Let’s party like its 1999: Ga ga over the La La’s
It’s 2014. Just about 15 years since the 1999 harvest. I remember listening to Prince singing “Let’s Party Like its 1999” back in the day. So, yes, time flies. In the Northern Rhône harvested Syrah grapes were among the healthiest and ripest ever seen, observers noted, leading to voluptuous, deeply colored wines with finely structured tannins and opulent fruit.
So with both visceral and vicarious pleasure, I read these fine notes by Christine Havens, who is now the #1 wine reviewer on Vivino, the most downloaded and used wine app in the world. I first got to know Christine when she worked for Grands Vin Wine Merchants in Olympia, as marketing specialist and “social media songbird”. Christine also was winemaker and marketing director of Wawawai Canyon Winery in Pullman, Washington from 2003 to 2011. She is now devoting herself to wine writing and – my goodness – she has been experiencing great wines. Like these, for example 🙂
By Christine Havens for wine-chronicles.com
I have, in the recent past, promoted and sold Guigal’s single-vineyard Côte-Rôties, La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque (affectionately known as the La La’s) to fans and collectors all over the United States. An invitation to taste these wines is not something to pass up, an event made even more special considering the vintage—all three from 1999, and all three having received a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker. I have mixed feelings about Parker’s perfect 100s, but I’ll confine this post to discussing the La La’s. Certainly, I wanted to experience Guigal’s most sought after wines first hand.
Invited by my generous friend and fellow wine lover John Bradford, the wines were lovingly uncorked at La Balena in downtown Carmel. We were joined by winemaker Morgan Clendenen of Cold Heaven Cellars and a young winemaker from Saint Ynes, Blake Sillex.
Together, we shared antipasti over a bottle of 1999 Domaine Leroy Pommard Les Vignots, which in and of itself, deserves mention. My first introduction to Leroy, managed by Dame Lalou Bize-Leroy was in watching A Year In Burgundy, if you have not seen the documentary, watch it. One gets a sense of Lalou’s person, her strength of character and her unwavering commitment to her vines.
1999 Leroy Pommard Le Vignots: Incredible complexity on the nose, which evolved throughout the evening. First impressions are of subtle spice and flowers, forest and earth, alpine strawberries and raspberries, dried mint and wild game. In the mouth, the structure is superbly focused. Silky, fruit-laden texture encompassed in fine tannins and stately power. This wine is precise, blanched and ethereal.
Moving on, we tasting through the La La’s, taking time to sip and savor them over the main course with great joy, and deep discussion. La Balena is owned by Anna and Emanuele Bartolini. Emanuelle is from Florence, Italy and the locals swear that the dishes are exactly like Florentine dishes enjoyed in country. My choice, the Pappardelle alle Erbe wild boar pancetta, proved to be an excellent match. Their grilled octopus with anchovy aioli was, by far the most tender, transcendental octopus I have ever tasted.
1999 E. Guigal La Landonne: Our small panel thought there might be a hint of Brett in this bottle, but it didn’t seem to detract in any way. La Landonne is a profound wine with incredible depth and complexity. Notes of blueberry and blackberry, roasted meat, forest floor, spice and earth. The attack is smooth, with finely integrated tannins, balanced acidity and a sort of effortless perfection.
1999 E. Guigal La Mouline: The most feminine of the three, though that may not be an appropriate assertion, given the extraordinary richness and depth this wine possesses. It’s worth noting that La Mouline boasts the largest percentage of Viognier blended with Syrah (this varies from year to year, and is usually between 8 and 11%, though I could not find the exact blend percentage for the 1999 vintage). It makes perfect sense that this liquid masterpiece should boast delicate floral notes of violets followed by more sumptuous aromas of black cherry, blackberries, vanilla and anise. Pure sensuality on the palate, ribbons of flavor and texture create a rich and decadent tapestry.
1999 E. Guigal La Turque: By far the most concentrated and massive of the three. Opens with impressive aromas of dust, iron, game, spice, damp clay, blood and bacon fat. Sculpted layers of harmonious flavor, with brooding black fruit, mouth coating, yet balanced tannins and a compelling animal quality. Savory notes and dollops of spice on the finish. This wine is extraordinary.