The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2013

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Page 30 of 152

SAN FRAN INSIDER Looking Back and Looking Forward PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG TASTINGS WITH SANDEMAN AND VENTISQUERO by Deborah Parker Wong L PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG A charismatic George Sandeman presented more than 50 years of vintage port history. Ventisquero's Felipe Tosso is working to identify Chile's best terriors for Pinot Noir. ike photographs from a family reunion, vertical tastings tell a story. They draw us into their collective history through multiple generations some of which are clearly related while others seem only vaguely similar. And, like the oldest members of a family, time-honored vintages are themselves a living history. As chairman of the house of Sandeman, the candid and engaging George Sandeman is certainly one of the port industry's most charismatic historians. For a rare tasting devoted solely to vintage ports at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Sandeman selected top wines from each decade from 1950 through and including 2011. The wines had been decanted two days in advance of the tasting and the context that Sandeman offered up on each made for a wonderful living history lesson. Every wine—1955, 1963, 1977, 1980, 1997, 2007, 2011—marked a moment in time for Sandeman or the industry that made tasting them even more significant. As the last vintage bottled at the company's cellars in London, which now houses the just-opened Sign of the Don restaurant, the 1955 was delicate and persistent with dark cherry, dusty cocoa and Ricola-like flavors of horehound, peppermint, sage and thyme. Sandeman, who joined the company in 1980, was involved in the release of the 1977, which marked the point when vintage wines were no longer held in the cellar and sold upon release. With savory roasted meat and coffee aromas, the 1977 was very lean and spicy showing black pepper and a creamy, cherry vanilla finish. The final wine of the evening, the chocolate, raspberry, smoke, earth and mineral 2011, was upstaged when an unbalanced tray sent a cascade of vintage port down the decolletage and, fortunately, black dress of a good-humored guest. The oldest vintages of Concha y Toro's Don Melchor, wines that have been crafted by winemaker Enrique Tirado since 1987 (see the story by Elizabeth Kate on page 114), provided the perfect segue for a tasting with former Conch y Toro winemaker Felipe Tosso. As head winemaker for Ventisquero, Tosso has collaborated with John Duval, whose tenure at Penfolds is legendary, for the last decade producing wines that demonstrate some of the best winegrowing and winemaking in Chile. Tosso, one of a group of 20 winemakers who have been working to improve the quality of Chile's Pinot Noir, found an ideal site for the variety at Ventisquero's Tapihue vineyard on land that was once a former gold mining area in Casablanca. The newly-released 2010 Herú ($49) has typicity with tart dark cherry, earth, leather and lighter, resolved tannins but is clearly New World. "By 2011 we had identified around 20 of the best terroirs for Pinot Noir," said Tosso, who sees the wines gaining complexity as vines mature. Tosso looks to granitic sites in the highest areas of Apalta for Vertice 2008 ($40), an inspired blend of Carménère and Syrah. Gentle extraction is the key to the refined tannins found in the bigger reds, and he's adopted an air pulse technique that gently bubbles air underneath the cap during fermentation. Cabernetdominate Enclave, '10 ($74) showed layer upon layer of complexity with deep spice, expansive, pure fruit and signature resolved tannins. 30  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2013 TP1213_001-33.indd 30 11/22/13 8:38 PM

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