Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Grand Ol' Harlan 93 with Good Ol' Friends

An impromptu get together with old friends last week was over a lovely array of wines which included Bass Phillip Pinot Noir Premium 2001, Kistler Kistler Estate Pinot Noir 2001, Harlan Estate 1993, to name a few.

What I've always appreciated about these bunch of guys is their unabashed, unpretentious love for great wine - and boy did we have some great stuff that night! Fighting through a fog of intoxication, my hepatic cells working overtime, I actually managed to pen down a few thoughts on the wines that really stimulated the senses.

> Kistler Kistler Estate RRV Pinot Noir 2001 - Sadly, Kistler Pinot has always been a disappointment on the handful of occasions I've been fortunate enough to share a bottle, but I was to be pleasantly surprised on this night. To the eye, a deep ruby. Impressive nose akin to a large basket overflowing with a cornucopia of red fruits. On the palate, fresh strawberries, cola (to borrow a term from "The Prince"), brush. Quite elegant. Best bottle of Kistler Pinot I've had to date.

> Harlan Estate 1993 - Always one of my favorite vintages of Harlan. Someone that night said this was like a fine Bordeaux, a St Julien. Reg, the claret lover amongst us, would have loved it. Still youthful looking, the nose gave forth minerals, cedar, pencil shavings, and a touch of smoke. Very refined, its fruit profile was multi-dimensional and the balance of acid and wood was intoxicating. Truly impressive. Reminded me very much of the 1999. We should all be so lucky to drink a great bottle of wine such as this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Orgasmic Vertical of Harlan Estate 1995-2002

A good buddy of mine, Andy Tan, currently General Manager of Auric Pacific Fine Wines first introduced me to the wonders of Harlan Estate some 15 years ago. Andy is the sole distributor for Harlan Estate in Singapore since the early 90s, and I therefore have had the privilege of drinking some of the finest Bordeaux-blend red wine produced in all of California. Recently, we had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Don Weaver, Director of Harlan Estate, during which a vertical tasting of Harlan Estate's wine from 1997-2002 was organized at the elegant Crystal Jade Golden Palace Restaurant, Singapore. There was the surprise addition of the 1995 and 1996 vintages courtesy of our always generous friend, David Ong, and so the stage was set for what was to be a memorable tasting of some very fine juice.

> Harlan 95 - According to Don, Bill Harlan's favorite vintage. I have had this bottle on a number of occasions, and must say that at this tasting, the wine was at its best. Having had the benefit of some time in bottle, there was wonderful integration of all elements, and a lovely mineral quality. Opaque to the eye, with lovely tobacco, smoke and dark fruit on the nose. Fruit was pure and seamless, backed up by fine tannins and a very endearing sweetness that proved uncloying. A treat.

> Harlan 96 - More restrained than the 95, but no less impressive. There was a sense of brooding in this one, a beast waiting to bare its fangs. The fruit profile as always, impeccable for a Harlan, but overall more closed for me on this night.

> Harlan 97 - Always one of the more talked about vintages of Harlan. This boy has never left any doubt as to how serious it is. Maybe it's just me, but I've always 'liked' the 97, but not loved it. The sweetness has always been a little cloying for me, even though one has to be in awe of the raw materials and gargantuan wine-making effort. I think it has to do with how I've been burg-ified recently by the recent pursuits of our wine table. I've started to look for elegance, femininity, balance and minerality in a wine.

> Harlan 98 - From a difficult vintage, Harlan gave birth to a healthy 9 pound baby boy! Crushed cherries and raspberries married with a lovely touch of oak and tannin. A very good wine, but lacks somewhat the usual verve and 'wow' factor that comes to mind with a Harlan.

> Harlan 99 - This I really liked tonight. Not as loud and brassy as some of the 'bigger' vintages of Harlan, there was a lovely sense of balance and class to this wine. Reminded me of the 1993, which I loved. Expressive, and assured in balance. Beautiful.

> Harlan 00 - From another difficult vintage, Harlan crafted quite a remarkable wine. Black currants, lead shavings and tobacco. Mid palate just a shade lacking, but the finish was smooth and long.

> Harlan 01 - My first look at this wine. In a word - remarkable, and already drinking incredibly well for a young Harlan. Reminds me of Ramey, Jericho Canyon 2001. There was wonderful depth and breadth to the juice which was all black fruits and Valrhona chocolate coming at you in waves. This wine simply had formidable presence. Can't wait to drink this again.

> Harlan 02 - Sneak peek at this wine, as it is not due for release till April 2006. My initial thoughts were "Whoa Big Boy!". This was a heck of a mouthful of wine. It had an almost candied fruit profile, with a good smothering of tannins, which were a little harsh for me at this stage of development. Can't complain about the obviously fine components of this wine though. Probably could use some time in bottle before a fair assessment is made. At this point in their evolution, much preferred the 01.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Discovering Austrian Vino

Austrian wine to me has always been the dry Gruner Veltliner, (personally, great food wines), or sweet wines from the likes of Kracher in the Wachau. In my search for some everyday wines to drink at home, I chanced upon some interesting bottles of Austrian wine @ the lively Corduroy and Finch along Bukit Timah Road in Singapore. The following were noteworthy:

> Weninger Pinot Noir 2002 - Wafting aromas of dark fruit and chocolate on the nose. Lush, juicy fruit with fine tannins, and a scrumptious finish. Kept wanting more- always a good sign!

> Dinstlgut Loiben Weissburgunder Pinot Blanc 2003 - Kept thinking marzipan, with that sweet nuttiness, and a touch of tea on the nose. Palate opens with fresh flavors of green plums and pine nuts. Smooth, elegant finish. Really like this a lot.

> Dinstlgut Loiben Loibenberg Riesling 2003 - Japanese pear and citrus on the nose. Tropical fruits with just a hint of premium grade petrol. Great food wine.

> Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc 2004 - Grapefruit, pomelo and lemon flavors meet, supported by a firm acid backbone. No offense, but much preferred this to many a Kiwi savvy, that can sometimes taste overly green and tart.