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OL' RELIABLE. (February 12, 2005) Is it
okay to like France again? I sure hope so. There's so much great Bordeaux
that wants drinking. Mostly we lapped up Pauillac this evening, but the
others weren't shabby either:
**1986 Château Pichon-Lalande.
Now that the '86 is mature, I can't say that it quite hits the hype. By itself, this bottle's
beautiful — layered,
sweet and gracious. Deepens with airing, so maybe the tannins are still
a hidden factor. But it finishes thin and doesn't seem the equal of...
***1989 Château Pichon-Lalande.
Good as the initial reviews were, this vintage of PL was underrated.
It's fragrant with violets, plush as velvet, singing like a violin. The
texture alone pushes it ahead of the 1986. But it's also deeper, more
complex. I could stay with this lady all night.
Pichon-Lalande is still an astonishing overachiever. I just wish I'd
bought another case at the $17.50 issue price. How full! How fruity! How
well it's held up! At least one taster likes it best, but it's not quite
as ripe as the other two.
***+1990 Grand Puy Lacoste gets my vote for wine of the evening.
Every time I sample this winner, it noses ahead of its last performance.
Never thought it would best '89 Pichon-Lalande, but now there's no denying
it. Full of black fruit and blueberries, with lots of goodies in
reserve. Must try it alongside '90 Pichon-Baron and Latour.
**++1990 Château Leoville Las
Cases disappoints only a smidgeon. The minerals, meat and huckleberry are
here. But isn't there something
missing? Where's the oomph of great Las Cases? Am I falling out of love
with this producer or is it the bottle?
And how sweet it is to find **++1998 Ducru Beaucaillou in
pristine condition. Not even a trace of the mustiness that plagued so
many earlier vintages. This is gorgeous. Silky and stuffed with
briary berries. Earthy undertones. Miles to go.
B, B & B. (February
7, 2005) Phooey on the food pyramid. Cold snaps cry out for red
meat, right? Cab & Cow's awfully nice, but so is B, B & B -- Beef,
Burgundy and Bordeaux.
We sampled these whites with our starters:
So full, soft
and laden with minerals and apples, it out-Rhônes
white Rhônes. Long and lush. As the
evening wears on, just gets better. Drink now.
***-1996 Chandon de Briailles Corton Charlemagne.
**++1996 Marc Colin Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets. Couldn't
be more different than the CC. More acidic and focused, with flavors of
gun flint, citrus and a hint of tropical fruit. Sort of reminds me of a
Peter Michael Chard, which I count high praise.
Then came the main event:
**1996 Rouget Vosne Romanee. Very pure and fruity, with a hint of
cinnamon. Brings to mind an outstanding Pinot from the Russian River
Valley, but for a hint of sweat. Lots of stuffing and expands
impressively as the evening wears on.
**-1990 J-M Gaunoux Corton Renardes. Served blind, I guess this
to be a Grand Gru from the early 1990s -- lucky, but it does have that
sort of complexity. Shows its age at first, but ultimately the fruit
shines through. Aromas of autumn leaves, followed by flavors of
grenadine and cherry kirsch.
**+1990 Haut Bailly. Give yourself a cigar if you bought this at
release. Tobacco aromas puff up from the glass and the flavors focus on
blackberries. At its peak of maturity. Finishes well. One taster who
tried it blind understandably guessed it to be Pape Clement or La
Mission Haut Brion. Terrific steak wine.
***+1990 La Conseillante. Silky and utterly seamless stuff,
caressing your senses with chocolate, raspberry, coffee, spice and many
more goodies. First you love the finesse, then you notice the power.
Finish just keeps rolling along.
RING IN THE OLD AND NEW. (January 16, 2005)
"Mature Gents vs. Young Turks" was our excuse for an evening of
opening favorite Cabs. Half were ‘91s or older — the rest ‘96 or
younger. I’d say the generations fought to a draw, despite my growing
appetite for younger wines. Here’s how I score the bout, anyhow:
1. The White Flight
*+1996 Verget Puligny Montrachet "Sous Les Puits." Nice
juice in its way, but I must say I expect more from a Verget Puligny.
Plenty of minerals, ample length, but a tad too racy even for me, and
some acid-averse tasters make faces.
*++2002 Turley "The White Coat." My favorite blond
tonight, with its white peach and apricot flavors. However, this is
clearly the weakest White Coat from Turley to date. Hope the next
vintage recaptures the oomph of that tasty 2000.
*+1997 Nicolas Joly "Becherelle." Opens strangely with
hints of sherry, although I detect no oxidation. With airing, the
oddities fade and generous pear flavors come to the front. Pals up
pretty well with our pear and pecan salad.
2. Mature Gents
**1988 Ridge Montebello continues to surprise and delight.
Brutally panned by the influential, the wine went for fire-sale prices
— I loved it and finished my last one years ago. A guest provides this
bottle, which proves just as delicious as ever. Understandably, it’s
the furthest-along in the flight, with notes of strawberry, cedar and a
dollop of dill sauce.
***+1991 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The class of
the flight, and a champ that could hold its head high in any company.
When Mondavi Reserve is on its game, there’s no more pure and focused
expression of California Cabernet. This, the ‘87 and the ‘94 are my
favorites. No tricks, no exotics, nothing but perfectly ripe Cab flavors
and a walloping finish. Mature, but with miles to go.
***-1991 Caymus Special Selection. If sheer size were all, this
bottle might well have won the flight. Lots of fruit, lots of depth,
impressively youthful, but too much oak for my palate. I wouldn’t call
it flawed, but find myself coming back to the Mondavi, not this.
3. Young Turks
**++2001 Tor Clone 4 may not be for the ages, but so what? I LOVE
IT! CrPme de cassis,
raspberry Chambord, cranberry, licorice and other yums contend on the
palate. Yeah, it’s young, but so seductive right now, I plan to
consume my remaining bottle soon. Doesn’t quite have depth of
the next two, but some tonight prefer this starlet.
***+1996 Peter Michael "Les Pavots" really needs more
attention than we’re giving it. Packed up and chocolatey, only
gradually releasing its treasures. Eventually sugar plums dance on the
palate and linger long. Gorgeous wine.
**+1997 Catena Alta Zapata Vineyard (Mendoza), served blind,
fools experienced tasters. They’re certain it’s California — but
once you know what it is, you can find a few hints. Earthiest wine on
the table, laden with dark fruit, meat and minerals. Wonder if there’s
any Malbec in the blend.
4. And the Winners...?
I keep saying that some evening we should just feast on nuts, cheese,
sweets and dessert wines. The following make a strong argument for this
**+1994 Château Tirecul La
Gravieres is bursting with honey, kumquat and dried apricot. Sweet
as all get out, but so beautifully tuned, you come back for sip after
sip. Lovely match to our custard tart, as is...
***+R. L. Buller & Son Calliope "Rare Liqueur Muscat." I
won’t say it’s quite as profound as a 100-year-old Madeira, but
the complexity and length seem to approach that celestial level this
evening. Figs galore, pecan pie, Christmas pudding — how the heck do they
get all that into one little bottle?
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