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SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, PART 1
(August 11, 2003) It was stinking hot and humid -- perfect weather for
beer or water. So we scampered indoors, cranked up the ac and opened a
bunch of big Bordeaux. How childish. How American. How perfectly
First come some whites, of which the winner on
my card is:
. Love their red, and this is my
first go with the Roussanne-based white. May not be for the ages, but
tonight it shoots out the lights. Very long. Generous flavors of ripe
white peaches and almonds, with a whiff of rose petal.
***2000 Grange des Peres Blanc
**2001 Turley White Coat is even riper, showing apricot and pear.
Texture plenty slippery, reasonably long, but can't quite best the GdP.
*+2000 Château Beaucastel Blanc
is either a compromised bottle or can't run with the big dogs. Nose of
pineapple and apple cider. Not nearly as much follow-through as its
**+1998 Chave Hermitage Blanc bests the GdP according to some, but
hey, the label's showing. I tend to think it just needs time in the cellar
-- or three hours in the glass, which we can't spare tonight. You mostly
taste it on the finish, which lasts a good long time.
**2001 Failla Vignier shows well, but excites some controversy.
Honeysuckle aromas, followed up by pineapple and apricot, with some butter
on the finish. Pineapple upside-down cake. Condrieu it ain't, but I like
it a lot.
Now for the main event:
***+1992 Matanzas Creek Merlot is served blind, which affords
some amusement. Half say Right Bank Bordeaux and the others guess
California Cab. No one dares utter the words California Merlot, which is
exactly what it tastes like, of course -- or would taste like if
everyone else in California made Merlot this good. Anyhow, this stuff is
finally hitting maturity and it's just fantastic. Mocha fudge-nut sundae
smothered in cherry kirsch. Mm-mm-mm-Mm-mm-Mm.
**-1984 Château Lynch-Bages
is also served blind, but the origin's obvious. What bamboozles us is
the much-shunned vintage. This wine is fresh, full and fruity -- no sign
of dilution of oxidation. My guess is 1988 Pauillac. Well, half right.
Great effort from Jean-Michel Cazes.
**+1982 Ducru Beaucaillou is dazzlingly pure. Ultra-ripe plums
and minerals. Might have claimed more attention if the next wine hadn't
***+1983 Château Margaux! Those
who call this Wine of Evening won't get much argument from me. Skitters
around the palate like a Bach fugue, volume gradually swelling, until
everyone is murmuring about it. Violet aromas emerge after half an hour.
Magnificent with our barbecued lamb.
***1990 Cos D'Estournel comes darned close to eclipsing the
Margaux. I was expecting a big hit of coffee bean, but the wine's more
mature than in previous tastings. There's still a hint of mocha, but
blackberry rules the palate now. Everything you could want in a Cos.
Seems to be at peak -- if you have any, open a bottle next time you've
got a steak on the grill.
**++1990 La Mission Haut Brion is plummy, cedary, lush and long.
Flavors of Christmas pudding with a whiff of cigar in the background.
***-1982 Gruaud Larose is, to my surprise, still pretty backward.
The earthy notes rule for about 45 minutes, whereupon black cherries and
figs pop out. Meaty flavors go well with lamb. Still a bit of grit on
the finish. I'd wait a couple years more before opening another.
***1982 Talbot is ready to rip and runs riot. Violets! Roast
pheasant! And yes -- the "s" word. Some vintages of Talbot
walk a little too far on the wild side, but this one plays the
brett game like a master. Is there anything left in that bottle?
***1989 Palmer might have knocked 'em dead on another night, but
here it's just another gorgeous face. Aromas of silverberry blossom and
sauteed mushroom. Licorice and damson plum on the palate. Starts out
pretty stiff, but broadens rapidly. Probably could use another few
And the Wine of the Evening on my card is the sensuous, silky, sexy,
cocoa-cassis and who-cares-what-else-it's-wonderful ***+1989 La
Conseillante! Something about this wine just slips past my guard and
seduces me. So much grace, yet so much oomph. Would love to try it some
evening alongside the divine 1990.
GOOD GRIEF, MORE CALIFORNIA
CABS? (July 20, 2003) Apologies for the excess, but this time I've
got a great excuse. Some friends of ours threw a dinner in honor of
Jean-Michel Cazes, proprietor of Bordeaux estates Château
Lynch-Bages and Les Ormes de Pez, among others. Heaven forbid he should
depart our fair city feeling thirsty. We opened...
