WHAT: The 9th Annual MOtown Co-Operative Off-Line Tasting

WHEN: Late August 2000!

WHERE: The Ann Arbor - Detroit, Michigan, area

WHO'S WELCOME: YOU! -- if you're a wired wine lover!

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MoCool '99 - Hail That Cab ... MoCool 99!
MoCool 99 -- the 8th Annual MOtown COoperative Off-Line, the world's longest-running off-line tasting for wired wine lovers, was the biggest and best yet.

United by the theme HAIL THAT CAB!, hundreds of cyberwine buddies from around the globe gathered to socialize, taste and compare cabernets and cab-blends from around the globe, and enjoy lots of great food!


Our "almost live" coverage

Sunday, Aug. 22
"Taste the Terroir:
International Cab Shootout & Brunch"

The rules were simple, but the challenge was daunting: Taste 13 red wines lined up at your place. Describe each, give it a rating, and guess where you thought it was made and what vintage it was. Closest call (provided that someone got at least eight countries right) would win the prize.

This kind of blind tasting isn't my strength, and I know it, but my poor personal performance surprised even me. No excuses ... but my palate does tend to peak closer to dinner time than lunch. :)

Here are my notes on each wine, listed in the order of my preference:

Chateau Musar 1970 (Lebanon) - Dark garnet with a clear edge. Bretty, very barnyardy, but the funky nose gives way to absolutely delicious sweet fruit and acid. Rated 96/100, my top wine. The group rated it third, in a three-way tie at 94. I guessed [gulp] that it was a 1994 Bordeaux.

Yarra Yering 1991 Dry Red No. 1 (Australia) - Dark reddish-purple. Herbaceous, dill and green pepper showing through oak. Weedy dill and lots of black-fruit flavors. I rated it second at 93/100; the group placed it in a four-way tie for third at 94. My guess: Washington State 1995.

Ridge 1990 Monte Bello (California) - Very dark ruby with a day-glo edge. Cassis and mint, big and full; aromatic black fruit and oak. Good, clean wine, big and structured, impressive. I rated it third, 92/100. The group also ranked it third, in a four-way tie at 94. My first good call, California ... but I thought it was a '97!

Ornellaia 1988 (Italy) - Garnet, with light leathery and black-fruit aromas. Full and ripe, structured, delicious. I rated it fourth at 91/100. The group thought less of it, placing it in a tie for tenth at 90. My guess? Chile, 1995. Wrong hemisphere ... on both axes.

Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion Graves (France) - Dark garnet. Weedy dill and black fruit aromas, slight barnyard emerges with time in the glass. Full, tart, flavors follow the nose. My rating, fifth at 90/100. The group placed it in a tie for seventh at 93. My guess, after toying with the possibility of Silver Oak, was 1996 Australia. And this a wine that Parker gave a 99!

Penfolds 1990 Bin 707 (Australia) - Candied fruit, dark chocolate and new oak aromas; chocolate-covered cherry flavor, full and tart. I ranked it sixth at 88/100. The group judged it seventh at 93. I guessed California 1994.

Chateau Lynch-Bages 1982 Pauillac (France) - Hint of barnyard and tight, dusty fruit. Forward fruit flavor over firm tannins, nuances of earthy tobacco leaf. My rating: 87/100, seventh. The group rated it 95, in a tie for first. At least I got the France part right, but declared it a '95 based on the still-evident tannins.

Chateau Haut-Brion 1985 Graves (France) - Garnet with a slight amber edge. Earthy, organic nose, hints of sulfur that blow off to reveal full fruit aromas and flavors. I called it eighth at 86/100. The group rated it tenth (tie), 90. In one of my more embarrassing misses, I guessed it to be a 1996 wine from, er, South Africa.

Beyerskloof 1994 Stellenbosch (South Africa) Dark garnet, with "green," chalky, smoky and mineral aromas, seems tightly wound. good fruit and structure, tannic and long. My ninth choice, 84/100; the group placed it in a tie for tenth at 90. and I suspected a '94 Bordeaux.

Quilceda Creek 1992 Reserve - Inky dark reddish-purple. Oak dominates a tight aroma, vinous blackcurrant, not showing much. Ripe, fruity and prickly flavors, odd. My rating: Tenth, 83/100. The group's: Ninth at 92. I guessed it was a '95 from Italy.

Concha y Toro 1988 Don Melchor Private Reserve (Chile) - Dark garnet with a clear edge. High aromatics reminiscent of varnish. Hard, tannic, green. Youthful. I ranked it Eleventh at 78/100; the group placed it last at 87. Reminded me of youngish Musars I've tasted, prompting me to guess Lebanon 1989.

Robert Mondavi 1991 Reserve - Very dark garnet. Cassis and vinous aromas, not giving much. Characteristic Cabernet fruit, lean and tight. My rating: Twelfth at 70/100. The group placed it in a four-way tie for third at 94. I guessed Argentina '93 for no particularly good reason.

Catena Alta 1995 Tikal Vineyard Mendoza (Argentina) - Black fruit and oaky vanilla and spice. Hot, vinous, acidic, thin fruit. I rated it last, 64/100. The group rated it in a tie for first at 95! Pretty much working on elimination at this point, I called it a '96 Australian. At least I got the general age and the hemisphere right.

