WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

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WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:00 pm

I first tasted the 1996 Sociando Mallet back in 2000, or maybe a little later. My wife and I were at my brother’s annual “Justice Beat” cookout. He was a distinguished murder trial attorney and once a year he would invite his colleagues and clients for an all-afternoon and evening, backyard pranzo. I miss those parties, because they were interesting. You could sit at a picnic table with a judge on one side and a murderer on the other. The criminal psychologists were a hoot, too.

His girlfriend at the time was a serious wine collector, and I was aspiring to become one. Driving back to Albany from a business trip, I was pulling into one of the New Jersey Gary’s wine shops, when my brother called me on my cell phone. He didn’t know I was out of town and asked me if I had ever heard of Gary’s. His girlfriend had read that they were running a special on what was being heralded in some magazine as a particularly special Cru Bourgeois, worthy even of a connoisseur laying down for the future.

I brought a case back to the party on the following day. I would leave six bottles for my brother and his girlfriend and keep six. After a few glasses of the many open wines, curiosity got the best of me and I popped one of the Sociando’s, which I knew would be nowhere near ready to drink.

Both my wife, Lynn, and I grokked a strange and enchanting essence. While they were inky and backward, and we could hardly taste the deeply concentrated, sleeping wine, we nevertheless derived a great pleasure. I have since studied how primeval neuronal pathways take inputs all over the place in one’s midbrain and other atavistic reaches, which can find some kind of ancient meaning in them, and the impulses then get fed back into our modern interpretative centers as being meaningful, but we are not told in what way. I’ve come to appreciate that you don’t even need to recognize a smell or taste in a wine go get some of its significance, because an old part of the brain, now only circuitously associated with the smelling interpreters in the cortex, might have the discerning power of a bloodhound, or some other distant relative that had to smell better than humans to survive.

We finished that bottle and opened a second. All the festivities blurred in the background as we stood at the wine table drinking the Sociando Mallet. My peripheral vision picked up a looming presence behind me. I turned to face a 6’ 5” Hell’s Angel in full colors.

“Which one is the good wine?” he asked, very respectfully, as though he might have heard that I knew something about wine and he might learn something. Or maybe he was a serious collector; I shouldn’t stereotype.

I poured him a glass of a forward Gigondas. But thinking back, as I have been penanced to do many times, I was never quite sure if I held a genuine concern for the man’s pleasure, or whether I selfishly withheld the great wine so I could drink more of it myself. I could have explained why I thought the backward wine was the “good wine.”

My only redemption is that Christ pretty much made the same snap decision at the Cana wedding, when he hid the good wine to drink himself, or maybe with a close friend, later. Then when he, like I, could no longer resist availing himself of the good wine, he made a show of filling a couple of buckets of water, and then when no one was looking, he switched them with the wine that he had set aside. He serendipitously let people believe he had performed a miracle, rather than reveal that he had been selfish, since it was dark and everybody was too drunk to pay attention to his movements.

Last evening my wife and I uncorked one of our remaining bottles, after twelve years. Robert Parker doesn’t anymore need me to validate his impressions than Christ needs me to debunk his nonsense, but he’s right that Sociando Mallet is every bit as competent as many classed growths; and the 1996 is truly special, now that it is maturing.

The wine is still powerful, but generous like an aging leader of a pride who now plays with the cubs. Lynn guessed it was a Pauillac before I revealed its identity. It was very masculine, full of study room smells of cedar, leather and tobacco – so much tobacco that I thought it tasted like a cross between a powerful Pauillac and a Graves, except for the spices that are more characteristic of St-Julien. It was full of flavor and the nose roared like a lion. The tannins, while integrating, were still pronounced, so much so that we wondered if they would outlive the fruit. It will be fun to see in a few more years. It’s a beautiful claret.

My brother, Mark, vacationed in Charleston a few years ago, met a beautiful art collector, and stayed there with her. He has a New York law license, so he is taking some odd jobs still working murder cases, but as a private detective – and he has a radio talk show, which he named “Justice Beat,” on which he entertains his listeners with case stories and anecdotes. He’s a bloviator, like I am, so the gig is perfect for him. He phoned me this past winter and mentioned that he had a bottle of 1996 Sociando Mallet from the picnic and asked if Lynn and I might visit sometime and drink it with him. He doesn’t like wine that much, that’s why he still has it, but I was surprised that he would carry the bottle down there with him.

