On consecutive nights this week, I enjoyed a pair of excellent tastings with good friends.
One was at a local restaurant, Lark which offers fine food with small plates designed for sharing. But it was the Priorats which stole the show on this evening. The following night was a fun Champagne event with the Seattle Tasting Group at my friend Eric's home.
We were celebrating the transitioning to a new and welcome American government. The Priorats really showed well, in fact this seven vintage retrospective of Clos Erasmus, certainly in the very upper tier of Priorat producers, was probably the most enjoyable tasting of Spanish wines, I have attended.
Amazingly the four vineyards which are used to produce no more than 150 cases per year, make up less than 5 acres all told. The company has been around since 1990 but the first vintage was 1992, the bottle I donated for this tasting. We also tasted our way through the 1993, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. Ironically, the 1994 was not part of the lineup, as the first time I had it, I started buying Priorats the very next day and have never looked back.
It was a solid lineup.
The 1992 Clos Erasmus was a beauty and anybody who believes or states that "Priorats are best consumed young and don't age" just needs to find a proper bottling of this wine. A generous nose of leather, smoky, earthy and brambly notes persist. A gorgeous smooth texture with lively flavors of black olive tapenade, dark cherry and earth yield to an aftertaste that proves this wine is just starting to peak. I was surprised by the ripe tannins which are seemingly in synch with the depth of the fruit. A nice starter considering it was the debut vintage! Will certainly make it to 20 years old in beautiful shape. 93+ points
1993 Clos Erasmus - If the nose on the 2002 did not win me over (actually, it did) then this was going to provide inspiration. Sous bois, gentle VA, cedar and prune meld to deliver the epitome of exotic. Showing more age than the 1992 and not considered a great vintage, nonetheless this fully mature wine is silky smooth and soft, with rounded edges, chalky tannins and enough fruit to keep it all interesting. Elegant and still tasty too. Drink up! 92 points
1997 Clos Erasmus - You can tell that the elegance of the older vintages had stylistically changed before 1997 rolled around. It may flesh out like they did, but for only a few years younger, it was a whole lot bigger and brighter. Red fruit, cranberry and spicy essence; a medium-bodied but boldly flavored Priorat that went really well with my wild mushroom dish. Velvety, sumptuous and yet powerful at the same time. Young with vibrancy and a great finish delivering intensity and length. Harmonious but incredibly young. This will drink well at 20 with ease! 94 points
1999 Clos Erasmus - Bright wild berry with oak infused note of vanilla bean and overtly smoky raspberry. The cranberry and raspberry flavors fleshed out the longer this remained in the glass. Charming stuff, very soft, the nose grows more expansive as does the mid-palate. Dry profile but intricate and refined. I really enjoyed this but due to the ripeness of the tannins, would wait eight years, possibly a full decade to drink it in its prime. Nice but a bit primary, especially in the early goings. 91+ points
2000 Clos Erasmus - Others liked this considerably more than I did. I believe it has a lot of potential, but it was pretty reticent right now. It did grow in the glass slightly, but needed hours more time to show itself. This would be worthy to follow over a 12 hour 'decant and drink regime'. Fuller body than most predecessors and with bright, big berry flavors, but its still tightly wound and unforgiving at the moment, with punishing tannins. 88+ points.
2001 Clos Erasmus - has always wowed me and this was no exception. Floral elements with spicy cinnamon and oak which has yet to fully integrate, but is not overdone. The palate delivered even less oak, with plum and dark cherry fruit, but the tannins were boisterous and forceful. A colossal mouthwatering and complex finish emerges. A fantastic example of the achievements possible when Daphnie Glorian works her magic and the Las Escalas vineyard fruit shines brightly here. 94+ points may be a bit stingy!
2002 Clos Erasmus - This is a big and powerful young wine with primary black and cherry berry flavors. The nose is pure and purple and quite discernible as Erasmus. Dense and smooth but astringent tannins need to calm themselves for this to show more love. Nice freshness and appealing fruit with a modest finish. 89 points.
We finished off with a La Cilia, Barbadillo, Pedro Ximenez Sherry - a lighter than normal version, except in its coffee color. But the viscosity was average and the sweet and rich date, fig and prune compote flavors lacked the intensity and depth of concentration levels achieved by better PX. Still, it is tasty for at least a few sips, although I couldn't do a second glass. 86 points
Jeff Twersky - organizer and Clos Erasmus lover
Phil Franks - celebrating Veteran's Day stateside
Michael Gordon - venue planner extraordinaire
Steve Saxon - Priorat aficionado and biking enthusiast
Eric LeVine - Mr. CellarTracker himself; a Priorat enthusiast
Hal Blumberg - From Cadence to Erasmus, a diverse palate
Roy Hersh - scribe and thrilled to be at this dinner/tasting.
I must get to bed, but will say that the half dozen bottles of bubbly went down really nicely earlier this evening. There was a non-vintage Rose, that I forgot the name of … but I really need to find out what the heck it was because it was mighty delicious. The 1995 Bollinger Grand Annee was a great starter, but a killer flight of 1990s ensued, anchored by Dom Perignon and Krug. I very much prefer the style of DP from 1990, while many others love the Krug. After a few more bottles including a Selosse, we finished off with a fine Australian Muscat which was perfectly paired with two types of brownies which were killer.
If I wasn't so tired, I'd prefer notes on all. I have been sipping a freshly opened "pre-release" bottling of 2003 Quinta do Noval LBV and although I have jotted down some notes, I'll have to add to them tomorrow and the next day in order to provide a great TN for this one. I am off to Edmonton on Friday to hang out with my good friend Richard and his family, deliver a Port presentation of 8 top notch bottles of 1994 VP. A freshly killed moose loin awaits for one of the meals, what do you pair with that? And on that note ...