An evening of food and wine with wine-loving friends

A number of friends had hired the lovely Kirkbeck House in Coniston for the weekend of 16th-18th September 2005 for an indulgent series of food and wine events.  Unfortunately, I was only able to attend on the Saturday night.  As I arrived, others in the weekend house party were recovering from a hike up the Old Man of Coniston and things were swinging into action in the kitchen.  I carried in all my wine and food offerings and then made space in the kitchen for those with more preparation to do.  I made my way through the green baize door (yes, there really is one) and withdrew to one of the drawing rooms, where a select few decided to make a start with

2002 Gigondas, Montirius, 14% (Biodynamic)
Warm plummy fruit on the nose, which after time shows more tobacco notes. A ripe, lightly tannic attack. A very powerful, big wine that needs time. Very fine structure, with plenty of fine-grained tannins on the finish. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

Perusing the remnants of the wines they had opened the previous night, I also took a little taste of:

1982 Chateau Cissac, Haut-Médoc
A very slight, gently cassis nose. Quite austere and a bit underwhelming.  Good.

Then it was time to begin the first part of the evening proper, a tasting of wines brought by the participants with a broad theme of "interesting wines from D. Byrne & Co. of Clitheroe".  These wines were served blind (that is, the bottles were wrapped so that the labels couldn't be seen)

1996 Sancerre La Côte des Monts Damneés, Henri Bourgeois
Round and open on the nose - quite floral with a touch of honey. Ripe and full on the palate, with good acidity. Quite spicy on the finish. This is powerful stuff, and I can't work out what this is at all - maybe a coolish climate gently oaked blend with some or all of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and semillon??
Very Good Indeed.

2004 Clos Henri, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
(This is the New Zealand operation of Henri Bourgeois, maker of the first wine.)
A very pale straw. Lovely, lightly scented floral nose, but with evident cats pee. Lovely, balanced attack. Really nice depth. Very clean, yet quite full. Yum. Presumably NZ sauvignon blanc. Excellent.

1989 Hermitage Blanc, Chante Alouette, Chapoutier
A curious nose - very closed indeed giving virtually nothing away. Eventually it yields some almondy honey on the nose, with a hint of quince. Presumably northern Rhone. Quite full and a touch sweet on the palate. Very even, but with an almondy custard finish with a touch of oxidation on the palate. Enormous length. Very Good Indeed+

1999 Juliénas Domaine du Clos du Fief, Michel Tete, magnum, 13%
This was mine, so I knew what it was: I've been looking for an opportunity to open this for a while now - maybe the Beaujolas experts can fill me in further, but this is the only Beaujolais magnum I've ever come across. I think the bottle size may have fooled a few people while they were trying to work out what it was.
A lightish ruby with a hint of youth. Attractive, light fragrant nose with stewed strawberries and a touch of bubblegum. Lovely attack - very easy and attractive. Quite a fresh flavour, but there's also some body with light tannins. Remarkable structure. Very Good Indeed +

2002 Frog's Leap Zinfandel, 13.5%
A big smoky nose with green hedgerow notes. Ripe and rather attractive on the palate with nice concentrated fruit. Feels like a lot of alcohol. A huge wine with significant tannins on the finish. Good/Very Good.

1997 Chateau Sociando-Mallet, Haut Médoc, 12.5%
Deep, concentrated oaky nose with plummy fruit and a touch of cloves. Very nice attack. Really lovely balance with great elegance. Very giving and open. Very Good Indeed.
Well, well, well ... a 1997 claret. The best 1997 claret I've had.

1999 Quinta da Terrugem, Caves Alianca, Alentejo, Portugal, 14%
A blend of 90% Aragonez and 10% Tricadeira.
A very deep mulberry nose - very even with some gentle violets. Big ripe fruit on the attack, followed up by huge all-dominating tannins. Well made, but it doesn't do it for me. Good/Very Good.

1996 Mas de Masos, Priorat
100% Garnacha
An even garnet colour. Leathery nose with a bitter cherry edge. Very ripe fruit with excellent structure. Very Good Indeed.
No idea what this is - possibly a southern French grenache blend?

1989 Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne, Chapoutier, 13%
A vanilla oaky nose: a touch jammy with black fruits making me think of cabernet sauvignon. Lovely round fruit. Very elegant indeed. Very clearly not cabernet. Immense balance. Really nice structure. Excellent.

2001 Carpenter Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Nickel & Nickel, Napa Valley, 14.2%
Big, deep nose: very integrated, with sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Another very powerful wine: this is very balanced with good ripe fruit flavours followed up by a lovely fresh note on the finish, where there's also a vanilla feel. No idea what it is. Very Good Indeed.

2001 Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Margaret River, 14%
Almost black appearance. A very open, very attractive nose: very elegant with dense black fruit. Sweet fruit on the palate. A bit overcooked for me and a bit straightforward and simple. Very Good.