1973 Ingleneuk Cask C3. More a curiosity than a truly really
enjoyable wine, but if you can get past the ashes, there's still some
blackberry underneath. The fruit gains on the oxidized flavors for about
half an hour, then quits. Might have impressed us more if the rest of
the lineup hadn't included...
**1991 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Aromas of iodine and
licorice give way to black cherry and graphite. Still some tannin on the
long finish, which may have marred its showing, as this wine is tasted
even before the appetizers show up. (If that sounds bizarre, well, maybe
***+1991 Château Montelena
Cabernet Sauvignon. This one's plenty backward too, but dominates the
flight. Essence of blackcurrant penetrates palate, period. Most of the
show is still packed away, but starts to seep out after half an hour.
That's all the time we have with it -- breaks my heart to dump it!
**+1991 Ridge Monte Bello. There's a little dill on the nose which
makes some tasters cock a snoot. And yes, there's a touch of butterscotch
-- that's the American oak. Get over it, guys, and get into the style.
Once it opens, this wine flows with fruit, broadens out on the palate and
trails gracefully. Just beginning to come into its own.
***+1992 La Jota Howell Mountain 11th Anniversary Release. Once
standoffish and bristling with tannin, this wine has shed most of its
prickles and whew -- how slinky and sexy can you get! Buckets of
blueberry and raspberry, and you never quite get to the bottom. Entering
its prime, where it seems destined to stay for quite some time.
***1994 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve shows
consistently with my notes of a few months ago. A classically built
California Cab, showing lots of cassis, shaded by herb. Pretty much ready
to drink, just as last time. Nothing bad to say about it -- just not quite
as powerful as the others in this flight.
***+1995 Araujo Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has not
been decanted, as it was when I tasted it a couple of months ago. Allowing
for this, it shows the same -- meaning you have to swirl for 30 minutes
before you get to the goodies. Chocolate-covered cherry cordial with
slight nuances of watermelon. Most backward wine of the flight. (Given
that we still don't have our appetizers, I'm amazed we can taste
these youngsters at all.)
***+1997 Pahlmeyer Merlot is the most accessible wine of the flight
-- even more so than the Mondavi. Very chocolatey, ripe, flamboyant. Like
chocolate-chip cookies smeared with plum jam, stuffed with a pecan or two.
***+1997 Peter Michael Les Pavots has not fallen apart as
some folks predicted a few years ago. Yep, the acidity's plenty low, but
the pleasure is coming on strong. Shoe polish, blueberry, lead pencil
and a floodtide of ultra-ripe blackcurrant. Would have been wine of the
flight but for...
***+1994 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Yet another
magnificent performance from what just may be my favorite California Cab
of all time. For all the supple tannin hidden below the fruit line, this
wine has never been anything but plush and welcoming. And the fruit never
quits -- layer upon layer of black cherries, dark cocoa, blackberry, more.
WINE OF THE EVENING on my card.
***-1997 Château St. Jean Cinq
Cepages has shown better on previous evenings. Perhaps it's the
company here -- don't know for sure, but it's still quite impressive. Like
the '91 Monte Bello, this wine is also shows a trace of dill. Mostly
though, it's a box of chocolates, with varying fruit centers.
**+1999 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon got rave notices from
tasters I trust, but this is my first whack at it. Well, I'm a little
disappointed. Could be that it's a tannic youngster, toward the end of
an evening of tannic youngsters. Bordelaise flavors, lots of lead
pencil. Don't get me wrong, it's plenty good -- but hmm, the earth isn't
moving. I've loved previous Quilceda Creek Cabs. Maybe this one simply
needs some serious decanting.
***+1999 Quintessa is far more flattering tonight. Tonight's also
my first fling with this babe and I'm wowed. Lots of concentration and
gorgeous balance. Flirts with overripeness, but gets away with it. My
notes say "REALLY GOOD" in caps. Guess that means it's really
***+1993 Turley Hayne Petite Syrah was intended to be the last red
of the evening, and that's as it should be. First, because the wine is
ENORMOUS -- maybe the biggest wine tonight. But also because it mugs your
palate while you're swimming around in the blueberry vat. I count myself
nearly immune to tannin, but even I get anaesthetized here. How do I know?