After last night I have a mind to phone Mark to ask the name of the Hell’s Angel, so that I might phone him and offer to share a bottle of the good wine, now that he could enjoy it so much more. My soul cannot rest until I do.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Tim York » Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:09 pm

It sounds about time for me to dip into my dozen. Did you decant some time before serving in order to get that eloquent result?
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:14 pm

One bottle of 1996 Sociando is now standing up in the cellar. After some time to settle it will be opened.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Diane (Long Island) » Mon Apr 22, 2013 6:04 pm

Just like that, you're back!

I think of you every time I drink a Ducru Beaucaillou, but, sadly, it is not often. However, this Wednesday, I am bringing a 1995 to the NYC restaurant, La Grenouille, to share with a winemaker friend in from California.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Jenise » Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:12 pm

Had the '95 recently and it was superb, Diane. Definitely one to look forward to. Have you had the '94? Someone commented recently that it was one of the better '94s and worth seeking out, so I picked up two recently. $85 for a properly aged Bordeaux now selling for three times that seemed like a good chance to take.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Lou Kessler » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:07 pm

You're absolutely right about Sociando Mallet, I've had numerous ones from different vintages and I agree Sociando M. should rated as a classified wine.
Nice to see you back, :D I'm sure you've noticed that "muscle bound" Tiger is ranked #1 in the world again. You have to acknowledge that you're a better judge of Bordeaux than golfers. Your board friend Lou K.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Diane (Long Island) » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:45 pm

Jenise, if you are going to pick any 1994, Ducru should be the right one.

Thanks for the thumbs up on the 1995.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Jenise » Tue Apr 23, 2013 1:44 pm

Diane (Long Island) wrote:Jenise, if you are going to pick any 1994, Ducru should be the right one.

Thanks for the thumbs up on the 1995.


The Pichon Baron and Leoville Las Cases are two others that way outperformed expectations for that vintage. Luckily, I have both.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:31 pm

Diane (Long Island) wrote:Just like that, you're back!

I think of you every time I drink a Ducru Beaucaillou, but, sadly, it is not often. However, this Wednesday, I am bringing a 1995 to the NYC restaurant, La Grenouille, to share with a winemaker friend in from California.


You know, Diane, that is exactly what my post was about, how a particular bottle of wine can connect even disparate people in a meaningful way, like the real life story of the Red Violin. I can't glance at one of my five remaining 1996 Ducru's without thinking of you, and I had that association playing in my head when I remarked that the SM resembled a St.-Julien. I have five left and it would be very nice to share one with you some day.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Diane (Long Island) » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:37 pm

Covert, I also hope we can share a bottle.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:45 pm

Lou Kessler wrote:You're absolutely right about Sociando Mallet, I've had numerous ones from different vintages and I agree Sociando M. should rated as a classified wine.
Nice to see you back, :D I'm sure you've noticed that "muscle bound" Tiger is ranked #1 in the world again. You have to acknowledge that you're a better judge of Bordeaux than golfers. Your board friend Lou K.


Thanks, Lou. Of course I noticed. :) And I well remember predicting he wouldn't come back. I am happy that he did, regardless of my having to eat crow. The only admittedly nitpicking thing I will say in my defense is that he doesn't appear to be as muscular as he did when I felt he had lost his swing fluidity. Your Board friend, also, Covert.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:46 pm

Diane (Long Island) wrote:Covert, I also hope we can share a bottle.


Done! I'll take the initiative in the not-too-distant future.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:54 pm

Tim York wrote:It sounds about time for me to dip into my dozen. Did you decant some time before serving in order to get that eloquent result?


I opened it an hour before, mostly because I decided on it an hour before we drank it, but I will decant the next one. A word of caution: There seems to be considerable bottle variation with this one. Some reliable drinkers exercising proper storage said their recent bottle of it was vegetative and over-the-hill. Maybe a certain large batch of it was mishandled in shipment from Europe, or something like that. I would be interested in your impression.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Tim York » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:05 am

Jenise wrote:
Diane (Long Island) wrote:Jenise, if you are going to pick any 1994, Ducru should be the right one.

Thanks for the thumbs up on the 1995.


The Pichon Baron and Leoville Las Cases are two others that way outperformed expectations for that vintage. Luckily, I have both.


In my experience 1994 is underrated. I had an off bottle of Haut-Bailly but the other bottles from my cellar were good; so were Poujeaux, Phélan-Ségur, Pontet-Canet. Lascombes was mediocre but that, I believe, is par for the course for the château except for its delicious 1990. I haven't yet tried Léoville -Poyferré or Ducru-B.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:34 am

Tim York wrote:It sounds about time for me to dip into my dozen. Did you decant some time before serving in order to get that eloquent result?


