Why Big Red Diary?

Marvellous Montrachet

drc montrachet
Do you think that three bottles was too much(?) I have to say my first tasting of the fabulous Montrachet from our old friends in Vosne-Romanée left an indelible mark on my palate – or at least on the ‘poor’ Echézeaux that followed it – more info on this tasting in July’s Burgundy-Report.

Kent Rasmussen – burgundy-ish!

kent My first Kent Rasmussen Carneros Pinot Noir was a 1996 that I bought in 1999. I was immediately impressed by a well integrated tasty wine with everything in the right place. Having picked up a bottle or two of a few following vintages I decided it was time to check them out…

In distance Carneros is very close to Napa, but as far as the climate is concerned they are very, very different. Carneros has no protection from the cool winds coming from the San-Francisco bay, this coupled with frequent fogs that also block the sunlight means the average temperatures are significantly lower.

Celia Ramsay, Kent’s wife, is the inspiration behind the label of a number of single varietal wines that Kent Rasmussen releases each year – since 1989 all called Ramsay. I well remember my introduction to Kent’s wines with the 1996 Ramsey Pinot Noir – all chunky and fun. I found a Ramsey Petite Syrah a bit too spicy, but loved the 1996 Ramsey Reserve Napa Valley Syrah. To this day, Kent still bottles a few barrels of ‘something interesting’ under the Ramsey label.

We probably have a high school foreign exchange program (that landed Kent in Germany with a winemaking family) to thank for these bottles. Though he returned to UC Berkeley to complete his degree, the die was cast, he even found time and cash to plant six acres of pinot noir in 1979 in the Carneros region – almost unheard of at the time. As soon as he finished at Berkley he moved to UC Davis to do a BSc in Enology.

Other experience came in the form of vintages in the US, South Africa and the Barossa Valley before finally starting out for himself in 1986 – I guess his vines were now becoming productive. Kent had also planted another two acres of pinot in 1981 and then again in 1986.

Having outgrown the modest early premises (a tractor shed) the current facility in St Helena was opened in 1995.

The wines…
1999 Kent Rasmussen, Carneros Pinot Noir Medium-plus ruby red, shows little obvious sign of age. The sweet nose shows a non-Burgundian profile with coffee, plum, and a little black cherry. The palate is round and fat with nice, sweet fruit. The tannin is well disguised but personally I would have liked just a little more acidity. There’s subtle oak on the palate still, but it’s very well managed. A very tasty wine with lovely pinot texture.

1998 Kent Rasmussen, Carneros Pinot Noir Medium ruby moving through blood red to amber at the rim. The nose has almost effervescent plum fruit – really very forward – slowly becoming more high toned with cooked, creamy raspberry tart. The palate is sweet with even a trace of blackberry, good acidity that makes this quite succulent together with still slightly furry tannin. The fruit has good concentration but turns a little bitter on the long finish – I think this is still from oak. Some of the parts are better, but the overall package doen’t quite match the 1999.

1997 Kent Rasmussen, Carneros Pinot Noir Medium plus ruby red core, showing a browner rim. The nose starts with forward sweet plum, develops some sweet chocolatey coffee notes and eventually a little red cherry. I remember that on release this had higher acidity than the 96 and I thought just a little more ‘burgundian’. Today the acidity is just a little prickly and volatile but after an initial bitter phase to the finish the wine rounds out quite well despite the volatility.

1996 Kent Rasmussen, Carneros Pinot Noir Medium ruby with a definite aged look about the rim. The nose starts with plum, dried fruits; raisins and cherries – after an hour, more subdued, alcoholic, and powdery. The palate has some fat and very good acidity that makes for quite a fresh wine with a reasonably succulent face. The tannin is still there, but in the background. Whilst not as volatile as the ’97 the acidity does seem to stick out slightly – but it didn’t distract from my enjoyment – a very nice finish too.

East London

swiss reI had a really great Tuesday this week.

It started with the first of two opportunities to taste the new release from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the 2001’s. This was courtesy of Corney and Barrow at their splendid new home close to the Tower of London.

More about the wines in due course in the Burgundy-Report.

It was the first time I’ve spent any time in this part of London and it’s quite unlike the the major shopping bits, history and great architecture (new and old) all around you. I spent an absorbing 3 hours just wandering… aimlessly but enjoyably.   It was just a short walk to Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and then into the ‘real’ City of the exchanges and banks – superb architecture from the Orwellian (1984) Adelaide House to Sir Norman Fosters new piece of penis envy – the Swiss Re building – actually more like a patchwork marrow, but striking all the same. Then there’s the history of the old churches – St Dunstans and St. Magnus the Martyr. Then onto the Sir Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren Monument to the Great Fire of London – a mini Nelson’s column surmounted by what looks like a golden thistle – actually flames rendered in copper. I spent close to two hours in the tasting room then another three wandering through the streets – despite the cold weather a great day.


arnoux suchotsThe Devonshire Arms.

That Sunday lunch was going to be a real treat was instantly confirmed as I tucked into the amuse bouche; a tiny Shepherds Pie!

Of course the 2000+ bin wine selection – a ‘tome’ roughly as thick as a breeze block – had already whetted the appetite and I chose a half bottle of 1999 Saint Aubin to be followed by the 1988 Vosne-Romanée 1er Suchots from Robert Arnoux.

The 3 course menu (plus an intermediate veloute of white beans) had plenty of choice and came in at quite a reasonable £27.50 – reasonable for a place with a Michelin star anyway!

I had dourade followed by venison and a vanilla-thing desert – very nice.