Because in comparison, even the next wine seems downright elegant. For all
that, I must confess I enjoy being kidnapped by this pirate. I'm
inventing a new award for it. BRUISER OF THE EVENING.
***+1994 Dominus is usually a heavyweight champ, and I'm sure it
would have been tonight, if its next-door neighbor weren't Turley Hayne
PS. The folks around me swirl, sniff -- say "Yeah, that's '94 Dominus"
-- and that's how I feel too. We recognize it's spectacular, but we're
numb. That's the way the cork crumbles. I had more fun from a ***1995
Dominus opened last night -- not a better wine, but consumed in a
THIS CURLY'S NO STOOGE. (June
29, 2003) Australia isn't that famous for its Chard and Pinot Noir... yet.
But if enough others follow the trail blazed by Curly Flat, this
could change in a hurry.
This newcomer has a vineyard just north of Melbourne, at an elevation
of about 1700 feet. The wines are lush and generous, and you won't mistake
them for Burgundy, but neither are they simple fruit bombs -- very classy
stuff. Supplies are now trickling into the States and I expect they'll be
warmly received. Recently we opened three of their current offerings and
here's what happened:
should put grins on the faces of
folks who like Pahlmeyer. Butterscotch notes fall away after a little
swirling, leaving you with walloping mineral and pear flavors. Drink now
and over the next year or so. May age fine, but who knows and why wait?
**++1998 Curly Flat Chardonnay
*+1998 Curly Flat Pinot Noir is plenty of fun if a little too ripe,
with plum and cola flavors distracting from a core of ripe red cherries.
The nose reminds several of us of mint chocolate-ship ice cream. Nice
stuff in its way, but eclipsed by the following vintage...
**+1999 Curley Flat Pinot Noir is among the best Pinots I've ever
tasted from Oz. Offhand, in fact, I can't think of a better one. None of
the weirdness I've found so often in other Australian Pinot Noirs. Focused
red cherry flavors. Full on the palate, finishing well. Reminds us of fine efforts from California's Russian River Valley.
to Curly Flat -- can't wait to try their next!
Then we opened some established benchmarks
that put the Oz efforts in perspective:
is aging remarkably well given how grim a vintage this was in
Oregon. No sooner do you pour it than scents of rose potpourri come
spiraling out of the glass. Black cherries and blackberries parade down
the palate. Not quite as full as the '99 Curly Flat, but finishes well,
and you've gotta love those seductive aromas.
**1996 Beaux FrPres Pinot
***-1996 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir "Brown Ranch" is
big stuff, but beautifully balanced. A bushel of berries is braced up by
ample acidity. Things get pretty complex between the crisp attack and
lengthy finish. I believe this bottle was hand-carried from California.
Wonder if any makes its way East via normal distribution.
And **1991 Hubert Lignier Morey St. Denis "Vielle Vignes"
pretty much pleases everyone -- Burgundy lovers and fruit fanatics alike.
The big, dark raspberry flavors don't show a trace of sweat or game.
Tastes amazingly fresh and well-stuffed for a village '91.
WALKING TALL IN 2000
(June 22, 2003) I've heard talk that 2000 was dicey for California Cab,
and I've already tasted some watery examples. But we opened one this
weekend that walked convincingly tall among giants:
much with its fancy 10-ton bottle, and what do you know? It delivers.
Ripe red cherry, crLme de
cassis and a hint of blueberry skip around your senses in ballet
slippers. Joyous juice that no one tonight can resist. The blend is only
about half Cabernet, with the rest Merlot and Syrah -- a little
strange-sounding, but works bigtime. Drink now or over
the next decade.
***2000 Behrens & Hitchcock "Ode to Picasso"
Along side the B&H, ***+1995 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red Wine
nearly gets neglected, but that may be because it's cold and needs an hour
longer to open. Once this flower starts unfolding, it rapidly gets
flamboyant. Super-ripe blackberry flavors. Finishes very convincingly. But
my favorite wine of the evening is...
***+1991 Forman Cabernet Sauvignon. Slowest of all to unfold, but
also the most rewarding. Classic Cal Cab flavors go deeper than you can taste.
Plenty packed up in reserve for years to come. Good for at least another
10 years, maybe longer. Ric Forman's Cabs are fine agers and here's his benchmark.
