Monday, January 14, 2013

Linden Library Tasting

We signed up back in early December for the Linden Library Tasting yesterday. I was excited to go back and revisit some old friends that I hadn't tasted in years and some wines that I have never tasted. As we made our way south to Linden on an unusually warm (upper 60s) day for January, I couldn't help but notice the blanket of clouds draped over the mountains to our east, looking like a giant had placed a layer of cotton batting right on top of the mountains. It was a cloud formation that I have never seen before, a very thin layer of clouds to the east of the mountains and just a little bit spilling over to the western side of the ridgeline.

Fog Bound at Linden Vineyards
Wisteria in the Fog
I wondered a little bit about the clouds as we were driving south on a sunny day, but not too much. As soon as we turned east and starting climbing up to get to the east side of the ridge where Linden is situated, I noticed the sunshine starting to fade. As we climbed, it became a gray and foggy day and when we got to the winery itself, it was socked in and despite the moderate temperatures, too damp and misty to sit outside. But the fog did lend itself to some interesting photo opportunities.

My Beautiful Wife!
We arrived at 2pm in advance of our 3pm tasting with the idea that we would have a glass of wine and lunch beforehand. We started with a glass of the library wine that Linden pours in the winter time. On offer this weekend was the 1999 Glen Manor red, a great opportunity to taste what Jeff's Hodder Hill might taste like in 10-15 years. The wine has gone from purple to red with a slight clear ring around it. The fruit is very much where it should be now with wisps of dried blackberry leaves and tea wrapping around a core of cherry fruit. The finish is starting to disintegrate now though with the layers of oak starting to separate from the fruit. Ten minutes in the glass helped the wine bloom and a little food helped bring the finish back into line. I told Ann that I could drink this wine every day and be very happy: it is a feminine and nuanced wine.

Bloomsbury from Caromont Farm: Outstanding
For lunch, Ann and I were both excited to see that Caromont Farm's Bloomsbury, a Chaource-like bloomed rind cow's milk cheese, is back on the cheese list at Linden. We both love this cheese! To go with the remainder of our cheese, summer sausage, and bread, we also ordered a glass of the 2009 Hardscrabble Red. I was surprised to see it on offer; didn't think it was going to be released this soon. Although it is young and tight, at this stage, I believe that this is the best wine that Jim has ever made. I'm going to tuck some away in the cellar: I believe this wine is going to be phenomenal in 15 years.

The Library Tasting Set Up
At 3pm, we headed into the tasting room with Jim and Barb who took seats at either end of the table, with four guests on either side of the table. Four whites and four reds were already poured. We started with the whites: Louis Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet 2006 as a reference point and the Hardscrabble Chardonnay Reserve 1997, the 2002, and the 2006. Jim introduced each of the wines in turn and we all discussed whatever came to mind and peppered Jim with questions.

I didn't take any notes at all; this being my day off, I simply wanted to enjoy the experience. But some quick notes from memory. Chassagne: oxidized nose and palate characteristic of Bourgogne Blanc, well balanced with plenty of acid, not fruit-driven; very typical. Reserve '97: tropical Botrytized nose of pineapple with a hint of mango, deep golden, very ripe and weighty; bigger fruit that I am used to from Linden, my least favorite. HSC '02: very pale, mineral nose reminding me of cement-fermented Chablis, very crisp seafood wine much in the Chablis mold with a touch more fruit. HSC '06: one of my all-time favorite friends, tropical nose and superb balance between fruit and acid. I would love to taste this wine in another couple or three years. Delightful!

For the reds, we were served a small charcuterie plate (pâté de campagne, lomo, and bresaola) to serve as a foil for the tannins. This excellent charcuterie comes from Derek at the Whole Ox in The Plains. At Jim's insistence, we all kept a bit of the pâté back to taste with the dessert wine.

Charcuterie from The Whole Ox
The red line up was: Château La Tour Carnet 2000, Red Reserve 1997, Red Reserve 2001, and Hardscrabble Red 2002. La Tour Carnet is not a wine with which I am familiar and it presented with a funky Bretty nose. The Brett didn't extend to the palate and I quite liked the focused berry fruit with a strong acid core. The '97 is a wine that I had asked Jim about earlier in the afternoon, because he gave us a bottle for our wedding and I was wondering how it has developed and when to drink it. Awesome to get to taste it in advance of opening our bottle! It is a beautiful wine and my favorite of the day and I don't think it is going to get any better. It leads with a Cab Franc profile and is a bit herbaceous with a touch of bell pepper. The 2001, largely Cabernet Sauvignon, is a bit more angular but also drinking nicely, though I don't think it is as complex as the 1997. The 2002 is still hanging in and would be a crowed-pleaser if crowds could taste it. At 100% Merlot, it is soft and supple, but simple.

We finished the day with a taste of 2002 Late Harvest Vidal that is just brilliant. I've tasted this wine several times over the last 10 years and it is really coming into its own with caramel and crème brûlée notes weaving in and out of the tropical fruit. The color is a darker shade now than I remember it on last tasting. I imagine this beauty will still improve for some time and will drink well long after I am gone.

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