THURSDAY MAY 29
The weekend celebrated the 10th Relais & Chateau Wine Summit at the Post Hotel, Lake Louise. Andre and George Schwartz, brothers in arms and owners of the Post, pull out all the stops for the hundred plus guests who fly in from all over the world to be seduced by some of the greatest wines made, as well as the excellence of the Post’s kitchen. The wine greats are here: Hamilton Russell from South Africa, Kistler from California, Frescobaldi from Italy, Spottswoode from Napa valley, Catena from Argentina, Chateau Dâ€™Esclans, Provence, andÂ Chateau Rauzan Segla from Bordeaux.Â There are no “export managers” representing the wines. The people behind the tasting table are the owners. That’s the rule of the Summit.
Thursday night was a meet and greet, western style. A delicious buffet supper: bison chile, slow roasted pork ribs, salads of every variety, corn muffins, and the juiciestÂ slab of beefÂ imaginable, was all washed down by a smorgasbord of delicious wines. The Hamilton Russell Sauvignon Blanc was fresh and clean; Spottswoode’s was at the other end of the spectrum, smoky and complex. The Kistler Pinot was like silk, a perfect match for the ribs. Dessert was an array of pies and crisps and homemade ice cream. George introduced all of the summit wineries and, in true Stampede Style, presented each with a white Stetson. The western band played up and those not made sleepy by the chilly mountain air, line danced the night away.Â Above are Nicolas and Elena Catena, Argentina.
FRIDAY MAY 30
Marchesi deâ€™ Frescobaldi, seated on the right, represents 30 generations and 700 years of wine making in Tuscany. Lamberto is president of the family operations and was in charge of all wine making prior to his appointment as president. The lineup included 2007 Castel Giocondo Brunello, 2001 Giocondo Brunello, and the 2001 Castiglioni Giramonte, the latter has been in the family since 1052. Lamberto’s style is relaxed and funny. He spoke of his family’s history in Florence, how they first made money by building a bridge across the river Arno and then charging the residents Â of Florence money to cross to the other side. They have been bankers, but are now mostly land owners and farmers. The 2001 Brunello was ethereal, beautifully flora and a lesson that we need to wait for the best to come. The 2007, available in the market place now, is magnificent. Full, rich, but not overpowering. These are wines to collect and savor. Next pairing was the 2001 and 2010 Nipozzano Mormoreto. The wines expressed themselves very differently. The 2010 very smoky, full in the mouth, with great length and lingering taste. The 2001 showed a brick color, still big, but a lot more integration. The blend is Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. I preferred the Brunellos for elegance and complexity. The next pairing was the 2009 Tenuta di Castiglioni Â Giramonte, a blend of Merlot and Sangiovese. The 2011 jumped out of the glass with its floral nose and smoky notes. The taste was surprisingly elegant. The 2009 showed a funky nose, and a little disappointing on my palate. These Merlot dominant wines are among the greatest in the world. I particularly enjoyed Lamberto’s relaxed easy style. Educated for a time in the US at UC Davis, he spoke without pretension, amusing yet very informative. Â We ended the tasting with 2 whites, 2011 and 2008 Pomino Â Benefizio Riserva. The Pomino wines, Chardonnay, are from very high vineyards. This is one of the first Chardonnay produced in Italy. Benefizio is a single vineyard; the wines are expressive and rich. The 2008 is drinking perfectly. Lean yet rich, it is made for food. In conclusion, one is reminded that the element of terroir in wine is inescapable. Each region, in every country in the world, creates wine unique to its place. When we enjoy wine we enjoy a sense of place, predominately.
Hamilton Russell, founded in 1975 in South Africa, pioneered the concept of cool climate viticulture in the Southern Cape. The tasting comprised his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Beginning with the 2007 Pinot we moved vertically to the 2012. The early vintages 07, 08, 09 showed similar brick in the color and lovely soft smoke on the nose. Stylistically the wines are very Burgundian, more savoury than sweet. The 2010 showed a remarkable departure in style due to a change in winemaking philosophy. More perfume and floral elements. Very charming. Hereâ€™s a tidbit: in the northern hemisphere the best way to swirl is counter clockwise and in the southern hemisphere you swirl clockwise. It all has to do with Â the release of aromatics and polar influences. There were three Chardonnay in the tasting, 11, 12, 13. The 11 and 12 very much like a Mersault while the younger wine the 12 is Like a young Puligny, much more steel and lean fruit. Beautiful Â whites. The 2012 is available for order.
FRIDAY MAY 30
Nicolas Catena was a professor of Mathematics in Argentina before he began his wine business in 1982. The family had been in the business for over a century, however, it wasn’t until the early 80′s, after a visit to Napa California, Â that things began to change. His terroir, at over 5000 feet above sea level,Â is unique in the world of wine making. Nicolas was awarded the Decanter Man of the Year in 2009. Â Our first flight was a 4 vintage tasting of the AdrIanna Malbec: 05 06 07 08. AdrIanna is one of the highest vineyards in the world, at 1500 meters or 5400 feet. The 2005 was beautifully expressive, floral, smoky notes with cocoa. The 2007 was stunning and elegant, perhaps the winner of the group. The next flight was the Catena Zapata, 05 06 07. Zapata is a blend of Cabernet and Malbec. The 2005 was stunningly beautiful. Highly perfumed, ripe fruit, faint eucalyptus. The next flight we tasted the Zapata from 03 02 and 01. The 01 had evolved beautifully, all elements in perfect balance.
