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Thursday, Aug. 23: Evening at the Kahles'
Gary Kahle and John Wolf
Our host extracts a cork, while John Wolf looks on warily.
The night before the official events began, Gary Kahle invited a bunch of his friends to his place near Ann Arbor. Everyone came bearing wine, and it was ... was ... amazing. I'm not sure whether I have ever seen so many remarkable wines being poured casually in the space of an evening. Events quickly outpaced my ability to keep up with the Palm Pilot, so I gave up notes-taking early.

But, let's just put it this way: Imagine having Ridge 1990 Monte Bello in your glass, then facing the moral dilemma of whether to dump it because someone is passing by with an open bottle of 1986 Haut-Brion ... and before you finish that someone else is offering a 1970 Conterno Barolo from one direction, and you suddenly become aware that 1981 Ogier Cote-Rotie is going fast on your other side ... and there's a three-vineyard horizontal of 1981 Diamond Creek going on nearby ... bottles of Dominus and Rubicon passing around ... and this frenzied pace continues for hours, all with wines of equal or greater stature, heavy on the Rhones.

Here are my early notes, which gradually deteriorate into a mere list, then stop entirely ...

Chateau Musar 1996 - Clear ruby-amber, rather light. Earthy, light barnyard, sweet red fruit. Holding up beautifully. A second bottle (both from Mike Conner) is corked.

Roussette du Bugey 1999 Montagnieu Altesse "Cuvee Buster" - Pale straw. Ripe white fruit, a whiff of wool. Rich, sweet.

Chavignol 1999 Sancerre "Les Monts Damnes" "Cuvee Buster" - Very pale straw. Ripe pears, tropical fruit. Full, ripe, balanced.

Etienne Boileau 1996 Chablis - Pale brass. Ripe apples and steely fruit, balanced and long.

Cordoba 1995 Stellenbosch Crescendo - Very dark ruby. Blackcurrant and barnyard. Round and ripe. Rudolph Erasmus' contribution and a good one. I like this!

Warrenmang 1997 Estate Shiraz - Opaque blackish-purple. Plums and blueberries, ripe and lingering fruit. Big and strong, 15.5%

Rupert & Rothschild 1998 Baron Edmond Coastal Region SA - Dark purple. Warm, plummy, earthy.

Penfolds 1993 St. Henri South Australia Shiraz - Inky ruby. Plums, vanilla and smoke; smooth and sweet.

Havens 1996 Bourriquot Napa Valley Red Table Wine - Dark ruby-amber. Loads of cherry-berry fruit, sufficient acid.

And the two wines I brought:

Chateau Bouscassé 1994 Madiran - Opaque, earthy black fruit. Still tannic but starting to round out.

Simcic 1997 Brda Chardonnay Reserve - Ripe and rich, integrated oak, a very fine Slovenian white from the portion of this former Yugoslavian republic that's within sight of Italy's Collio.

After this point, things get increasingly chaotic. I recall ...

Giacomo Conterno 1970 Barolo - Ted Richards' contribution and one of the wines of the evening; deep and layered, mature but in no way geriatric. Ted reports that it was Conterno's Barolo "Monfortino," adding, "He makes two wines, 'Cascina Francia' and 'Monfortino.' They supposedly start as the same wine (i.e. not a special selection), but the Monfortino is vinified and aged longer. As I recall the 1970 was bottled as late as 1984."

1981 and 1989 Domaine de Pegau - the 1981 was a delight, the 1989, oddly, over-the-hill.

1989 Dominus - Impressive, especially for a purportedly poor vintage, doing very well.

Ridge 1990 Santa Cruz Mountains Monte Bello - big fruit, big structure, classic. One of the wines of the evening for me.

1986 Ch. Haut-Brion - Another classic. As noted above, there's no way to dump Monte Bello to make room for this; or vice-versa. Solving the problem with a second glass, I find it majestic, still tannic and youthful.

1995 Beaucastel - Less bretty than you'd expect, very fine.

1995 Chateau Rayas - Is it French or is it California? A delicious raspberry fruit bomb.

And it all becomes more of a blur ...

Some Ogier Cote-Rotie - wonderful stuff. Was it 1991? Whatever. No ammunition for the anti-terroiristas here, this stuff speaks distinctly of the Roasted Slope and nowhere else on earth.

Jaboulet 1966 Cornas - Holding up well? I think so. (From Ted Richards.)

1928 Ch. Carbonnieux Graves de Leognan - More interesting for its antiquity than intrinsic quality; never a great property, it's really too old. But to its credit a breath of life remains. Though oxidized and murky, there's still a hint of Bordeaux character.

Which is more than can be said of ...

1949 Domaine de Chevalier Chateauneuf-du-Pape - "It's dead, Jim."

There was more, much more ... that 1981 Diamond Creek Horizontal, the Gravelly Meadow sadly corked. Rubicon ('94? I think so).

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