NAPA '98s? NOT BAD... (June
21, 2003) Yes, it was a tough vintage, but some producers willing to cut
their yields in half made outstanding wine. Mind you, I'm not saying the prices
make sense, but the following made for one heck of a dinner:
is sleek as a silk slip and
wow, what perfume. Violets, roses and other seductive stuff draw you in
-- then cherries, blueberries and raspberries purr on the palate. Depth
doesn't quite approach earlier vintages, but the finish is pretty
convincing. No reason not to drink now, and wouldn't cellar it for more
than 5 years.
***1998 Colgin Herb Lamb Vineyard
***+1998 Araujo Eisele is right up there with the '97 when it comes
to delivering pleasure. May deceive impatient tasters because it needs
about an hour before the chocolate-covered cherries pop out. Once you've
coaxed it open, however, the wine roars. May be shorter-lived than other
Araujos, but there seems to be plenty of structure and stuffing for
cellaring over the next 10 years.
But the wine of the evening on my card is the astonishing ***+1998
Forman Cabernet Sauvignon. Emphasizing cassis and black cherry, it's
got a bit more depth even than the Araujo and develops just as well. And,
while not cheap, it's less than half the cost of the other two wines.
Bravo again to Ric Forman!
PINOT TO THE MAX (June 1, 2003) Just
when you thought you'd tasted the best Pinot Noir America has to offer,
along comes another great statement and steals your heart. At a recent
blind tasting, most of us mistook one of these Yanks for Grand Cru Burg and
assumed the Côte D'Or ringer was
is loaded with ripe red cherries, shaded by scents of
rainfall on rocks. Elegant, focused and very long, with nary a note of
earth or game. I assume it's a great Russian River Valley PN, maybe from
Rochioli Vineyard, but it's ***-1998 Anne Gros Richebourg. Could
young Pinot Noir taste any better? Not tonight, I'm ready to say...
Then along comes Wine #2 and makes drink my words. Very ripe
without straying to over-ripeness, this wine is incredibly concentrated.
Raspberries dance on the surface, but you also sense a deep, unpacked core
of pure essence hidden below. Petal after petal unfurls, but the flower's
never fully in bloom. I guess it to be Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, and if so,
it's the greatest I've ever tasted. It's ***+1998 Marcassin
Pinot Noir "Marcassin Vineyard." A tough act to follow? Yes,
Wonderful Wine #3 is up for the challenge. Even riper than
Wine #2, but a shade more open and supple. Mind you that's a relative term
-- this baby is far from fully mature. Blackberries are the dominant
flavor, which makes me guess Oregon Pinot Noir. Not quite the equal of the
Marcassin, it's still a home run for ***+1998 Domaine Drouhin Oregon
Pinot Noir "Laurene."
Wine #4 is noticeably older, but still vibrant, with fruit to
spare. Red plums and Darjeeling tea mingle with a hint of burning autumn
leaves. "Burgundy," we all murmur, but again we've all been had.
It's one of the all-time outstanding efforts from America's peerless Pinot
pioneer -- **++1985 Calera Pinot Noir "Jensen."
'95 NAPA CABS (May 29, 2003) Though not as
hyped as the '94 vintage, 1995 may have produced marginally better wines
for some of California's cult favorites. We poured a few recently to "educate" a
friend from abroad and all seemed to
be drinking pulse-poundingly well.
Bottles were blinded so people wouldn't
instantly dash to their favorite. Each was dark and rich enough, but
very distinctive in its flavors:
is seductively fragrant and juicy, emphasizing ripe red cherry
flavors, plus a little piecrust. The violet aromas alone would make
me fall in love with this wine, but it's not just another pretty face --
the kid has major muscles. Imagine a ballerina that sings Wagner in her
spare time. It's so
exotic, I figure it must be a Helen Turley wine and sure enough it's ***+1995
Wine #2 is even sexier in the scent department. Bouquet of jasmine, violets and other
blossoms I can't quite identify. Flavors veer more
toward blueberry and raspberry. Someone says something about rhubarb -- well,
strawberry-rhubarb pie, perhaps. Maybe not quite as muscular as the Bryant,
but probably as long, and incredibly complex. Stellar showing for ***+1995
Wine #3 floods your senses with wave after wave of black cherries,
plums and is that watermelon? Not just big and
beguiling, but positively mouthwatering. Tops in the fruit department of our 1995
quintet, this turns out to be ***+Araujo Eisele Vineyard. Funny
what context does. In any other setting, folks might have been floored by
the size of this wine, but the biggest stuff of the evening turns
out to be...
