We need a good excuse for a summertime Port party in Seattle and the FTLOP anniversary is as good a reason as any we can come up with.
This year was no different and although we had a slightly smaller crowd than in years past, the good news is that we were finished by midnight for the first time … well … ever. Then again we got started in the late afternoon. People flew in from the East coast and CA but proportionately, we had a larger group from Washington this year and even my wife Dorene joined us for a change. Normally, she tires of all the wine yakety-yak, but with so many women in attendance this year, she figured it would be safe and discussions would drift to other topics. Little did she know -- this particular group of local Port lovers is filled with very serious Port-centric female aficionados who attend our tastings quite often. They absolutely love to talk about Port, no less drink it!
We gathered at a local hotel in Issaquah, where we do many of our tastings, as it is conveniently located on the Eastside, less than a half hour from downtown Seattle and close to where many of us live. For the out-of-towners who join us, the guest rooms are comfortable and it is just blocks away from the Interstate and in the midst of restaurants, a movie theater and even Costco. The hotel provides the essentials and a comfortably large banquet room, access to the kitchen when we need it and always have the room set up for us. The fact that they’re happy to allow us to bring in as many bottles of Port and Madeira as we’d like, without any corkage fee, keeps us all coming back for more.
Thirteen guests and fifteen bottles of Vintage and Colheita Ports arrived, including two bottles of Madeira at the very end. The set up was simple: three flights of five glasses per person. After the first two flights, we stopped for a dinner break. An outside caterer prepared our dinner; actually a lovely Goan chef friend of mine, Edna Noronha, who made a totally mild version of her Tikka Masala chicken, which in the restaurant is called African Chicken on the menu. (Any locals looking for amazing Portuguese cuisine infused with Indian flavors, check out Max’s Cafe).
Normally we just have pizzas brought in at the end of our Port shindigs, but this was much nicer and Edna’s food is incredibly flavorful. After a break for an hour or so, everyone was eager to return to our last flight of Port, which also included two glasses of Madeira to end the evening.
One of our guests and FTLOP Forum-ite, Melanie Renk is now studying to be a pastry chef, although she’s worked in restaurant/catering facilities in that capacity before; her official pastry chef classes began in September. In fact, my daughter has taken a cake baking and decorating “class” and was so inspired by Melanie that ever since, she’s been dreaming of combining her art talent with baking and following in Melanie’s footsteps. Now she is addicted to the TV show, “Top Chef – Just Desserts.” But I digress. For dessert, Melanie baked an Italian cream cake with coconut, pecans and brown sugar buttercream with Port-inspired logos and artwork. As amazing as it looked, it tasted even better. Thanks again, Melanie!!! The pictures above and below show some of her creativity … and ALL of it was edible!
At the end of each flight we had discussions on each specific wine and everybody had an opportunity to share their thoughts on the Ports, (and Madeiras) and provide scores if they so desired. FTLOP’s Port loving friends will be shown, interspersed with the tasting notes that follow, along with a few other photos of bottles and of the evening’s fun. I’m already looking forward to next year’s party!
