger forever in my palate’s memory. Not mentioned here, and to be completely fair, is the 2005 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny. This cult-like Loire Cabernet Franc producer looms as ringer for top finishes in any given month, but has already earned the distinction of the finest wine to meet my lips in all of 2010. So this month’s crowns are placed on a Mencia from Valdeorras, one old vintage Champagne, and a Chardonnay dominated grower Champagne .
****1/2 1988 Deutz 150th Anniversaire, Champagne $125
My favorite wine of two flights of luxury cuvees from top houses comes with a mystery label notating the anniversary mark, and presumed to be from the 1988 vintage given the founding of Deutz in 1838. It has a rusty orange coloration, mustiness on the nose at first, clear signs of helpful oxidation, and is amazingly alive and fresh smacking of creme brulee flavors and aromatic notes. It also provided the same creamy mouthfeel. It was one of two old champagnes in the tasting, the other one 1983 Dom Perignon, and both showcased optimal aging periods for the appreciation of aged Champagne that retains enough freshness to avoid complete capitulation to reminiscences of still Madeira. You will have a hard time finding this wine, but if you can, leap. If not, the other major takeaway from this and past Champagne tastings is to simply buy a few bottles of Dom Perignon every year and just forget about them for twenty years. A few hundred dollars every year will make you feel like a wine hero twenty years hence.
***1/2 NV Guy Larmandier Brut, Champagne $42
I had the pleasure of tasting this wine twice. Once in NYC at a dinner at Little Giant (great BYOB spot on the Lower East Side of the city) and again when I served two cases of it at 10am during a Design Bloggers conference I hosted in Los Angeles a week ago. In both cases, I was wowed as well as my five dinner guests in New York and the 225 social media savvy designers at the LA bloggers conference were. The wine is brought in by Neal Rosenthal and is constructed by the Larmandiers primarily from Chardonnay all farmed on their own vineyards. This grower wine has an amazingly creamy mouthfeel for such a vibrant wine with intense tiny bubble effervescence. I presume this experience has something to do with its Chardonnay construction. On both occasions, I enjoyed and got to know the wine best as it warmed in the glass, when the biscuit and yeasty flavors came unwrapped. The wine has wonderful fruit flavor, melt on your tongue mouthfeel, and refreshing tiny bubbles that make for a high value Champagne experience. It is completely worth finding, and I am going to need to restock the two cases that I flew across the country to serve to my brethren bloggers.
****1/2 2007 Avanthia Mencia Valdeorras, Spain $55-60
I found a few bottles of this wine laying around in a Huntington, NY liquor shop and opened the first bottle at a poker game. My friend Rich did an amazing job of providing his thoughts and some background on this wine in his Passionate Foodie Wine Blogging Wednesday post on Avanthia Mencia. As Rich mentions, it is not an easy wine to find and only 100 cases were made. The wine floored both of us, showing richness in a full black fruit fruit package with flower perfume aromatics and a teasingly elegant style that is definitely an accomplishment considering how rich and powerful the fruit core is. The wine is dripping with sex appeal (did I just say that?). It is approachable now, but will definitely benefit from age if you can hold off. So much of the Mencia I have come to love over the past years is sourced from Bierzo, but this Valdeorras Mencia is easily as good and better than almost anything I have tasted from Bierzo. I also tried the Avanthia Godello this year, needing to taste everything from this producer. The 2008 Godello is just as magical as the Mencia. Watch out for Avanthia, and whenever you can, buy their wines.
Now, on with March tastings!