One of our recent monthly poker games took place at Kyle’s house, with a fairly small group in attendance. As usual, all of the wines were bagged and served blind.
2005 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir Proprietor's Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains. The first wine of the evening has a somewhat pale and mildly cloudy appearance to it. It delivers aromas of dried berry fruit, baked earth, foresty undergrowth, rawhide leather, mint and faintly musty background notes of funk that come together quite nicely. It drinks much younger on the palate, though, where it leads with a big burst of juicy berry fruit and soft oak. It has a creamy texture to it and a nice core of gently sweet flavor. The acidity is soft and the wine feels pillowy, but there are some fine balancing earth tones in here, as well. I thought this was well done and tasty.
2005 Testarossa Pinot Noir Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains. From the same vintage and vineyard, this wine is similarly earthy on the nose, but with entirely different types of aromas. This one features more savory scents of black tea, mushroom broth, fireplace ash, sassafras and wintergreen in support of sour cherry fruit aromas. Also, it’s a tangier wine in the mouth, with more structure and a cleaner cut of acidity. It seems to have more push to it, but not quite the same degree of charm or suaveness—with the dusty blueberry and sassafras tones perhaps benefitting from a bit more cellar time.
2010 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir The Bohan-Dillon Sonoma Coast. This wine is the most obviously New World of this trio, with an aromatic profile of zesty wild berries that is quite youthfully exuberant and less nuanced than the previous wines. In the mouth, it doesn’t quite have the same level of concentration or depth of flavor and certainly sports the strongest streak of acidity among this set. It is very zesty, very vibrant, and features flavors of rhubarb, raspberry, blueberry and mixed berry seltzer. The finish is mildly tannic and a bit rough around the edges, and I think this needs several years to come around.
2005 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve Napa Valley. Here one finds a pleasantly dark, dense and moderately rich nose of barbecue smoke, creosote, plum sauce, black currants, spiced blackberries, limestone and green pepper slice aromas. On the palate, I have to say it’s an enjoyable wine that’s just very easy to drink. The black currant and black cherry fruit is plushly-textured and free-flowing but not overly heavy and supported by a nice acidic twang. It isn’t real complicated, but it’s quite easy to like.
2005 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve Napa Valley. The nose here is a bit more structured and generally more Bordelais in style, featuring aromas of red currants, black raspberries, dry earth, tar and sweet creosote. In the mouth, it’s a thicker and more obviously toothsome sort of wine than the previous one. There are copious amounts of sweet chewy black cherry fruit and chocolate notes throughout, but no hard edges at all until the more obviously tannic finish. Even though it’s pretty big and sweet, I find myself liking it pretty well.
2005 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. There’s a somewhat shy bouquet to this wine relative to the two previous ones, with mild aromas of tobacco leaf, green pepper, mincemeat and rawhide leather combining with black currant fruit. Of the three wines, this one feels the bulkiest and least refined, with a thick but slightly tacky texture to it and more obvious tannins all around. It’s features warm red currant and cassis fruit and shows more length than I was expecting based on how tight the nose seemed. All three wines do share some obvious kinship, but I prefer the other two to this one right now.
2002 d'Arenberg Shiraz The Dead Arm McLaren Vale. While the 1998 Dead Arm has shown quite well every time I’ve had it over the past few years, this 2002 seems considerably more stubborn to come around. I last had it at the end of 2010, and if anything, it’s gotten tougher to drink since then. On this evening, it opens with big aromas of sweet blackberry fruit, but quickly folds in all kinds of savory notes like worn leather, creosote, taco meat and minerals. In the mouth, it feels a bit wild--with elements of bacon fat, animal pelt, bloody meat, iodine and sushi wrapper encircling the core of sweet but zesty blackberry fruit. It’s not overly structured and only moderately tannic, but the animalistic elements are almost too much for me right now. I’d suggest holding off on this another 3 or 4 years at least.
2006 Saxum Broken Stones Paso Robles. Man, this is a whole lot sweeter than the previous wine on the nose, showing off tons of blackberry fruit, caramel apple, blue cotton candy and rubber band aromas. In the mouth, it’s super-saturating and insanely extracted—like a cocktail of sweet black fruit and chocolate. Sure, it is highly-polished and loaded with smooth glycerine that makes it slide along quite easily, but it’s over the top well before you take note of any positive characteristics. In another kind of mood, perhaps, I might find some appeal to the sexy stylings of this wine, but on this night it just exhausted me to taste it.
2005 Glaetzer Shiraz Amon-Ra Barossa Valley. This was the best wine of this final flight. It smells of white pepper, hickory smoke, lava rock, bacon grease and refreshingly cool black fruit. It drinks better than either of the two previous wines, with lots of inky-dark plum, blueberry and blackberry fruit supported by decent structure and supportingly plush tannins. I think it will continue to get better over the next few years.