Here now, the wines in order of our consumption
1950 Croft Vintage Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. An uncommon VP for sure and a nice way to get the party started. A slightly cloudy, medium brown color with a golden edge. I think I would’ve been much more forgiving had this been a Colheita. Aromatically it was pleasant enough with Asian spice, green tea, brown sugar, molasses, maple and a charred wood element to it. On the bright side there was a richness and great acidity, with luscious figs, marzipan, cinnamon toast and citrus flavors which lent a great deal of complexity to the whole. But this profile would have had me guessing a 1937 Moreira Colheita, given the appearance/nose/palate. I never would have guessed a Vintage Port, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, it was an “odd duck” bottle and I liked the taste; regardless that it depicted a poorly stored or over the hill VP. The finish was quite good with additional hints of clove, toffee and raisins providing for a delicious, long aftertaste. Others seemed to enjoy it as well. I’ve never had this vintage of Croft before, so I don’t know if it’s representative of the 1950 or not. 88 points 7/30/11
1966 Dow Vintage Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. My 3rd time drinking the 1966 Dow in 2011. The axiom, “there are no great wines, just great bottles” fit like a glove. I remember the bottle I opened with Sean/Christine/Glenn in late January (w/red wax capsule) which was fantastic and this didn’t measure up, but was still solid. Medium scarlet color with slight bricking on the pink edge. Initially some light spirit on the nose that mostly blew off, along with peppery spice and straw-berry fruit. The palate was quite good, just not great, and more mature than best bottles. Dark cherry, kirsch, espresso, and spicy warming spirit in the middle and end. Medium-bodied, smooth, with mild tannins surviving on the generous long finish. This too had a red wax seal. 91 points 7/30/11
1966 Fonseca Vintage Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Decanted for 5 ½ hours. Garnet color with a light pink meniscus. A stylish, evolved nose of baking spices, tobacco and blood orange. Elegance in a glass, but lacking some of the power and vibrancy of perfectly stored bottles which have lots of life ahead. This was more subdued and sensual, feminine in style and medium weight. Delivering fleshy dry prune, figs and a backdrop of toffee, firm acidity and very light, fully resolved tannins. Mostly mature with a suave mid-palate and long, rich finish. 93 points 7/30/11
1966 Taylor Vintage Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. The best VP in the flight and one of the three best Ports of the night. The core is medium-dark burgundy color with a wide orange-bricking outer edge. Early on there was an odd sulfur note, but fortunately it was gone within ten minutes of being poured into the glass. Accented bouquet of savory herbs, eucalyptus, figs and nutty toffee are exotic and intricate. Fuller, richer and more powerful than the Fonseca, in this case. Bold ‘n spicy, with layers of mocha, dates, prune, with extraordinary viscosity and deft balance. Assertive, yet juxtaposed vs. soft sublime silkiness, vibrant acidity and round tannins which will allow this to mature gracefully for another fifteen years, likely more. An excellent bottle with a persistent sweet cocoa-caramel finish. Spellbound, I almost went to 96 points, but held back at 95+ points 7/30/11
1970 Graham’s Vintage Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Always a crowd pleaser; deservedly in the top tier of 1970 Vintage Ports. The darkest/richest/reddest color of all VP’s at this event w/ strawberry rim. Weird nose: iodine, beef blood, vitamin pill, smoky raspberry and chocolate aromas. The palate is better, medium-full-bodied, sweet, ripe redcurrant flavor with a hot and spirity streak which partially melds with the fruit. I’ve had much better showings of this Port, but this is still rather enjoyable, albeit quirky. Examining the structure, both the acidity and tannins are in synch with the latter showing moderate grip and slightly granular. The finish is very long and softly textured, but there’s a warm and bitter note on the very end that I would say is “medicinal.” I want to like this a lot more, but there are a few little peculiar traits tied to this specific bottle. Regardless, it still shows very young with two decades of life ahead. 91+ points 7/30/11
