Dinner with Friends
This was another casual winter evening spent with great friends at our place here in Colorado. The week had been especially cold, so we started a fire in the fireplace, opened some big reds and went with classic bistro fare.
Starting off with a bottle from one of my favorite Champagne producers, the 2007 Vilmart Grand Cellier d’Or showed fabulously, with great aromatics and impressive richness and texture. It’s a big, full-flavored effort and a superb bottle of bubbly. To go with a mixed greens salad (and assorted appies), the 2011 Dagueneau Blanc Fume de Pouilly Silex worked nicely, yet lacked some of the vibrancy that this cuvee normally possesses. Showing the expected lively, tangy acidity and liquid minerality that’s the hallmark of this cuvee, it was surprisingly soft, supple and easygoing on the palate. Outstanding, but far from riveting, and at the going rate, it’s what you should get.
Moving to the reds, I went with two Châteauneuf du Papes and one Grenache from California’s Central Coast, all of which performed brilliantly. Leading off and paired with a classic soupe à l’oignon, the 100% Grenache 2005 Domaine Giraud Châteauneuf du Pape Les Grenaches de Pierre was tight and slightly closed right on opening, yet blossomed in the glass. Starting to show some evolution aromatically, it offered full-bodied richness on the palate, loads of fruit and fine, polished tannin on the finish. It has classic Châteauneuf du Pape character and the depth and richness to continue drinking nicely for another decade. Moving to the main course of roasted chicken(s) and root vegetables, the 2009 Clos Saint-Jean Chaâteauneuf du Pape la Combe des Fous (60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% each of Vaccarese and Cinsault) was open and ready to go, with an incredible bouquet, full-bodied richness and a seamless, sexy feel. This estate hasn’t missed a step in a while, and this beauty manages the warmth of the vintage flawlessly with sweet tannin and blockbuster length. Showing every bit as impressive as it did on release, it went perfectly with the food and is easily one of the top wines in the vintage. In addition, I doubt it will ever shut down, and when all is said and done, it should have upwards of two decades of total longevity. Lastly, and a wine I’ve been lucky enough to have numerous times recently, the 2004 Sine Qua Non Ode to E (Grenache) offered an extraordinary bouquet of crème de cassis, graphite, melted licorice and assorted wild herbs to go with a full-bodied, seamless and elegant profile that has jaw dropping purity and depth. Still shockingly youthful and fresh, it has a least another decade to go, yet when a wine is showing this good, I see no reason to wait.
A great time all around, and at the end of the evening, all of the bottles were empty… always a good sign.
Course 1: – Mixed Greens
Course 2: – French Onion Soup
Course 3: – Roasted Chicken with root vegetables
Vintage Wine Rating
2007 Vilmart et Cie Brut Premier Cru Cuvee Grand Cellier d’Or 93
2011 Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau Blanc Fume de Pouilly Silex 90
2005 Domaine Giraud Châteauneuf du Pape les Grenaches de Pierre 95
2009 Clos Saint-Jean Châteauneuf du Pape la Combe des Fous 98
2004 Sine Qua Non Ode To E (Grenache) 100
La chimère de Manfred Krankl débarque à Châteauneuf du Pape
août 27, 2012
Un peu de culture. La chimère dans la mythologie grecque est cette sorte de bête hybride avec le corps et la tête d’une lionne, une queue qui se termine par un serpent et une tête de chèvre dépassant de sa colonne vertébrale. Et là, vous vous demandez ou je veux vous emmener.
« Chimère », c’est depuis le millésime 2010, ce nouveau « super » châteauneuf-du-pape produit par un trio de choc : Manfred Krankl, Philippe Cambie et les frères Maurel du Clos Saint-Jean, propriété abonnée aux 100/100 Parker.
Manfred Krankl, vigneron mythique du sud de la Californie, était déjà bien connu pour ces cuvées aux noms inédits : Against the Wall, The Hussy, The Monkey, The Naked Thruth. Logées dans des bouteilles toutes différentes et parées d’étiquettes virevoltantes de couleurs, mais reflétant surtout l’expression des terroirs de Bien Nacido, Cumulus et Alban Vineyard, qui, contrairement à ce que l’on peut imaginer, s’avèrent des terroirs sans températures excessives, propices à des justes maturités et produisant des flacons qui tiennent dans le temps.
Manfred est en permanente remise en question et a fait récemment évoluer son style de vinification pour aller sur des extractions plus douces et des boisés s’harmonisant parfaitement avec les matières initiales.
L’amour de Manfred Krankl pour Châteauneuf-du-Pape est étroitement lié à son amitié nouée avec Philippe Cambie. Je cite : « Je l’ai aimé dès la première minute où je l’ai rencontré. Mais je ne me souviens plus quand et où. Je sais qu’il aime ce que nous faisons, donc il y a eu une relation instantanée ». S’en suivent des visites chez les grands de Châteauneuf (Bonneau, Rayas…) et Manfred a toujours gardé en tête ce terroir unique.
Mais voilà le mourvèdre (n’en déplaise aux puristes), dans une très grande proportion, placé sur le bas de la Crau de Saint Jean, tout près du Vieux Télégraphe, complété par le grenache et quelques cépages blancs pour l’aromatique. Longuement élevés dans des cochons (fûts de 300 litres) et tout juste mis en bouteilles, c’est un vin à la personnalité « Sine Qua Nonienne » marqué d’une teinte violacée profonde, très vite rejoint par une aromatique très fine de prune noire, de cacao poudré, de macis reposant sur une texture généreusement constituée, épaulée de tanins onctueux avec une persistance tout droit sortie de ce terroir d’exception. À peine 400 magnums, habillés par Krankl, verront le jour sous les meilleurs hospices.
