Friday, April 2, 2010

Mature Burgundy and Bordeaux at Spann Vineyards

Down in Sonoma and Napa for a few days, and had a chance to stop by the mountain retreat of Spann Vineyards and see old friends Peter and Betsy Spann.

The tiny vineyard and winery are tucked way up in the Mayacamas Range between Napa and a road, then off another road, then off another road, as it were. It is an idyllic place, both for its natural beauty and the art-collecting penchant of the owners. In a tiny mountain meadow in the hills next to the winery there are dynamic sculptures besides other more whimsical touches, such as the vast array of swag lamps in a dizzying collection of shapes and colors that adorn the gnarly old tree next to the terrazzo patio. Add to the scene the happy, bounding 100 pound sleek Rhodesian Ridgeback, Bruno, the winery character, and you've got a classic California winery scene.

Betsy and Peter had whipped up a simple 'California Rustic' meal of chicken with polenta, and with that Peter had pulled from his cellar a Mongeard-Mugneret Vougeot Les Cras 1er Cru 1995.

This lovely silky Burgundy was fully matured, and I doubt it will improve over the next few years. On the other hand, it is holding steady, and I doubt it will decline either, for it still shows some sturdy fruit. Fully matured Pinot Noir from Burgundy is a lovely creature; there's no spectacle, no showiness, no shouting about winemaker style or flair, simply a lovely, resonant, warm wine with cherry fruit and soft tannin and balanced acidity all wrapped up in a mushroomy, earthy, wet-forest-floor package.

And for all the collectors' frenzies and exalted acclaim and shouting of points, we sometimes forget that a simple dinner with friends in a warm house on a chilly night with honest, simple food is still the perfect occasion for a wine like this.
But there are other treasures in Peter's cellar, and we are honored by yet another of them, a Chateau Talbot Saint-Julien 1970. This storied vintage hearkens back to some glory years---both for Bordeaux, and for Peter and me as we labored in the wine biz in Dallas, each in a different part of the biz, but both of us consuming and collecting as much Bordeaux as we could afford (and sometimes couldn't afford)---so it was interesting to see how the wine held up.

Apparently, better than we and our now decrepit bodies, although it too is beginning to show its age.

I've always been fond of the Saint-Julien wines of the Haut-Medoc, as they seem to typify a gentle, supple quality that ages relatively quickly (well, relatively for Bordeaux anyway). And Talbot under the Cordier family has always represented a sturdy workhorse of Saint-Julien: always dependable, predictable, and conservatively reliable.

The floral bouquet is still there---but now it's faded, dried flowers with echoes of youth. And the Cabernet cassis/blackcurrant-verging-on-dried-herbs is there as well, albeit faded into the background. Still, the wine is like an aging but still game gentleman (somehow fitting for Bordeaux claret), meticulously dressed, if not in the current fashion, and just a bit faded from the years. It is a quiet pleasure to drink---and not least because Peter acquired it so long ago the cost was a pittance of what it would cost now if it were commercially available.

In this age of excess that the estates of Bordeaux are going through, where the wines are fatter, sleeker, glossier and riper than ever before (and that's in the off vintages!), it is a pleasure to sip the '70 Talbot and remember what the classic style of Bordeaux was then. It was a style I vastly prefer to the present.
And one more liquid shout out: Betsy served up an olive oil we'd not seen before. It was fruity, buttery and insanely delicious drizzled on our bread (which Betsy bakes herself), and we asked what it was. Turns out it was a local producer, Bertolino, and this was their Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Bertolino is located in Santa Rosa, CA. Couldn't find a website, but did notice they had won a Gold Medal in the State Fair Competition, so I tracked them down. Their address is Bertolino Olive Oil, 3015 Santa Margarita Court, CA 95405, phone 707-321-8055
It's worth seeking out, or picking up a bottle if you see it around. Great stuff!

1 comment:

  1. It's the best olive oil I have ever tasted, the question is where to buy it. The bottle I had was a gift.