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4 Late Model Château Clerc-Milons & more…

Sarnia border crossing - click to enlarge

It was like “Olde Home Week” for the Canadian contingent of Gang of Pour, as several wayward souls met up once again on Easter Saturday for good food, drink and making merry in the town of St. Catherines, on Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula. Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan acted as our host, and attendees included Marty Freitas and Robin Caverhill, with whom we’ve enjoyed great times on more than a few occasions, and Gary Bell, one of the stalwarts of our Adventures in Sonoma, back in ’97. And of course, there was Kim and this taster…

The focal point of the tasting was a mini-vertical of four late model Château Clerc-Milon Pauillac, but there were other goodies opened as well. As so often happens, we started off with some bubbly.

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1996 Baron Fuenté Champagne Grand Brut: Golden colored and tart on the palate, with under-ripe green and yellow apples shaded with mineral and a note of praline; bone dry, pungent and penetrating, with excellent mousse, acids and intensity. Find this wine

2007 Landmark Vineyards Chardonnay Overlook, 81% Sonoma County, 11% Santa Barbara County, 8% Monterey County: Nice rich color and clean and pretty on the nose, with rainwater, pear and honey, fleshing out with ripe (but not over-ripe) fruit in the mouth. Full bodied and refined, with well-integrated oak and enough acids to work well with food, in this case, Alan’s grilled pizzas. Very much in the house style and very nice. Find this wine

2007 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir: I stopped buying Calera’s Central Coast Pinot Noir back in the early-to-mid-’90s because I felt that the quality had fallen below the price that I was paying for it at that time, but if this one is any indication, the bottling has rebounded nicely. Showing clean, dark color and nice varietal character, it delivers smoky plum and black cherry flavors and aromas underscored with an earthiness that has always characterized the better Calera Pinots. Medium-to-medium-full bodied, with enough structure to age for at least a few years, this is one that I’d gladly drink any old time. Find this wine

2008 Siduri Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Clean ruby garnet in color, with ripe, toasty black cherry and cranberry flavors and aromas; medium-full bodied, with decent structure for a few years in the cellar, but really for drinking in the near term. Riper than I tend to like my Pinot Noir these days, and showing a little too much oak for my tastes, but I can’t honestly call it a bad wine. Find this wine

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1987 Dunn Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain: We had a laugh with Chef Kerr when he pulled this one out, looking at the vintage and remarking that it might almost be ready, as Dunns from this era were notoriously unapproachable upon release and in need of as many as two decades to resolve enough of their tannic structure to become drinkable. Happily, this deep, dark colored cab is performing quite well, in the classic Dunn style, with earthy black currant, blackberry and subtle old wood in both flavor and aroma. It’s big and chewy still, but has seen enough years in the cellar to drink well now, being very food friendly, and Bordeaux-like, making it an interesting lead-in for the next flight. Find this wine

These four came from Marty’s cellar; he decanted them for almost two hours, and them poured them out of sequence, for whatever reason. Oddly enough, I had looked at a 2000 and 2001 Clerc-Milon with thoughts of bringing those to the tasting, but opted against, reasoning that they needed more time in the cellar…

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2004 Château Clerc-Milon Pauillac: Deep, dark color, with earthy black currant and old wood shaded with some barnyard funk and a note of coffee; full bodied and well-structured, and yet very approachable with extended air. Find this wine

2003 Château Clerc-Milon Pauillac: “Spicy, spicy, spicy,” remarked Alan upon tasting this darkly colored claret; it’s richer than the ’04, but otherwise very similar in character and remarkably approachable. Find this wine

2006 Château Clerc-Milon Pauillac: Clean, dark color, with toast and coffee on the nose and creamy black currant, old wood and earth on the palate; full bodied, with excellent structure and intensity and yet quite drinkable. Find this wine

2005 Château Clerc-Milon Pauillac: Harmonious and very taster friendly; fat and fleshy, with some drying tannins on the finish, but not austere. Rich, ripe, earthy black currant and blackberry shaded with some dusty chocolate; full-bodied, well structured, rich and lavish without being at all over the top. Marty had a good point when he found it, “So much richer and darker than the others,” and Kim added an impression of “green-ness,” but not as a detriment to the wine. It’s hard to believe that this is already so good at only five years of age, but it is. Find this wine

Maybe the killer smoked prime rib that Chef Kerr served while we tasted all four of these helped them show so well, because show well they did. We then turned to the two that Kim and I contributed to the tasting, since none of our friends from the Great White North had had a chance to try any of the relatively rare Bordeaux blends from Igor Larionov Select Wines, the following two of which were made by the Miner Family Vineyards.

2002 Igor Larionov Select Wines Hattrick Napa Red Wine, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, $50, 14.2% alc.: I bought this deeply, darkly colored blend in December of 2004 and saved it for just such an occasion, having been impressed with it at that time, but I wasn’t ready for the big toasty oak that it’s showing at present. There’s a solid core of ripe, somewhat earthy fruit here on a full-bodied, well-structured frame, but the oak is not to my liking and a note of dill does nothing to help. It certainly has the stuffing for further cellaring, but will the oak ever integrate? Find this wine

2004 Igor Larionov Select Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Hattrick Reserve: Deeply and darkly colored, and not as overtly oak-infested as the ’02, showing coffee and toast over pure, rich and earthy black currant; full-bodied and well-structured for many years of aging and development, and yet so friendly already. Mr. Kerr was heard to utter, “This is classic,” adding an impression of “minty in a good way.” Find this wine

It was yet another fine reunion with our hoser buddies on their home turf, and by all accounts, a grand time was had by all. Hopefully, we’ll do it all again this summer, when we can spend the afternoons swimming in that big lake…

Reporting from Day-twah, eh,

geo t.

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