Wine #4 needs some decanting and swirling to coax it from its
shell. But when the moment arrives, oh baby! Great big dark chocolate
and cherry flavors. One of the deepest, inkiest, most concentrated
California legends I've ever tasted. Also the first time that I've found ***+1995
Shafer Hillside Select to be anything near ready.
Wine #5 may be the most classic of all the culties
tonight. Straight-down-the-middle Cabernet flavors rule, shaded by blackberries.
Some guess this
to be Shafer or Araujo, but it's ***+1995 Pahlmeyer
Proprietary Red. Here again, performance belies expectation. Pahlmeyer
is occasionally criticized for flirting with over-ripeness, but no one
yonight mentions a hint of raisin or prune.
Which was the best? Our visitor swooned for the Colgin and I found
the Araujo fascinating, but tonight there was just no denying ***+1995
Shafer Hillside Select.
RIGHTEOUS NEW REDS FROM SANTA
RITA (May 24, 2003) Santa Barbara County hasn't been on my radar
screen for a while, but some releases from a new boutique winery just
grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me.
Casa Cassara Winery and Vineyard grows grapes
along the Santa Ynez river in the Santa Rita Hills appellation. Production
is tiny -- 160 to 600 cases per cuvée
-- but prices are realistic, and the quality of their 2001s makes them
worth a search. Up until now, they've been making the wines off-site, but
their press release says an estate winery should be operating in time for
the 2003 crush.
Here's what I tried yesterday. If you like the
juicy, generous style of Pinot that Siduri does so well, these wines
should be right down your alley:
is a pretty young wine that reminds me the most of other
Santa Barbara Pinots. Raspberry aromas are offset by some cola notes
that mostly blow off as you swirl and sip. None of the celery that mars
so many Central Coast efforts. Finish is a little thin, but holds up
fairly well throughout the evening. Probably at its best right now.
*+2000 Casa Cassara Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills "Estate
**2001 Casa Cassara Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills "Estate
Grown" is a big step ahead in both flavor and depth. Ripe red
cherry flavors bring to mind good stuff from the Russian River Valley.
Beautiful focus. Supple texture. Darned nice finish. Keeps developing for
the 3 hours it sits in my glass. Yum!
**++2001 Casa Cassara Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills "Burning
Creek Vineyard" is like a puppy that leaps into your lap and
licks your face. Cherries and blackberries jump from the glass. Rich,
plush texture pleases the palate. Then, just when you think it's made its
statement, the violets blossom. Finishes very well and tastes better with
each passing hour. Love it! May have been too conservative in my score.
Fingers crossed that Casa Cassara keeps making stuff this sensational.
Finally, I sampled their **+2001 Casa Cassara Syrah Santa Ynez
Valley. Just imagine the Pinots with twice the extraction and you've
got an idea of how delicious this is. Blueberries and vanilla bean flavors
rule this fruit-driven nectar. May cellar well, but for heavens' sake, why
(NOTE: For more information about Casa Cassara
wines, click here
to visit their Website.)
UGLY SHIRTS, TASTY WINES
(May 6, 2003) So you think wine geeks have good taste? You should have
sat at this dinner. The theme was ugly shirts -- and the result was so
spectacular, folks at surrounding tables were visibly cringing. Happily,
our wine choices made me forget the gut-wrenching scenery:
Both Donhoffs are superbly slurpable tonight, but this one seems a
little crisper on the attack and shy on the mid-palate. I'd give it a
few more years before opening more.
FLIGHT 1 (WHITES)
**+2001 Donnhoff Norheimer Kirscheck Riesling Spätlese.
But ***2001 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brücke
Riesling Spätlese is so
irresistible right now, why wait? Longer, deeper and wonderfully complex,
interlacing lush fruit with several different minerals. Young Riesling
doesn't get much better than this.
**2001 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Spätlese
is a pineapple-tropical fruit bomb. Incredibly ripe and round, it wrinkles
a nose or two among the purists.
Of all the German babes tonight, **2001 Muller Catoir Haardter
Herrenletten Riesling Spätlese
probably needs aging most. Very long and minerally, but a little numb on
the attack, and still showing a bit of spritz from the bottling sparge.