1924 Orlando (Fernandes Costa) Colheita Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. This was one of the bottles I put into the mix, thinking it may have been a Vintage Port and I have never found anything about the producer. Dark amber with an apple green edge. Apparent from the get go (once open) that it was a Colheita; Labeled “Vintage 1924.” Mature/developed and lifted bouquet of baked apple, pine resin, mint, black tea and orange preserves. The palate also emits an ancient character with tasty rum cake, maple bar, candied hazelnut and marmalade flavors that are a bit too sweet given the light acidity which struggles to keep it from cloying. It’s light in weight, with a modicum of complexity in the middle and a rather short-medium length nutty, but clipped finish. Worth the gamble, but nothing more than an interesting science experiment. 83 points 7/30/11
1937 Warre’s Reserve Tawny (Colheita) Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. It seems like I get to taste this rarity about two years apart, right around the early part of the summer; although this is only my 4th experience overall. For a shipper known for Vintage and not Colheita, er, Reserve Port, Warre sure hit a home run with this slugger. And this bottle (from 1997 or 14 years in bottle/ 60 in wood) was no exception. In fact, the consistency between all four examples is astounding given its age. Dark maple color with golden-green rim. Providing profound pungency to my proboscis with scents of cinnamon toast, saline, ethereal VA (in a good way … like Madeira), herbal tea, balsamico, apricot marmalade and aguardente. As much as I liked drinking this Port, I would’ve (almost) been just happy nosing it for ten minutes, to come up with a new note with every whiff. The palate is excellent, but here the aromatics stole the show! It is medium weight, seemingly lighter and vinous with torrefacted flavors, cashew and dried apricot. Racy and smooth with electric acidity and a super long, warm and orange-caramel infused finish which lasts as long as necessary to take the next sip. 95 points 7/30/11
1951 Kopke Colheita Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Only my 2nd experience with this Colheita, the previous time was a memorable bottle consumed in Cancun last Thanksgiving. Orange-amber hue with a broad golden meniscus. Not a bad 60 year old; intentionally bottled in 2010 to attract those celebrating special birthdays or anniversaries in 2011. Heady perfumed notes of VA, orange blossom, maple, walnut, lemon peel and fennel. Like Madeira, I typically find more to describe aromatically then I do with most Vintage Ports. The palate was framed by razor-edged acidity which checked the sweetness of the honey, ripe nectarine, walnut and crème-brûlée flavors. Soft and feminine, with an explosive mid-range and crazy long finish, this Kopke is a finely tuned thoroughbred that will impress anyone remotely interested in wood-aged Port. 95 points 7/30/11
1952 Dalva “Golden White” – (Colheita) Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Bottled in 2008. One can never own too many bottles of this ethereal elixir, it’s just not possible. As of this writing (in late Oct. 2011) there are less than 300 liters of this juice left in a single pipe at Dalva’s Lodge in Gaia. Revealing fragrances of golden raisins, quince, and clove intermixed with grapefruit and frankincense. Wow! The flavor profile is equally enthralling and rarely does White Colheita top this. An extraordinary mélange of pecan, white peach, grapefruit pith, mango, and quince marmalade keep the salivary glands working on overtime thanks to the mouth puckering lemony acidity. But the citrus – nutty -- tropical interplay is only bested by the prodigious mink-like mouthfeel that is all about finesse and elegance. Enough of the superlatives? After the hedonistic 1937 Warre’s and 1951 Kopke we drank before this Port, it is unbelievable that the 1952 Dalva was not only able to hold its own, but win the game-set-match! Sorry folks, it’s only available in Portugal, and not for much longer. 96 points 7/30/11
1953 Royal Oporto Colheita Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Royal Oporto, better known as Real Companhia Velha, bottled this in 2006. Guests knew we were at a unique tasting when realizing we had 1951-1952-1953 Colheitas in consecutive glasses. I doubt that any of us will experience this rare troika of vintages, ever again. The two Ports that preceded this one caused the usually impressive 1953 to seem ordinary by comparison. It started all wrong from the first whiff. Along with mahogany, mandarin orange and a roasted note, I smelled vitamins and agreed when someone else at the table mentioned “pleather” (as in plastic-leather). Light in viscosity, but it seemed to be bordering on syrupy, as the acidity here could not match up to the cut of the others. The flavors were excellent, but dominated by nutty pralines, almonds, pumpkin pie and brown sugar, almost too sweet though. The finish normally would have been very good, but again, it paled in comparison to the previous duo. Bad timing I guess, but it’s a solid Colheita. 92 points 7/30/11
