A nice gaggle of geeks gathered to take a look at a few vintages of Sociando-Mallet at La Bonne Soupe in midtown Manhattan. We couldn't source anything older than the 1982, but this overachiever showed pretty well over the evening in my opinion.
One starter made the rounds:
1975 Licht Bernkasteler Cueser Weisenstein Riesling Spatlese
Nice fruit with a lime edge, maybe a bit dilute. Some slately mineral with just a hint of petrol. Not stunning, but certainly alive and with a bit to say. B
Then on to the reds:
1998 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)A little green on the nose, but that's not evident on the palate. Dark fruit with a little coffee. Finish is nice and clean but maybe a tad short. Good in the context of 1998 Medoc, B/B-
1999 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
Most open and accessible. Cassis overlaid with milk chocolate. B
2001 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
This and the '98 had been double-decanted in afternoon, with this one spending a while in decanter. At decanting this seemed tight tight tight, and hadn't budged a lot at dinner. Tannic and closed, though there seems be a good base of red fruit, surprising acidity, and good length. I voted my favorite of flight based on potential. A B+
2000 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)Green nose (some called it green pepper, but seems more herbal to me). Again, nothing green on the palate. Lush sweet dark fruit, mocha, nice finish. A-/B+
2002 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc) Midweight, fine tannins, a little light in the midpalate. I liked this a lot on release but this seems awkward now, maybe just a stage. B-
2003 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
I admit I came in prejudiced, ready to spit out with declarations of "roasted!" and "overripe!" But actually this is a decently balanced wine. Lots of toasty oak and certainly quite ripe, but seems to hold together nicely. Second small pour had espresso aromas really whirling. B+
1982 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc) (from magnum)
This is a good one to have bigger pours of. Youthful fruit, mostly resolved tannins, lots of earth and cigarbox. A really nice wine - as we had the mag I revisited this later during the meat, even better. A-
1985 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
Lifted nose, red fruit seems a little tired, but nice forest floor and mushroom notes. Every once in a while I thought I got something musty, and more TCA-sensitive noses declared it corked. I accept that opinion, but this was still not really bad. B-
1986 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
The beast! Big black fruit, but still wrapped up in big tannins. This screams for meat, but by time main courses arrived there was none left. I'm supposed to have a bottle coming in fall, I either need to wait 8 years or serve with rare 2" porterhouse. I'm not tanninphobic, so B+
1988 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
Cedar and saddle leather on the nose, moderate black fruit. Pretty good lenght. A nice wine overshadowed by its flightmates. B
1989 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
Nice structured, balanced wine. A hint of roasting coffee beans over blackcurrant fruit, distinct lead pencil note. I really enjoy this, and vote it my third favorite of the evening, though I voted it second of flight. A-
1990 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
I've enjoyed this before, but this really sang (Paul mentions there's a lot of bottle variation, says this is one of the best). Ripe but balanced, lush texture, full-bodied, fantastic length. Deep dark fruit accented with tobacco and mocha. A/A-
1994 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
Surprise of the night for me. A tad tannic, but good black fruit, notes of leather, cedar, and coffee. I'm not paying Sokolin's $50+, but if I saw this on closeout or auction might bite. I vote for wine of flight (one other does, but only as surprise of flight) B+/B
1995 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
Holding back a bit, but there's nice fruit under the tannins, and a attractive graphite streak at finish. B/B+
1996 Ch. Sociando-Mallet (Haut Medoc)
There are few wines I've had more times than this, one of the mainstays of the NYC Bdx geek crowd. This bottle seemed a tad disjointed to me, with both tannins and acidity sticking out a bit. A B-, but I don't think it representative. Many others like much more than I.
Overall I was very impressed with the wines. The green streak evident in the younger wines didn't really bother me- more herbal complexity than underripeness. I'm not sure I've ever found coffee in so many wines. The 1990 was my WOTN (and I think the clear favorite in group voting), but even my least favorites would have been fine on my dinner table (even the mildly corked one!!!).
There were two dessert wines circulating, I was in a hurry to catch a train and didn't give them a lot of time,but brief impressions:
1985 Warre's Vintage Port
Heady alcoholic nose, ripe ripe red fruit and lots of body. Pretty vigorous, but I found this a little hard to evaluate on the fly. Needed time in glass. B?
1988 Ch. Coutet
This was lovely for my tastes. Rich peach, apricot, and mango fruit, really vibrant and lively, wish I could have stuck around for more. A-
The private room at La Bonne Soupe was a decent venue (unless you were Paul and under the AC duct). I would only call my steak frites adequate,but I think the filet folks were happier. Charcuterie plate was ok, branade was very good, and the snails did a great job as a Garlic Delivery Device. But food highlight for me with the onion soup (surprise, surprise, at a place called La Bonne Soup). Nice night with nice people. Felt good to be with friends after spending the day remembering 5 years before. Thanks Arv and Matt for organizing.
Grade disclaimer: I'm a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C mediocre. Anything below C means I wouldn't drink at a party where it was only choice. Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.