FRIDAY MAY 30
Sacha Lichine is in love with Rose, and his estate in Provence produces some of the finest Rose wine in the world.Â After 22 years in the wine business, this was my first flight of 100 % Rose. The Chateau is about 30 kilometers from St Tropez and dates to the 12th century. Sacha sold the family’s estate in Bordeaux and moved South to think “pink”. Â Their Grenache vines are 80 years old. The tasting began with the Whispering Angel named after the angels above the alter in the chapel on the property. It’s the prettiest color pink, and in 8 years of production is now the number Rose wine exported from France. Lovely in the mouth, crisp, dry yet still with the weight of fruit. Â Subtle strawberry, notes. Sacha was clear about color, not heavily extracted. Chateau d’Esclan Rose is the first wine awarded 93 points from the Wine Spectator. There were 3 vintages of D’Esclan, from 10 11 12. Each vintage expressed itself differently, yet the elements of lively minerals mellowed by some wood aging brought out the fresh fruit flavors. The Garrus, a barrel fermented Rose, is the most expensive Rose in the world, at over $100 a bottle. The barrel aging gives a fatness to the wine, and yet the fruit shines forth. Rose is a growing category, and Sacha is excited about the future of Rose wine.
SATURDAY MAY 31
William S Price III, seated on the left, Â is Chairman and managing partner of Kistler Vineyards. Bill made a lot of money doing other things in the investment world before buying Kistler in 1996, like managing 60 billion worth of assets for fund managers, TPG. Â Our tasting flight comprised 10 wines, all from the Durell vineyard. Located in the southwestern hills of Sonoma Valley, the Durell Vineyard stretches across three separate and overlapping appellations: Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley and a small corner of Carneros The first flight was Three Sticks 2011 unoaked and oaked Chardonnay. The unoaked is fermented in cement vats. While the unoaked was ripe and luscious it lacked, for me, the dimension oak brings to the wine. Kistler believes cement is a better fermenting vessel Â than stainless steel because of its insulating qualities. Â The Three Sticks would definitely appeal to those who are afraid of oak. The second Durell was the 2012 Robert Craig Chardonnay. Much more acidity on the nose, less luscious, more Burgundy in style. Â The last of the first 4 was the Kistler Durell. Smokier on the nose, crisp palate, not as tropical as Three Sticks. There were 5 Pinot Noir in the lineup. Costa Browne Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir 2010. Bill owns Costa Browne. This Pinot is perfect, alcohol seamlessly integrated. The 2009 Loring Wine Company Durell Pinot Noir. Bill had great things to say about Loring. It is a big wine yet the acidity levels were perfect. Â 2009 Three Sticks Durell lovely perfume. Soft, subtle, elegant. Chateau Saint Jean Durell 2009 certainly the most spicy of the Pinot lineup. Nicely balanced palate. Lutum 2011 was the last Pinot and the newest venture for Bill. Gorgeous perfume on the nose, low alcohol, lighter palate. Certainly will have a following. Lutum is Latin for soil. This was by far the most interesting tasting of the weekend.
Of all the California producers we have been privileged to represent, Spottswoode is my favorite. Established in 1882, it is one of the historic properties in Napa. Spottswoode is controlled by women. Mary Novak is CEO, Beth Novak is president, and Lindy Novak is winemaker. We were extremely lucky to taste a 10 year vertical beginning in 1984 and worked our way to the 2010. The story of Spopttswoode is charming. Mary’s husband, a physician, wanted to raise his family in northern California and they looked in Napa for a house big enough to hold 5 children. They bought Spottswoode. There was a vineyard in back planted to all sorts of things and they sold these grapes to Gallo. Sadly, Mary’s husband passed away and the family had to make a decision, sell or continue to grow grapes. They stayed, replanted to Cabernet and the rest is history. A lucky backyard purchase! Â We began with the 1984 and the nose blew me away; charming, fresh, perfumed, fragrant, lovely. The 1989, a disastrous vintage, was showing extremely well. The 1992 was shy on the nose, but the fruit is not far, the palate was austere. 1995 and 84 share a profile , lovely fruit, rich texture just terrific. Â 1999 was a challenging year, the fruit is beginning to recede on the and some astringent characteristics are showing but the palate is quite charming. 2002 seems closed. It will shine Â in time. There is good mouth feel, an interesting wine. Â The 2005 is big, young and will be magnificent. Quite soft right now. The 2007 is fruit driven, well balanced, and has miles to go. 2009 soft probably the least interesting. 2010 gathered 100 points from Robert Parker full fruit, full mouth feel perfectly balanced not over the top. Magnificent.
SATURDAY MAY 31
The history of Rauzan Segla dates back to Louis XIV. Situated in Bordeaux in the region of Margaux, it was designated in 1855 as a second growth. John Kolasa is present manager and works under the ownership of the Wertheimer family, proprietors of the luxury brand Chanel.
The Chateau’s 130 acres are planted to mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. The first flight light was 09 08 05 Segla, second label. The star was 05. Gorgeous fruit, perfect balance, salty finish, lovely. The 09 nose was a little funky, but it probably due to bottle variation. Â The 08 had a charming nose, nicely perfumed, violets. Â Next came the Rauzan Segla . 2010 was young, big, muscular more than feminine. Â The 2006 Â was highly perfumed, and the palate was equally expressive. Very nice. Â The 2003, a super-hot year, is showing itself in brick color, a little soya sauce on the nose. 2001 the color was great, lovely fruit, beautiful palate, drinking perfectly, a winner. 2000 equally elegant, lovely palate, terrific length. 1998 amazing color, gorgeous nose, elegant palate, drinking perfectly. 1995 color showing a little brick, soft nose, palate lovely, coca back fruits. There was much discussion about the current state of Bordeaux. How the styles are evolving, in part to meet popular stylistic demand.
The moderator for all our tastings was Anthony Gismondi. Seated here, on the left. He did an excellent job.