1996 Aloxe Corton, Domaine Comte Senard, 13%
A sweet, rather spirity nose with a tiny touch of VA. Very high toned on the palate. Light and fresh and quite Musarey (though I don't think it is Musar). Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

1998 Chateauneuf du Pape, Les Vieilles Vignes, Domaine de Villeneuve, 14%
An interesting nose: quite austere and elegant. Spicy and a bit hot on the palate. Very integrated, though a touch straightforward. Grenachey/Mourvedre, southern France??? Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

1999 Peter Barlow Rustenberg, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch
A big ripe nose with sweet concentrated fruit. Round and attractive in the mouth in a simple, easy way. A very attractive wine, but I would never guess this was cabernet sauvignon. Very Good.

1990 Overgaauw, Cape Vintage fortified wine
Another of mine, so I knew what this was.
A rich, very floral porty nose with an odd chlorinated edge. A good clean port that's very attractive, though perhaps not the best bottle I've had of this particular wine. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

1996 Vidal Icewine, Inniskillin, Niagara
Light caramel colour. An icewine-TBA nose: glorious orangey marmalade. Very concentrated on the palate with really good acidity - but a very integrated acidity. Gorgeous. My initial impression was of a significantly botrytised icewine, though I gradually changed my mind thinking more in TBA terms, and possibly something from the Neusiedlersee as it doesn't have the elegance of the Mosel. Excellent.

We were now ready for some food, and so could progress to dinner and the dinner wines.

The menu for the evening was

Egyptian Dukkah spiced pastry straws
Hummus and Tabouleh tartlets
Nick Nairn's Smoked Salmon
Morecambe Bay Rough shrimps dry fried with Ras el Hanout spices (served hot)
Farmer Sharp's air-dried mutton
Perivoli basil and lemon olives from Ruth's stall in Lancaster's market square

Fish soup with rouille and Emmental croutons

Linguine with rocket pesto

Edmondson's Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Roast rib of (Aberdeenshire) Aberdeen Angus hung for 3 weeks, with all the trimmings

Lemon Tart
Damson Crumble

Scottish Cheeses from Iain Mellis
Lancashire Cheeses from Churchmouse Cheeses

The dinner wines were as follows:

2001 Les Rachais Brut, Champagne Raymond Boulard, 12%
100% chardonnay; zero dosage; disgorged July 2005 said the back label.
A lovely fresh biscuity nose - very fine indeed. Gorgeous, fine, elegant nose. Beautiful and very fine and elegant on the palate. Absolutely superb. Stunning bottle as well. I found it surprising that it's a pure chardonnay, as it was much fuller and less austere than many blanc de blancs. Very noticeable how quickly the bottle was finished - probably the only one that only just made it round the table! Another winner, Francis. Excellent.

NV Hidalgo Palo Cortado 20 years V.O.S.
A nutty, fresh nose. Very pure and clean. Really nice nutty flavours. Really quite impressive, until you try ...

NV Pedro Romero Palo Cortado Muy Viejo Prestige Hijo de Pedro Romero Villarreal
A more oxidised, deeper, fuller nose. Simply gorgeous in the mouth. A stunning wine. Excellent
(Its IWC Gold medal certificate calls it a 40 year old Palo Cortado)

2004 Chateau de Fontcreuse, AC Cassis
A lovely creamy nose. This is a really nice, gently flavoured rosé. Very Good Indeed.

What was interesting was how well both the Palo Cortados and the rosé went with Stephen's fish soup: both worked very well but in a completely different way, picking up different nuances in the soup.

1991 Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Karthäuserhof AP 3 561 303 13 92
Served from a magnum.
A very minerally nose, with lots of wet slate (Skelwith slate?, I wonder as we're just a few miles down the road in Coniston ...). This is a nicely mature spätlese trocken, that's lost its fruit on the nose and just has buckets of minerally petrol and wet slate. On the palate, it's quite intense, rich and full, yet fully dry and with a searing acidity. Very fine. Very Good Indeed.
It was interesting to try this in my newly acquired Riedel Rheingau glass (has an outward turning lip), which almost completely neutralised the acidity: perhaps almost too far.

1997 Hermitage, Domaine de Colombier, 13.5%
A gorgeous nose - slightly perfumed and a touch garriquey; and a curious sweet almond finish to the nose. Lovely ripe flavours in the mouth: hugely balanced. Very elegant, with a beautiful spicy finish. Very Good Indeed/Excellent.
Re-tasted at around 2 am, this was singing and superb.

2000 Planeta Santa Cecilia
100% Nero d'Avola.
Beautiful nose: chocolatey fruit. Very ripe on the attack, but there's also a slightly sour, green flavour too. Light tannins on the finish. This is a very attractive wine indeed. Excellent.

2000 The Noble Riesling, D'Arenberg, Mclaren Vale
A powerful, rich marmaladey nose. Quite a simple botrytised riesling in what seems to me quite a commercial style. No real depth. Good.

2003 Chenin Blanc Off The Rack, Plantagenet, Western Australia, 11%
A slightly sweaty, rather delicate nose. Lovely elegant palate. Very well balanced. Not earth-shattering, but Very Good Indeed.