(93% mourvedre, 5% grenache and the rest a mix of the permitted white varieties, all from La Crau): Inky purple. Blackberry, blueberry and candied licorice on the expressive nose, with sexy Moroccan spice and floral notes that build with air. Deeply pitched black and blue fruit liqueur flavors expand with air and pick up spicecake and candied violet notes. The endless, sweet finish is lush and creamy and lingers with intense floral and licorice character. This is a new project of the Maurel brothers of Clos St. Jean, Sine Qua Non’s Manfred Krankl and enologist Philippe Cambie and this is the first release. Subsequent wines bearing this name could come from Chateauneuf but there will « definitely be some wines made in California, maybe sooner, maybe later », Krankl told me.
SCOTT’S BLOG: CHIMÈRE – MANFRED KRANKL’S NEWEST COLLABORATION
November 11th, 2011
Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non has earned his reputation as one of the most individualistic, single-minded winemakers on the planet, so it’s equally remarkable that he’s shown an affinity for collaboration as well, first with the late Alois Kracher, Jr. to create the Mr. K sweet wines, and now with Philippe Cambie and the Maurel brothers to createChimère from the vineyards of Clos St. Jean in Chateauneuf du Pape.
The opportunity to collaborate grew naturally from the mutual respect and friendship of Krankl and Cambie, built over years of tasting together and following each other’s work. Manfred relates, “I have liked him from the minute I met him…and I no longer remember when and where that was. I know he likes what we do, so there was an instant relationship.”
That personal relationship is key, as Manfred explains, “Generally I am rather partnership averse, unless it is with the ‘right people’ and done in a way that allows for each person involved to move on, without the slightest hiccup, at any time he/she wants to… Just like it was with my late friend Alois Kracher, [the partnership] is one of a simple handshake – nothing more. No piece of paper exists, no lawyer will ever be involved.”
Given both Cambie’s and Krankl’s love for Grenache, one might expect their partnership to produce a Grenache-based blend. On the other hand, anyone familiar with Krankl should know better than to expect him to be so predictable. The first vintage (2010) will be “a cuvee that is dominated by Mourvedre (93%) with 5% Grenache and a little shot of some whites for perfume. The Mourvedre is really quite wonderful, and I thought it would be more interesting to not just make another Grenache cuvee, of which they already have several different ones, and all of them are incredible.”
As followers of Sine Qua Non have come to expect, the label will feature Krankl’s artwork, and the name Chimère (or Chimera in English) has more than one meaning. Of course! In Greek mythology the Chimera was a hybrid beast with the body and head of a lioness, a tail that ends in a snake, and a goat head rising from its spine. Krankl: “But it also means ‘an illusion or fabrication of the mind – an unrealizable dream…a fancy,’ AND it is also an ‘individual part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic constitution.’”
It hasn’t been bottled yet, but it’s likely to all go into magnums, and probably fewer than 400 will be released late next year. An email to the winery to express interest is highly recommended, but no guarantees are being made to anyone – not even regarding the future sources of the fruit. Manfred explains, “It could be that there will be a wine from the Rhone one year and from the Central Coast another. But for now 2010 and 2011 are both slotted to be from the vineyards of Clos St. Jean.”
That should make for interesting classification, as wine lovers try to define exactly what Chimère is. But then, as his 2007 Syrah taught us, Manfred absolutely hates labels!
The conclusions I came to about this tasting may seem obvious just by reading the tasting notes. People forget that as famous as Sine Qua Non and both Elaine and Manfred Krankl have become over the last 15 years, their wines really only began to hit full world-class qualitative levels at the turn of the last century (2000). The vineyard sources have largely changed from Alban, Stolpman, Bien Nacido, Shadow Canyon and White Hawk Vineyards to primarily estate vineyards Cumulus Vineyard in Ventura County and 11 Confessions Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. In the future, Krankl’s newest vineyard in Alisos Canyon will be an additional component part. His meticulous craftsmanship and phenomenal attention to detail, both in the vineyard and in the winery, have been increasingly noticeable over the last decade. He seemed to hit full stride about eight or nine years ago, and what has unfolded since then is an absolutely brilliant succession of true works of genius, both in his expressive, sometimes slightly abstract artwork on the labels, to the meticulously crafted wood boxes in which the wines are housed. Of course, the most important thing of all, the actual wine itself, is both the beginning as well as the end for consumers, and where 100% of my focus and judgement are centered. Grenache, as Krankl would be the first to say, is by far the most challenging grape varietal to make majestic wine from, and unequaled in difficulty by any other grape in the world except Nebbiolo. That’s why we see so little of it from great terroirs. High quality Grenache exists in northern Spain, southern France, parts of southern Italy and Sardinia, and in southern Australia, but rarely in California. This makes Krankl’s achievement all the more remarkable.
Production ranges from 250-300 cases for the long barrel-aged Grenache to nearly 1,000 cases for the earlier released Grenache. Prices are in the $150-250 range from the winery. Tel. (805) 237-1231; Fax (805) 237-1314
* Regarding the article’s title, “Wasted” – I was so elated (by their quality) as well as depressed (because I couldn’t drink all of these elixirs) that it seemed as if too much wine had been “wasted.” On a light-hearted note, my condition once I finished the academic part of the tasting could have been described as “wasted” by those who still hold to the notion that alcohol is the demon drink.