David feels that wines are meant for consumption. He feels that wines should not be held in a cellar just for impressing people with their expense or rarity. Rather, they should be enjoyed (when ready) with people who can appreciate them, and learn from tasting them.
The format for this tasting was of four pairs of wines, from the same producer, but comparing different vineyards and/or vintages. Three countries were represented, and except for one, all came from his personal cellar. Some were common bottles that could be found easily, while others were extremely rare. The idea was to compare similar wines, from the same maker, and to learn about and enjoy the differences.
First Pair - Champagne
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne 1990. Golden in color. Yeasty, and more regular wine-like, with a buttery texture and fine, slow bubbles. Flavors of honey, red apples, nutmeg, yeast, chalk, cranberries, toast, brandy and lily. Andy thought it was reminiscent of "apple pie", while Josephine was reminded of "cantaloupe melon". Hartwell felt it was more distinctive compared to the other Champagne, and Ali perceived the refinement as a "smoking jacket". David praised the very long finish that "hangs around on the tongue". About $50.
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne Non-vintage. Smelling brighter than #1, and more mineral-y. Crisper, refreshing, and almost astringent. Slightly larger, faster bubbles. Flavors of lemon, butter, and strawberries. Kristin thought of "movie popcorn". Ali described "bubbles that fill up my mouth", and Hartwell felt that the two "feel different, but taste similarly". David decided that this one was for the summer, while the first Champagne was for the winter. About $35.
Second Pair – California Chardonnay
Beringer Founders’ Estate Chardonnay 2004 (California). Aromas of green grass, limes, creamsicle, bubble gum, tangerine, and Chinese food. Along with strawberries, Josephine was reminded of "salty skin", while David thought it was "extroverted". Lighter in texture than the Limited Release. Tasting of popcorn, candy, and bright citrus. Hartwell said that he "liked the lightness" of this one. The only one that didn’t come from David’s cellar. About $10.
Beringer Sbragia Limited Release Chardonnay 2002 (Napa Valley). Exhibiting scents of new rubber hose, black olives, and plastic, this one drew mixed reviews, with Ali feeling it was "really weird", and Hartwell feeling that is was a "crème brulee wine". Unctuous in texture, with flavors of caramel, egg yolk, and cough syrup. Hartwell described it as "Jagermeister / cough syrup", and Andy thought of "raw tomato", with Ali chiming in with "eggnog". More complex than the other Chardonnay, with a darkness that Andy described as "Goth, listening to the Cure". Long finish. The label shows this one having a whopping 15.4% alcohol. Estate bottled. About $50.
Third Pair – Napa Valley Merlot
Beringer Howell Mountain Merlot Bancroft Ranch 1996 (Napa Valley). Violets, bubble gum, tobacco, and vanilla on the nose. Josephine was reminded of "damp concrete", while Ali thought of "feet". Looks unfiltered, as well as thick. Tasting of medicine, anise, toast, and black pepper. Robust, with espresso flavors on the finish, and showing weight on the palate. Tannins are still evident. Estate bottled. About $80.
Beringer Merlot 1999 (Napa Valley). A little more earthy than the other Merlot, with raisin, green bell peppers, black cherries, cedar, and wet cardboard. Ali thought that the pine aromas were like "hiking through Washington State". Not as much tannin or thickness, with flavors more similar to flowers and fresh pepper. Hartwell felt that this pair was "easy for reds" and enjoyed how much they changed in the glass. About $25.
Fourth Pair: Single Vineyard Barolo
Ceretto Bricco Rocche Barolo Brunate 2000. Peppery and fecal nose, featuring gardenia, smoke, and "grape pez" (Andy). Hartwell noted its "remarkably delayed legs", with Josephine describing them as "retarded legs". Floral, with "full-on plums" (David), and meaty, juicy quality. Plenty of tannin. Ali noted that "it makes me want to eat meat", and Andy felt that it was "large, and in charge". Mouth-coating and round. Estate bottled. About $80.
Ceretto Bricco Rocche Barolo Bricco Rocche 1997. The fecal component was a little more prominent in this one, along with mushrooms, latex, dark earth, smoke, and tar. Ali commented, "Does this smell like Barbie?". Powerful, and tasting of cola and cherries, with a longer finish. Josephine felt it was "a little sharper". Perhaps more alcohol. Hartwell decided that "If I could have one glass of wine, it would be #8, because it stays with me". Both had long finishes, with strong presence in the mouth. Estate bottled. About $200.