1999 Ch. Rieussec, AC Sauternes
A remarkably deep colour - a mid caramel. Hugely powerful botrytis nose. Lovely sweet, very balanced palate. There's some nice acidity giving it good balance. Nice, elegant, youthful Sauternes. Very Good Indeed.

2002 Maydie Tannat Vintage, Vin de Liqueur, Château d'Aydie , 17%
A dark, young, Quinky purple appearance. Hot spirity nose with blackberry fruit. A very balanced, sweet and noticeably tannic wine. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.

NV Black Noble by de Bortoli, 17.5%
Interesting nose: quite Christmas pudding like with sultanas. Sweet and slightly syrupy in the mouth, with nicely raisined fruit. But there's also a slightly rough edge on the finish. Very Good.

2003 Tokay Pinot Gris, Vignoble d'Epfig, Philippe Schaeffer
Quite a light nose (and yes I did have a little break and rinse after the cassis!). No real depth and seems to be lacking character. A fairly simple Alsace pinot gris. OK.

2002 Curious Grape Nectar, 10%
A blend of Siegrebbe, Huxelrebe, Schönburger - a blend that fails to inspire confidence and manages to disappoint even more than one might think. Dull, damp nettles and grass on the nose. Very basic on the palate. Lacks any real character. Dilute. Poor.

2002 d'Arenberg Vintage Fortified Shiraz, Mclaren Vale
A rich, sweet, chocolatey nose. Unduly spirity in the mouth. A bit average. Lacks interest. OK.

2002 Mazér Inferno Valtellina Superiore DOCG, 13.5%
A blend of 90% Chiavennasca (the Lombardian name for nebbiolo), 5% Pignola, 5% Pinot Nero. Produced from vines yielding 70 hl/ha.  After vinification, the wines spends 24 months in stainless steel, followed by 15 months in French barrique.
A very interesting nose - dry, slightly nutty, slightly high-toned. Quite powerful. Very dry. Lots of hefty tannins on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

2003 Vida Nova, Adega do Cantor, Algarve
Will anyone admit to the crime against wine-lovers of not just bringing this, but bringing two bottles? Still, surely it must be ok - I'd assume it would be a commercial rather dull wine.
Oh no. God this is stinky. This smells really foul - not brett, this is what the shit goes through - this is drains. Everything is screaming at me DNPIM (do not put in mouth!). And for once I listen.
No, surely ... come on ... this must be a bad bottle ... Well, we've got another.
Oh hell, this is exactly the same: really shitty, drains, crap, fetid sewer nose.
Paul ignores the advice and reports it really is far worse than you could possibly imagine.
The cork has Sir Cliff's signature, which is nice.

1998 Ch. Musar white, Bekaa Valley
Served at room temperature.
Mid gold colour. An interesting nose: completely blind I might even guess this was a red wine. Warm hedgerow fruits with a soft toffeed almonds note. Unusual and very distinctive on the palate. Vaguely reminiscent of a white Rhone on the palate. Quite rich and full with a lot of complexity and flavour - and a great depth of flavour. An interesting nutty sweetness comes along on the finish and lingers for ages after. Not sure how much of this I could drink, but I rather like it. Very Good Indeed.

1997 Ch. Musar, Bekaa Valley
A lightish, even garnet. Very high toned on the nose, with lots of VA, but with gentle blackberry fruit behind. Lovely on the palate, with a really balanced feel until you get to the finish when some of the Musar-characteristic high tones appear. This is a pretty classic Musar, with plenty of life ahead of it. I suppose you might call it a slightly Spanish-style Musar? Very Good Indeed.

2002 Spinifex Esprit, Domaine Jardin Pty Ltd, Barossa Valley, 14.5%
According to the back label, this is a blend of 36% grenache, 30% shiraz, 24% cinsault and 10% mataro, and a mere 275 cases were produced.
Very, very dark, almost impenetrable young purple appearance. Ripe southern Rhôney nose with gorgeous deep black fruit. Ripe and full on the attack, it then goes onto gain body and structure as you hold it in the mouth. Quite rich and chocolatey, but with a fine structure. Solid-ish tannins on the finish. Very Good Indeed.

1999 La Castella, Langhe DOC, Az. Agr. Pecchenino, 14%
(70% Barbera; 30% Nebbiolo)
Dark and inky with a young-looking edge. Gentle black fruits on the nose with a light greenish, vegetal streak and some sour cherries. Very attractive and full, but immediately I get some pretty savage, almost rubbery tannins. Very Good?

NV Bonny Doon Framboise, Raspberry wine with grape spirit added, 17%, 375ml
A concentrated crème de framboise nose. Sweet, rich and balanced. Very attractive pure raspberry flavours, especially evident on the finish and after. Very good length. This isn't wine as we know it, but it's very attractive indeed and very moreish. Very Good Indeed.


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Last updated: 09 November 2006