The wine was pretty good, but not up to the standard of the (Robert Arnoux) domaine’s current reputation.

Definitely worth a trip

Tasteless Wine

The traditional Christmas cold is upon me, but this year it is not the normal opportunity to waste nice bottles that you can’t taste. It seems that this year I can still taste and sniff – I just cough afterwards! Have a great holiday period.

best wine of 2003…

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
La Tâche

I suppose February was a little early for an entry in this page, but then again it’s not every day that you get to taste La Tâche. Even from such a young vintage as 2000, there is something quite special about this precocious wine. This was tasted along with the other reds from the domaine in 2000, courtesy of Corney and Barrow> in the UK. La Tâche and Romanée-Conti were head and shoulders above the other wines, which I would ‘merely’ class as excellent, but these two were very special. Apparently La Tâche is usually the most ‘showy’ of the wines when young, and that was certainly the case for this tasting, hence, it’s inclusion ahead of the Romanée-Conti.

The Grand Cru
In the very heart of Vosne-Romanée lies this special piece of ground. La Tâche is a ‘Monopole’ vineyard of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti; that is to say that they own the vineyard in its entireity, so you won’t find any other producers of this wine. As vineyards go at this rareified level, it’s actually quite a large size, covering 6.06 hectares, or 14.4 acres. From the 46 year-old vines, the domiane had a relatively high yield of 32.65 hectolitres per hectare in 2000, producing a little over 2,000 cases. If the vineyard of Romanée-Conti did not exist, this would be the finest Burgundy in the world.

The Wine
Deep cherry red colour. The nose is at first disappointingly understated and faintly spicy, but with swirling; first red cherry, then black cherry, then blackcurrant, then kirsch, hints of vanilla, then orange – something new every sniff – then the nose goes deeper, showing a little plum and coffee – frankly stunning, who needs to drink this wine? A fat, sappy palate with very concentrated fruit, tannins that are more silk than velvet and a multitude of flavours playing over your tongue – fantastic texture. The maximum interest for me right now is the aromatics, but this is exceptional wine by any measure.

Glossary of Wine Terms

What does that word mean? Jamie has the answer for you – a really super resource that I will have to link by a more permanent means – well done Mr Goode.


Last week I enjoyed a nice Japanese lunch with Mr Martin and Mr Goode where we put the world to right and I drank tea – funny old world. Then the dastardly Mr Martin encouraged me to buy a bottle of 1991 Chambolle-Musigny – that was corked – bugger!

Maps! Maps! Maps!

With my thanks to the team at Kobrand and to Michael Juhn the artist responsible, the Burgundy Report now has a wonderful cartographical resource for the region – check it out!


dragonsSo, a two week blast through a few bits of ‘Greater China’. I started in Taipei (Taiwan), which has a lovely easygoing feeling about it and lots of Japanese influence if the number of restaurants is anything to go by. Many goods are more expensive than Europe, though not outrageously so if compared to most Asian ‘capitol’ cities. A place I really enjoyed visiting. I think it’s next month that Taipei 101 is officially opened and will take over as the world’s tallest building, even pre 9-11 this project was in doubt as the skyscraper was on the flight-path to the city airport and is located close to a fault line – also I was told it required an additional 60m erection on the roof to take the ‘tallest’ title. If these giant erections are the sign of vigorous economies then the next stop-off of Shanghai is an eye-opener in terms of the massive apartment blocks, offices and factories which are springing up everywhere; if the traffic allows(!) you can travel for an hour in almost any direction but will still be surrounded by giant construction works, civil, commercial or domestic – frankly it’s amazing – and business profits in China are up by almost 50% so far this year when compared to last! Next, and last hotel stop is Guangzhou in southern China. Also a place which has seen rampant development in the last 10 years, smaller and perhaps better planned than Shanghai, a place that even I might consider driving in! Apart from the occasional snake there’s nothing too much in Shanghai cuisine to frighten the ‘western’ traveller, southern Cantonese cuisine can offer a few more challenges though. Despite demonstrating that I was prepared to try just about anything my local team acted as ‘filters’ only telling me afterwards that they’d decided not to order the ducks’ tongues or ‘spare bits’ plus a few I won’t mention! On Thursday I took a fast train from Guangzhou to Shenzhen, which is close to Hong-Kong. Shenzhen is just one more in a long list of very modern Chinese cities – I particularly enjoyed the view from the train window, as for about 1½ hours new China blended into old, then back to new. A memorable night playing dice with the locals in an upmarket bar before 20 hours, 3 flights, 2 taxis and my own bed. . . . . . .


I’m not able to add much at the moment as I’m deep into travelling in Asia visiting customers. Staying at a cool place though – les suites taipei – here until Sunday morning then off to Shanghai. Might get chance to checkout the winelist tonight. So far a mixture of Japanese, Euro-Japanese and Dim-Sum cuisine – nice city too.

Dinner in Glasgow

Well, not only did they let me into the UK, they even let me into Scotland too. Seems there’s also a chance for me to go home on Sunday – so that was nice! Last night there was a trace of indulgement – 1* Michelin Restaurant – Braidwoods – just beautifully cooked food with lovely flavours. Oh and did I forget to mention: ’91 Ravennau Chablis, Haut-Brion Blanc et rouge, ’91 de Vogüé Musigny, ’90 DRC Richebourg, ’61 Montrose, ’82 Pichon, ’86 Hill of Grace, ’83 Yquem – and others. Today and I’ll try and reduce my intake – yeah right!!!

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