Tim, I realized what I said to you about decanting didn't make sense. I should have included that I didn't think about decanting the next one until after I had tasted the wine.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Jon Leifer » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:44 am

Welcome back, Covert..As always, I enjoyed reading your post..Back in the day when I was still into buying Bordeaux, Sociando was one of my favs..I stopped buying Boredough after the 1990 vintage and still have a fair amount of 1982-90 goodies in the cellar.. Have gone through a case each of the 89 and 90 SM and enjoyed every bottle, have not tasted any subsequent vintages
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:22 pm

Jon Leifer wrote:Welcome back, Covert..As always, I enjoyed reading your post..Back in the day when I was still into buying Bordeaux, Sociando was one of my favs..I stopped buying Boredough after the 1990 vintage and still have a fair amount of 1982-90 goodies in the cellar.. Have gone through a case each of the 89 and 90 SM and enjoyed every bottle, have not tasted any subsequent vintages


Thanks a lot, Jon.

Did you stop buying Bordeaux because you thought the more recent vintages might outlive you? Turning 70 this year, I am having a tough time deciding whether to buy more than a couple of cases of the 2010s. I think I will because somehow it feels nice to know I will leave a good cellar behind to someone.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Jon Leifer » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:32 pm

You are still a youngster, Covert..Am 74 , heading for 75 and am drinking down my cellar tho the decision to stop buying Boredough was not related to my aging or my cellar's aging..The vintages immediately following 1990 were underwhelming for Bordeaux while stunning for California and elsewhere..when I again turned my head towards Bordeaux after buying a raft of Caifornia, Oz, Italian and Rhone goodies, 1995 was upon us and I got sticker shock looking at what the Bordeaux prices had risen to..along with a palate and wallet shift, several trips to Napa, Sonoma as well as the Finger lakes and Long Island wineries..I found that I could live without Bordeaux..and Burgundy as well. Only buy a few inexpensive Macons and bourgone blancs these days.
Age was a factor when I did stop buying Rhones after the 98 vintage as I am no long buying wines to lay down...
Most of my california reds need very little cellar time..I already drank down my Oz wines and most of my Italian reds..I do reload re Italian whites and an occsional chianti...Longstory short, I don't buy a lot of wine these days and most of my buying is for current consumption, limited to a few California mailing lists and some whites purchased locally.
El tigre still looks pretty buffed up to me tho I do like the new swing..Crow marinated in orange sauce with Reisling or Gewurtz???hmmm?
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Tim York » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:37 am

Jon Leifer wrote:You are still a youngster, Covert..Am 74 , heading for 75 and am drinking down my cellar tho the decision to stop buying Boredough was not related to my aging or my cellar's aging..


I too am close to 75 (which comes in a few days time) and have stopped buying Bordeaux and anything else for ageing more than a year or so. The last vintages I laid down any bottles were 2004 for Bordeaux and the Rhône and 2002 for Burgundy. The reasoning was strictly one of statistical improbability of my being able to enjoy them at maturity. Substitution of Cali wines, which may mature faster, is not really an option where I live and in any case most which I have tried are too ripe and plushy for my taste, with the exception of Ridge Montebello, Mondavi Reserve 1991 and Dominus; I also have high hopes of a couple each of Diamond Creek and Montelena, both 1995, which I brought back from New York a few years ago.

However I love a lot of early drinking wines, particularly from Beaujolais, lesser Bordeaux, the Loire, Rhône, French South-West and Languedoc/Roussillon and really need to buy more :D to balance to balance the older wines in my cellar.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:50 am

Jon Leifer wrote:You are still a youngster, Covert..Am 74 , heading for 75 and am drinking down my cellar tho the decision to stop buying Boredough was not related to my aging or my cellar's aging..The vintages immediately following 1990 were underwhelming for Bordeaux while stunning for California and elsewhere..when I again turned my head towards Bordeaux after buying a raft of Caifornia, Oz, Italian and Rhone goodies, 1995 was upon us and I got sticker shock looking at what the Bordeaux prices had risen to..along with a palate and wallet shift, several trips to Napa, Sonoma as well as the Finger lakes and Long Island wineries..I found that I could live without Bordeaux..and Burgundy as well. Only buy a few inexpensive Macons and bourgone blancs these days.
Age was a factor when I did stop buying Rhones after the 98 vintage as I am no long buying wines to lay down...
Most of my california reds need very little cellar time..I already drank down my Oz wines and most of my Italian reds..I do reload re Italian whites and an occsional chianti...Longstory short, I don't buy a lot of wine these days and most of my buying is for current consumption, limited to a few California mailing lists and some whites purchased locally.
El tigre still looks pretty buffed up to me tho I do like the new swing..Crow marinated in orange sauce with Reisling or Gewurtz???hmmm?


