Monday, December 24, 2007

Mini Vertical #4: 2001 and 2002 Yalumba Signature - with a Middle Eastern Twist

Another mini-vertical tonight but my bro-in-law decided that, after some success with the Chateau Musar at our "Oddities Night", he would crash this Barossa party with a Lebanese wine. A Cab/Shiraz blend, it was a perfect match for my Yalumba tasting. This one is for you, Fadi!

Three wines, similar grapes, and harvested within a 12 month period, but with such different terroirs and styles - it should have been easy to pick out the Lebanese in this blinded tasting, right?

The 2001 Chateau Kefraya "Comte de M" is regarded in some circles as Lebanon's greatest bottling, vying with the Musar for that honour. A dark cherry red in the glass - similar to the others - but on the nose this wine was very different from the other two. Earthy, with melted chocolate, tea, liquorice, grendadine, cedar, musk, leather and compote - very complex, but an unusual wine that could be polarizing. On the palate is was a touch austere, even rustic. Very dry, with ample acidity and big tannins that made this full-bodied wine seem a touch off-balance. A lengthy finish, it softened up over the eveing, and it should be a few years before this wine struts its stuff. Nicely done, but I think I may have preferred the Musar. Rematch in five years.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: $50 (SAQ)

The 2001 Yalumba "The Signature" comes from Australia's Barossa Valley, and is a blend of Cabernet and Shiraz. Deep, purpley-red in the glass with no signs of aging. Pepper and blackberry on the early nose, exploding over the evening with violet, strawberry, truffle, leather, vanilla, smoke and a hint of tarriness. Crisp currant fruit and very dry, dusty tannins on the palate, some tarry notes, this wine had an extremely long finish. This elegant, Bordeaux-styled wine was my favourite of the evening.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$47

The 2002 Yalumba "The Signature" was so different from the 2001 that it was not easy to pick out the Lebanese wine amongst the three bottles. Deep, dark purple in the glass. Violet, blackberry, and vegetal notes dominated, later showing cherry, cedar, coffee, tobacco, cocoa and eucalyptus. Silky and elegant, it was juicier and more accessible than the others, yet had a very long finish and could also benefit from some cellar time. Definitely not a fruit bomb, but more fruit forward than the 2001.
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$43.50 (SAQ)

Despite a trio of warm climate cab/shiraz wines, there were no fruit bombs here tonight. These were complex, elegant and structured wines, and great pairings for Beef Wellington. As I tasted these a number of questions came to mind:

1) The '01 Signature was panned by Wine Spectator (87 pts), yet 95 points from Mr. Parker. Were they tasting the same wine? Perhaps Mr. Parker's roots in Bordeaux give him a better appreciation for this style?

2) The '02 Signature was better reviewed by WS (91), and similarly reviewed by RP (96). Hmmm - fruity and not fruity, but same in RP's books, but WS needed that extra ripeness to give it a decent score? Food for thought.

3) Is the Kefraya Comte de M Lebanon's best? A very well made wine and different from the Musar, which seems to come from another era. But the Musar was just so different, and therein lies he charm, in my mind.

4) There was a piece to the Comte de M and the Musar that was very similar, despite very different grapes and vintages. Earthy and liquorice-y, a Lebanese terroir?

(PS - apologies for the crappy photo)


Fadi said...

Hi Joe,
That was a great trio sampling! I have to admit that I have not tasted the 01 Comte De M yet (I have 2 bottles waiting in my cellar), but I had the pleasure of popping the 2000 Comte De M 3 times this year and it was real good, a totally different style than the Musar, as you've had remarked. What I've read on the 01 so far confirms your tasting notes that the "Comte" 01 seems to be chubby on the tannins and may need few more yrs to open up.
I guess a same vintage face off of Musar vs. Comte De M would be interesting; this would require holding on the Comte De M for few yrs until the matching Musar vintage is released (usually 2-3 yrs later). Maybe when the 2000 Musar is released I could supply the 2000 Comte de M for this battle royal...
I tried few wines over the holiday...Of note was the Ch Bellefont Bercier Grand Cru St Emilion (SAQ 39$) which had incredible nose and good plummy fruit and backbone tannins, but unfortunately was too overoaked to my taste!! Resembled a pretty lady whose beauty has been obscured by tons of makeup (89 pts in my book)!! Cheers and happy holidays,

Joe said...

