Our poker group was at Tom’s a while back, where he served up a nice lineup of wines for us to drink in a blind format.
1999 Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Cuvee Palmes d’Or. Before we got started, Tom passed around this sparkler that presents a very fresh, tangy nose with lots of lemon peel, chalk, yeast, graphite and toasted bread aromas showing good energy and brightness. In the mouth, it is minerally, with a lemon spritz tingle to go with smoke and chalk notes. It seems pretty giving and approachable but also clean and zippy, and I think this is a pretty good time to drink it, actually.
1986 Chateau Sociando-Mallet Haut-Medoc. There’s a really nice nose to this wine, full of funky earth, foresty leaves, mincemeat, rawhide leather, dark cherry, cranberry and chocolate aromas in a fine, old-fashioned package. In the mouth, it is dark berry-fruited with good lift and freshness of acidity but also a sliver of drying tannins toward the back. The fruit is giving and sinewy but the acidity and tannin is a bit strident, so I’d say this could benefit from a few more years in the cellar.
1989 Chateau Branaire-Ducru St. Julien. This wine actually seems a few years older to me, starting with its lovely aromas of pounded leather, dry dusty earth, sweet black cherry and wild raspberry fruit showing mellow and layered. In the mouth, it is creamier-textured and more richly rounded than the previous wine, with a sweeter dark berry core to it. It is very pretty, showing lots of glycerin character that is a nice offset to the dry, controlled finish. I like this wine a lot, and it’s drinking well right now.
1997 Chateau Poujeaux Moulis en Medoc. Compared to the previous wines, this one seems wilder and more animalistic on the nose, with big aromas of horsehair, saddle leather, fireplace ash, dried sweat, mushrooms, black cherry and mixed currant fruit that I like a good deal. In the mouth, it is a nicely holistic wine that is juicy and fresh but also earthy and a bit funky. It perks up the palate with its dark berry fruit, fine stoniness and tangy acidity. It is medium-weighted but shows good presence and length. It’s a very enjoyable wine for drinking right now.
1997 Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. This wine is more exotic and richly-textured on the nose, with notes of black cherry, black raspberry, blueberry, leather, incense and tomato plant giving it a sense of complexity and layering that seem to combine an Old and New world philosophy. In the mouth, it is nicely-polished and very smooth, with a sweeter fruit core to it than any of the previous wines. There are no hard edges anywhere with this wine, and it just flows across the palate with ease to the sweet-tinged blue and purple-berried finish. This is drinking great right now, in my opinion.
1997 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. The next wine smells a bit stewed or perhaps heat-damanged to me. It gives off volatile aromas of stewed cherries, celery, brimstone and burnt fig that are not likeable at all. In the mouth, it is thick-boned, somewhat velvety-textured, but with the alcohol poking out a fair bit. I suspect this was a poor bottle.
1997 Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Alpha Colchagua Valley. This wine seems a bit on the older side to me, starting with a ligher, cloudier appearance than any of the previous wines and continuing on with somewhat mellowed aromas of wilted rose petals, wild cherries, mocha and chocolate. In the mouth, it is showing much livelier, with its flavor profile of wild cherry, cassis and light funk accented by taut acidity. It seems well-resolved and pretty much tannin-free, and while not as distinctive or interesting as some of the previous wines, I find it enjoyable nonetheless.
2000 Chateau Fontenil Fronsac. There’s a much darker and denser color to this and the next wine when compared to the previous flights. This actually smells fudgy to me, with a dense, lush aromatic profile of chocolate paste, blackberry and black currant. It is a very big snortful of aroma. In the mouth, it is similarly dark and chunky and broad-shouldered. It seems very serious, chewy and rich, with a dense core of inelegant wild berry fruit to go with black currant bits. Also, the alcohol seems elevated to me. Overall, this is just not ready to go and is made in a linebacker sort of style that doesn’t much appeal to me, at least not right now.
2000 Chateau Fourcas-Dupre Listrac. I like this better. It is full of eucalyptus and mint aromas that swirl around the sleek core of black currants, tar oil, chocolate and limestone. It is creamy, cool, sleek and expansive on the palate, with a dark, black sensibility to the flavor profile. It definitely shows a tannic backbone, and the youthful finish shows a hint of alcohol, but nothing like with the previous wine. Yet, this wine continues to grow on me as the day progresses, staying juicy and creamy all the way through and coming into better focus the longer it sits out. I think a few years in the cellar will help this along nicely.
1999 E. Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blanc. This wine pops from the glass with big and boisterous aromas of cherry paste, red currant, iron ore, blood and muddy earth that are quite interesting and appealing. In the mouth, it is fresh and juicy, with lots of meaty dark fruit and savory undertones of olives and stone. It features a solid backbone and structure, but doesn’t seem overtly tannic or anything. This is really nice.
1998 d’Arenberg Shiraz The Dead Arm McLaren Vale. This wine sports a really lovely bouquet full of aromas of cedar shingles, eucalyptus tree, red currant, cherry, iodine and bacon fat. There’s a lot of character here and I certainly find it very enjoyable to sniff. On the palate, it is loaded with ripe rich fruit that is warm, giving and pliant. It feels plush, sexy, and outgoing with its cherry and cassis fruit core. It is clearly a bigger and bolder style than most of what we’ve been drinking, but it is really delicious and a lot of fun to drink.
2006 L’Aventure Optimus Paso Robles. This and the next wine were after-hours offerings. This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Syrah and 5% Petit Verdot. It seems a little unsure of itself on the nose, in my opinion, coming across at times as sort of foxy and furry and then switching over to bubblegum, boysenberry and huckleberry, all the while showing some volcanic ash, limestone and granite sorts of aromas. I suspect it will sort itself out over time, but it doesn’t seem holistic to me just now. In the mouth, it is warm with baked earth, animal fur and lifted red fruit qualities. It has a fresh acidic twang and a largely open-knit texture that makes it approachable now, though lacking much in the way of nuance. The fruit is nice and the texture is smooth and easy, but I’d still probably wait on it another 5+ years to see if it can deliver a more even-knit performance.
1989 d’Oliveiras Madeira Malvazia Colheita. Wow, this is one salty dog of a wine to smell, with all kinds of beer nut, toasted walnut, seafoam, pudding and dark caramel aromas lifting up out of the glass. It is very bright, tangy and saline in the mouth, with the peanut brittle, praline, vanilla, toasted orange peel and dried apricot flavors showing great energy and twang above the sweetness. It fleshes out more and more the longer it is open. and while the alcohol is a bit forward at times, the whole thing really works together well. I really enjoyed this.