1957 Kopke Colheita Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Bottled in 2007. Interesting that I just wrote up a note (later in this newsletter) on the awe inspiring 1952 Kopke, which this often competes with, but even though 1957 is my birth year, I do prefer the older vintage. Extremely dark amber color and golden edge. Expressive notes of herbs, butterscotch, burnt sugar and roasted nuts. The palate is medium-bodied and understated, delicate, almost buttery smooth, intricately layered with green caramel apple, praline, apricot jam and toasted almond flavors. It’s surprisingly light in acidity, but this Kopke had just enough oomph to remain lip-smacking and delicious with a sumptuous mouthfeel and ridiculously long finish. I’d drink this any day of the week! 94 points 7/30/11
1960 Krohn Colheita Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Bottled in 2006. The last time I had this was nearly a decade ago and it did not wow me back then, at least that bottle didn’t. This is a few shades darker than the Kopke 1957; coffee/molasses brown with a golden-amber rim. It delivers a reductive nose of soy and teriyaki sauces, potpourri, toasted almonds and a tangy streak of citrus peel. As breathtaking as an extreme rollercoaster ride, the palate of the ’60 Krohn dazzles with intensity due to the laser focused cutting edge of the acidity. Beyond the cut is a rich, chewy and velvety textured crème brûlée-like profile with chocolate nuttiness, tangerine sweet and sour, and maple syrup drizzled on slowly to add an extra layer that lingers on the profound, delicate finish. This was the winning Port of the entire tasting and a huge surprise at that (at least for me!). Sheer elegance in a glass! 97 points 7/30/11
1964 Kopke Colheita Port – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. Bottled in 2004. It feels like the first time and I know this is one Kopke that I’ve never had until now. Leave it to me to forget to note the color. Hopefully, I’ll get to taste this again someday. On the heels of the Krohn from 1960, this initially comes off seemingly simple and flabby. It took several sips for my palate to adjust to the gentler acidity. In its own right, this is a fine Colheita and had the stuffing and the requisite structure indeed. Framed by light viscosity and soft but crisp acidity, this Kopke delivers concentrated sweet and tangy flavors of apricot preserves, white sultanas, toasted almond, brown sugar and grapefruit pith. The bittersweet nature of this Port provides the palate with complexity and refinement, texturally soft and a Colheita with great finesse. It finishes long and with more nuttiness than fruit on the aftertaste. I have experienced very few Ports of any kind from this rare vintage. 91 points 7/30/11
Rare Wine Company Historic Series “New Orleans” Special Reserve, Medium Dry Madeira – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. One of my last three bottles from the 1st bottling; I’d not opened one in several years and felt like this was the right occasion to do so. A blend of 25% Terrantez (1977 Barbeito Terrantez), but mostly TNM and a small percentage of Sercial. Golden-tawny, with light orange meniscus. Fragrant hickory wood, honey, pipe tobacco, lemon peel, pain grillé and sea salt provide panache to the multifaceted bouquet. Loaded with minerality, and mostly dry flavors of golden raisin, walnut skin, lemon-lime, dried apricot and cooked onion, all supported by citrusy acid which adds precision to the palate. Light in weight and silky textured, this bottling has really impressed me from day one, with its layered middle and long decadent finish. 75 cases were blended for The RWC by Barbeito. My last two bottles of six that I’ve owned, will be deeply treasured. 91+ points 7/30/11
1934 Leacock’s SJ Madeira – FTLOP 6th Anniversary Celebration. SJ refers to the 5.2 hectare São João (St. John) vineyard, privately owned at the time by the Leacock's family. Light orange color with apple green edge. Not a blockbuster but the heady bouquet won me over with a classy roasted earth/espresso note, more like creosote, intricately infused with sandalwood, cigar box, saline, coconut and citrus peel. Brilliant! The well-defined fruit driven flavors fall between Verdelho and Bual, revealing mandarin orange, lemon meringue, bitter walnut skin, sea salt, and a noticeably dry, focused attack from refreshing citrus-laden acidity. Moderately complex in the middle and the finish is significantly tart and tangy, rich, creamy and extremely long. 93+ points 7/30/11
Thank you to all who were able to come and join us this year. It was great to see some “first timers” and share in this fun celebration. We’re looking forward to do it again same time next year!