Hi Fadi. Yes, I meant a same vintage face-off - that would be very cool. Love your comments on the St-Emilion - is that a Phaneuf pick? Cheers, and happy holidays.

Edward said...


I like these mini verticals. Not sure my liver or spouse would be too pleased though :)

I've tried the 02 Signature. It was still a pup in 2006. My recollection was that it would be something to hold on to and cellar.

Not had the 01. 02 was a cooler year in Aus. Excellent riesling year, and some of the better regarded reds of the vintage are superb.

Joe said...

Hi Edward. Fortunately my in-laws are helping me out with these, and I have one more left, just for you. I called the '02 more accessible (after 2.5 hrs in a decanter), but I think it should be cellared for a few more years. I will redo this tasting, maybe when you visit Montreal in 2010! I have purposely not read the vintage reports before this week's tastings, as I want to really study them first them read the vintage reviews.

Fadi said...

Hi Joe,
Finally I got to taste the 01 vintage of Comte De M this weekend. I had kept it a while in my "passive" cellar to give it a bit more time to mellow down. Well, it was worth the wait! I had it blind with some friends. It was served against a 2001 Carpineto Vino Nobile de Montepulciano Reserva (WE 90), both decanted for 1 hr. All the 4 of us favored the Comte De M. which had intense aromas, velvety tannins, great fruit taste and balance and silkiness all the way. The Carpineto was good but did not measure up. Also a big surprise was a recent tasting of Ch. Musar 98 which seemed so much better than when I tasted it a year ago...I guess older is better, for these 2. Cheers - Fadi

Joe said...

Hi Fadi - I do think those Lebanese greats need some time to soften up. Glad you liked this. Funny blinding this against a Vino Nobile - seems like drinking Coke vs. Sprite blind - would you really not know what you had?! Just giving you a hard time! Blinding is the only way to learn - I had an '03 Chateau Lagrezette and an '03 Moulin Lagrezette blind tonight, great fun.

Fadi said...

Hi Joe, concerning the blind tasting, believe or not the difference (for us) was not that obvious to pick out the shiraz/Cab mix from the Sangio!..I am not much of an expert myself but my friend, who is a real wine geek, could not pick out the grape! We all believed that the Sangio would come across softer and smoother but it turned out to be the other way around with this tasting...Yes I believe blind tasting is a great & fun way to learn. I was also tricked previously in a blind tasting of a 2004 Château St-Thomas vallée de la Bekaa (also from Lebanon; 26$) vs. 2001 Pian Delle Vigne (Antinori) Brunello di Montalcino (65$), and the 5 of us present picked the St-thomas as the winner thinking that it must have been the expensive Brunello!! Currently SAQ has the 2006 St-thomas (24$) which I have not tried yet.
If you're good in detecting grape varieties, check out Caymus Conundrum Californie 2007 white blend (SAQ, 27$)..I tried it this weekend and found it very nice... the blend being a marketing mystery, hence the conundrum name!
Cheers - Fadi

Joe said...

Hi Fadi - drinking blind is humbling - I am no expert, but getting better. Thanks for that Ch. St-Thomas recommendation - I love the Pian delle Vigne, so that is quite a "triumph" - at that price I can see if the '06 is equally impressive. Had the Conundrum before, very good (but pricey) wine. Cheers!

Fadi said...

Hi Joe. Concerning the Ch. St-thomas (Code SAQ : 00927830; 24$) that I had mentioned, today I was at the SAQ at 440, boul. De Maisonneuve Ouest and I found that they still have some of the 2004 (although online only the 06 appears)!! It must be some leftovers they're clearing before putting the 06 on the shelfs (do not know what happend to 05s!!). Anyways I got 3 and I think they still have 3-5 left. The 04 (a blend of Cab Sauv, Syrah, & Merlot) was exceptional for its price the last time I tasted it..It seems to have won the Medaille d'or 2007 for Bruxelles concours mondial & for Les Citadelles du vin (France)...If you want to check this value vintage, better hurry before it's gone...Cheers & happy holidays.

Joe said...

Hi Fadi - thanks for the tip, I will try and get over there today (weather permitting!). Cheers!