(These are my notes from our last Library Tasting (this past Saturday.) Bear in mind that these comments were written in order to give those in attendance a sense of the wine prior to tasting it. Also, it may have been five years or so since I had tasted some of these.)
This wine is a nice way to start the evening; the Allegro Rieslings have always been about balance. They are modeled on Rheingau Rieslings, but as they age tend toward Mosel as the acidity becomes more pronounced without the primary fruit to complement it. This wine was made in the Kabinett style with a Sussreserv. Look for crispness and slight oily notes.
1997 Reserve Chardonnay
For years, Allegro Reserve Chardonnays have been barrel-fermented and aged in French oak barrels. This example is no exception. 1997 was a balanced growing season, and the acid balance of this wine has always been spot-on for those that like that sort of things. Very classically built. John used to refer to barrel-fermenting as “bullet-proofing” a wine. It was meant for aging, if you like that sort of thing. This wine is still lively and its complexity continues to grow.
1988 Reserve Chardonnay
Usually this wine is a real surprise, showing brightness and structure belying its near-twenty years. Back in 2001, this was my first encounter with an older Allegro Chardonnay. It had the most honeyed character in a dry wine that I had ever tasted. John was immensely proud of it.
This was meant to be a one-off wine, but it now has a successor. It’s not truly an Allegro wine, but it does work as a stepping stone to older wines. The blend is a third each of Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
A Merlot in Bordeaux terms. Using primitive production methods and minimal handling, this wine is still a sleeper just starting to wake up. The primary fruit is fading, but the cocoa tannins are too enticing to make waiting possible. The inherent spiciness and perfume just suck me in. It’s finally starting to hit its stride and land where I wanted it to.
This wine has—from the beginning—been disjointed. The growing season was blistering, but was followed by the earliest frost on record (October 7th and 8th). Not enough hang time kept it from being the Cadenza we had hoped for, with strong acidity and tough tannins. John would have liked this as his everyday drinker.
The first Cadenza I ever tasted. I remember tasting it in 2001, complete with a massive head-cold, and being blown away by its tannic structure. I was in love. (Next, John broke out a ’91, and I was head over heels….) The ’97 has always been a tough wine, a masculine wine. It’s not easy, it’s not fun. It’s mental. It’s weird that way. This wine has a litheness and balance that reeks of austerity and monasteries, as well as a deliberate depth and spice.
For me, this has always been the “roasty’ Cadenza. I remember back in 2002 having a bottle with John at a Chef Series dinner and thinking it was nearing its peak at the time. I think he’s right, as the acid is starting to rise and the wine is getting tougher and tougher. But the perfume usually opens my mind every time.
1985 Cabernet Sauvignon
So, this is not a Cadenza, nor is it a Reserve Cab. But I think it shows the strength of John’s winemaking and this vineyard site. This wine is usually showing a slight brickish rim with a nose full of spices and dirtiness. My kind of wine.
Then there’s this one. It’s already starting to exhibit the classic Allegro Cadenza aromas. It’s not the tannic monster John created when he was here, although the tannins are prominent. There’s a balance to this wine that just moves me. It’s like standing on the shoulders of a tightrope walker, knowing that you won’t fall. It’s classic, classic, classic.
And now for something completely different…… this is the third Aria made here. The first barrel-fermented Aria, in neutral, French oak barrels. Only aged for a year in the barrels in an effort to create a little richness in the wine. It’s not a true Eiswein, in that the grapes weren’t frozen on the vine. Instead it was cryo-extracted and bottled after a year of aging. This wine was my first attempt at modeling Sauternes. It should have mellowed and become richer by now.
--January 19, 2013--