June 2004
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Day June 23, 2004

Wine Notes: Chave/Raveneau/Beaucastel

I had dinner last night with a good friend, whom I hadn’t seen in months. We dined at Nell’s on Green Lake here in Seattle, and had a great meal and some good wines.

Raveneau 1989 Chapelots was a stunning wine, with crisp minerality but a lush smoothness coming from impending maturity. No off notes at all, it was a gorgeous Chablis.

Chave Hermitage 1974 was clearly mature but holding well, without any hint of going over the hill. Not a particularly sought-after year, this wine is a perfect example of my growing feeling that “blockbuster” years aren’t what I value in good winemakers — the “second tier” vintages seem to offer more finesse and delicacy. If it’s a great winemaker, I’m not worried that lighter vintages will be over the hill.

Beaucastel 1981 is nearing the point where you should drink it up if you’re still holding it. This wine has been magnificent since before I was collecting. Parker describes it as “Mourvedre cotton-candy” and it’s an apt description, although some bottles have more sauvage brett stink than others. Last night’s bottle had the sweet dark candy nose, spices, but a nice leather and hint of stinkiness that characterizes great Beaucastels. This was my last bottle of the 1981, and although I’m sad that I probably won’t own another, I’m happy to have drunk my small stock of the wine while it was giving maximum pleasure. And shared it with good friends.

We were so full that cheese and the last of the reds sufficed as dessert. As a result, we never touched my friend’s Donnhoff eiswein, the Schoffit Rangen de Thann SGN 1998 I brought, or the bottle of D’Oliveras Bual Madeira 1903 I had secreted away in my bag. Oh well, there’s always another dinner…