And you can go ahead and call me a hick but my favorite white is a
California Chard! ***+1999 Ramey Chardonnay "Hudson Vineyard"
starts out a little smokey, but quickly broadens and lengthens, showing
lots of finesse. Hazlenuts and fresh baked bread, with a hint of gunflint
on the finish.
*-1996 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve seems pretty sexy
at first sniff, but watch out for major splinters when you sip. Swirling
and airing doesn't help much. Without the oak overdose, this might have
rated two stars or better.
**1998 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve does it much
better. Big hit of purple, grapey pleasure with some tannin on the finish
that I'm finding in more than few of the better '98s. Not a big issue
right now. If it still intrudes in a few more years, I'll worry a little
**+1999 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve affords similar
joy without quite so many rough spots on the tail. Plump, plush wine that
emphasizes black cherries.
*++1994 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon "Fay
Vineyard" disappointed me on release. Shriller and tighter than
previous vintages, it's much the same five years later. Don't get me
wrong, this is highly enjoyable juice, but $16 can buy better wine -- even
**1999 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon "Fay
Vineyard" is sweeter, rounder, just lovely. Chocolate layered
with cassis -- a return to the style of the early nineties. Unfortunately,
those earlier vintages cost under $30, while this one is something like
$100. I'll drink it, but don't ask me to buy.
*-1999 Darioush Proprietary Red Wine is all hat, no cattle. The
bottle is practically magnum-sized and the label is pretty tasty. The wine
inside starts out thin, finishes short and piles on the oak. A few
tasters maintain it improves some with airing, and maybe it does, but not
But there's nothing wrong with ***1997 Château
St. Jean Cinq Cepages! Silky and thick, it lavishes your palate with
ultra-ripe fruit. There's a hint of dill in the mix, but that doesn't faze
me a fraction. Wins the flight for value and pure pleasure.
**-1999 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon is juicy, chocolatey, friendly
as heck -- quite a treat if you don't mind the price. Probably would have
received more praise in the previous flight. Here, however, it's
overshadowed by dense, longer delights such as...
**++1994 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Several
tasters remark this bottle seems atypically round and resolved compared to
previous samplings. That being said, it's still a fine example of Napa
Valley's most classically built Cab, deftly balancing palate-drenching
cassis and herbal nuances
A Mystery Red is then poured which I like nearly as much as the
Mondavi. A little more ripe than the others, a tad softer, alcohol a shade
higher, but beautiful stuff. I guess it for a 1997 California Cab -- but
it's actually **+1997 Montes Alpha "M". Possibly the best
Chilean Cab I've ever tasted.
All the same, the clear winner of this flight is ***+1991 Joseph
Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon "Eisele Vineyard" -- the last
Phelps Eisele and one of the greatest Eiseles from anyone, ever. The
fellow beside me remarks how much this reminds him of 1995 Araujo and I can't
argue. Supple and deep, with tannins for further aging hidden under a vat
of voluptuous chocolate-covered cherries. If you don't adore this wine,
poor you. Go out and buy a sixpack of Bud.
***+1998 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon "Hillside Select"
contends with the Eisele for Wine of the Evening. Might even have won if
the tannins were more resolved -- or if we had decanted. Similar flavors,
a very long finish, sings when you sip it with steak.
Call me tannin-tolerant, but ***1999 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon
"Howell Mountain" seems stunning tonight as well. BIG grapey
flavors, with adhesive tape notes that remind me a bit of Peter Michael
Les Pavots. Yes, there's some rough stuff underneath, but this wine offers
plenty of pleasure tonight -- and doubtless also for folks who can bear to
cellar it until 2020.
The evening's second Mystery Red is hotly debated -- perhaps
because of the price? To me, the lush, lusty **++2001 Marquis Philips
"Shiraz 9" is impossible to resist. Okay, there's some
coconut on the nose and the fruit's a little too ripe for some
palates. Maybe they should have used French oak barrels instead of the
American. And it 's up against tough competition in this flight of
California culties. But tell me where else you can find a wine with this
oomph for under $25.
Finally, **+2000 Shrader "Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard"
is quite impressive, with exotic blueberry flavors that remind me more
of Colgin than Mondavi Reserve. That's a little strange, since the
grapes for this wine grew up next door to Mondavi's finest. Nevertheless,
if you can forget the price tag, this newcomer is a clear winner.
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