Mistake #2 to be deleted.
Last edited by Covert on Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:03 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:51 am

Mistake #1 to be deleted.
Last edited by Covert on Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Covert » Thu Apr 25, 2013 8:02 am

Jon Leifer wrote:You are still a youngster, Covert..Am 74 , heading for 75 and am drinking down my cellar tho the decision to stop buying Boredough was not related to my aging or my cellar's aging..The vintages immediately following 1990 were underwhelming for Bordeaux while stunning for California and elsewhere..when I again turned my head towards Bordeaux after buying a raft of Caifornia, Oz, Italian and Rhone goodies, 1995 was upon us and I got sticker shock looking at what the Bordeaux prices had risen to..along with a palate and wallet shift, several trips to Napa, Sonoma as well as the Finger lakes and Long Island wineries..I found that I could live without Bordeaux..and Burgundy as well. Only buy a few inexpensive Macons and bourgone blancs these days.
Age was a factor when I did stop buying Rhones after the 98 vintage as I am no long buying wines to lay down...
Most of my california reds need very little cellar time..I already drank down my Oz wines and most of my Italian reds..I do reload re Italian whites and an occsional chianti...Longstory short, I don't buy a lot of wine these days and most of my buying is for current consumption, limited to a few California mailing lists and some whites purchased locally.
El tigre still looks pretty buffed up to me tho I do like the new swing..Crow marinated in orange sauce with Reisling or Gewurtz???hmmm?


The difference between 70 and 75 is a lot less than between five and 10. The older we get the closer in age. Health becomes more of a defining factor of how far along we are. My wife and I are trying to branch out from Bordeaux a little, considering the required cellaring time factor against our actuarial time left. Our plan is, should we make it to 80, to drink a bottle of good Bordeaux on Saturday night, something like a Cal Pinot on Friday, a catch as catch can on Thursday, while staying dry the rest of the week, for our health.

I have read that there are people who share my claret sensibilities, but I have never met one, besides my wife. I find that any wine other than claret feels remotely foreign to my body (Burgundy goes down well, also, but I cannot develop as much of a taste for it). If I drink close to a bottle of some, say, New World red wine, I experience a tad of discomfort from it the next day, either in the sense of a distant headache, or maybe just a cobwebby feeling. Conversely, the more good Bordeaux I drink the night before, the better I feel the next day.

I am reminded of two of those Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tastings I attended. I refuse ever to spit out any Bordeaux, so whatever I am poured, I drink; and because I attend the professional tastings (by virtue of a friend in the business), instead of the alternate events for the general public, the pours are substantial, not whiffs. At the 2007 vis-à-vis 2006 event, I drank over forty small glasses, before realizing that I had better not drink more and attempt to walk in a straight line to my hotel. At the following one featuring 2008 wines, my wife wanted to go, also. I said to myself, Crap, she will put a lid on me before 40 glasses. Au contraire, we both drank about 80 - or more. Waltzing arm and arm back to our hotel, from the far left side of the broad sidewalk to the right, and right back to the left again, I resolved always to include my wife thence. But my tortuous point is that on both morrows I felt as good as I had ever before in my life.

I don’t know how unique this salubrious dynamic is to me. Of course we hear the term ‘digestible’ with reference to claret, but I have never heard anybody else say essentially what I just did. Most comments of comparison I have heard are more in the line of what you said.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Howie Hart » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:25 am

Covert wrote:The difference between 70 and 75 is a lot less than between five and 10. The older we get the closer in age.....
I've held the theory that we age (mature) in half-lives. As far as maturity goes, the difference between a 5 year old and a 10 year old is the same as between a 20 year old and a 40 year old. I'm almost 64 and I feel the difference between now and when I was 32 is comparable to the difference between 32 and 16. When we were younger, it seemed that time couldn't go fast enough and the older we get, our perception of the speed of passing time increases.
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Re: WTN: 1996 Sociando Mallet

Postby Tim York » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:44 am

Howie Hart wrote:
Covert wrote:The difference between 70 and 75 is a lot less than between five and 10. The older we get the closer in age.....
I've held the theory that we age (mature) in half-lives. As far as maturity goes, the difference between a 5 year old and a 10 year old is the same as between a 20 year old and a 40 year old. I'm almost 64 and I feel the difference between now and when I was 32 is comparable to the difference between 32 and 16. When we were younger, it seemed that time couldn't go fast enough and the older we get, our perception of the speed of passing time increases.
BTW - welcome back


Don't you think that the difference narrows again as we get the age bracket where senility is a risk? The difference seems to me much greater in most people between 85 and 95 than between 65 and 75, assuming that they are still alive :) .
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