This separate report on the tasting was filed by Manuel Camblor:

MoCool '99 Finale:
Sunday "Taste the Terroir" Cabernet Shootout

I've never been all that crazy about "formal" blind tastings where there's a Q & A session afterwards requiring tasters to speculate on provenance and vintages of the wines tasted. Even after spending a third of my life (that would be a decade and small change) tasting wine, visiting with wine producers and reading and writing assiduously about my vinous experiences, I still get rushes of fear and trembling when my turn comes to attribute to the liquid in the glasses before me names and pedigrees. I hate it if I'm right because I don't want to appear like a know-it-all—and I do have a marked tendency toward cockiness in certain contexts. And I hate it when I'm wrong because... Well, you can imagine.

The Sunday Morning blind tasting of thirteen Cabernets from around the world was, I must confess, one of the few occasions when I found the game of vinous title-attribution completely free of the usual anxieties. I felt like I was among friends and what I was participating in was, in fact, a game. Good repartee and laughter were the hallmark of the proceedings and one could feel that it was more important for those present to learn something than to demonstrate knowledge. Okay, at least that's the impression I got.

Anyway, we were presented with thirteen wines to taste. The object of the game was to identify the region of origin of as many of them as one could. Whoever got the greatest amount of correct attributions won a bottle of the much-touted and ultraexpensive 1994 Harlan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (a trophy, indeed). One had to get at least 60% of the attributions right in order to qualify for the prize.

Joe Moorehouse won the bottle. He rocks. I got no more than five right. but it was fun, and I got to try some really superlative wines.

Here's what we tasted that Sunday, in the order that we tasted it:

1. Concha y Toro, Cabernet Sauvignon "Don Melchor Private Reserve," Puente Alto Vineyard, Maipo Valley, Chile 1988. Writing that this one was "Italian" on my tasting sheet was especially embarrassing. 1988 was the vintage with which I discovered this great-value Chilean and I've bought at least a case of every vintage ever since. My tasting note on this occasion: Garnet-ruby, with a brickish rim. Cassis, bell pepper, earth and leather on the nose. Lead pencil with some swirling. More swirling reveals an inviting suggestion of turbinado sugar. {;um and cherry flavor in the mouth, with some very hard tannins that dominate the overtly oaky finish. Perhaps slightly past its best moment.

2. Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, "Ornellaia," Tuscany, Italy 1988: I thought this was a "youngish Bordeaux." Pitiful, no? Dark garnet, mahogany rim. Dried fruits (especially raisins and raspberries), cherry preserves and very mild VA on the nose. Lovely blackcurrant and tart cherry in the mouth. Tough tannins, but also very elegant notes of cherry and cedar on the long aftertaste.

3. Château Musar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 1970: This one I recognized immediately (I'd tasted it Thursday night at Gary Kahle's). The aroma is unmistakable: leather, cedar, sweaty horse, manure, resin, black cherry and plum. In the mouth it's superbly smooth and plummy, with raspberry and red currant harmonics floating all over the place. Long finish, with a strong leathery elements and good acidity. One of my favorites of the tasting.

4. Catena Alta, Cabernet Sauvignon "Tikal Vineyard," Mendoza, Argentina 1995: I had a suspicion about this one being the South African in the bunch, but ended up calling it "Chilean" instead. Wrong on either count, though I should maybe get some credit for placing it in the Southern Hemisphere. Deep garnet with ruby highlights. Forward aromas of cherry and blackcurrant with earthy undertones. Cherry, with mild vegetal notes and plenty of vanilla on the palate. Solid tannins on the plummy finish. Good, but not especially memorable.

5. Beyerskloof, Stellenbosch, South Africa 1994: Dried fruit on the nose, with bakery spices, a hint of mint and lead pencil. In the mouth, plenty of cocoa, red berries and cherry. Big tannins and cranberryish acidity, plus a nice earthiness on the long finish. A well, structured and very flavorful wine.

6. Yarra Yering, Dry Red Wine No. 1, Victoria, Australia, 1991: Horses and espresso on the nose, with a bit of tomato in the sweetness of the aroma, plus dried herbs. Plum, cherry and blackcurrant in the mouth, but with a savory, tarry note in there. Big tannins on the long finish that also shows herbal and floral elements. Again, something nice, but not particularly remarkable.

7. Penfold's, Cabernet Sauvignon "Bin 707," South Australia, Australia 1990: Another one that I identified in my head by name. I had tasted it quite recently and it's not a wine that'seasy to forget. Very minty, with restrained blackcurrant and raisin scents wrapped in bands of leather. Sweet cassis, vanilla, chocolate and mint—like the apotheosis of an After Eight confection. Astringent tannins on the deliciously long finish. An infant. I'll leave the six bottles in my cellar alone for at least five more years.

8. Château Lynch-Bages, Pauillac, Bordeaux 1982: Another one that my memory knew by name and called out to... Bretty nose with some underlying menthol and a slightly annoying vegetalness, plus some very characteristically bordelais licorice and lead scents, A few swirls in the glass and all of a sudden it's all coffee-oak. In the mouth it shows plum, cassis and blackberry, but it's a bit thin. Medium-length finish with softish tannins that turns unexpectedly complex at the very last.

9. Château Haut Brion, Graves, Bordeaux 1985: This one I paused over quite a bit, placing it in Bordeaux and wanting to get much more site-specific. Something in it spoke to me of a particular place... But I couldn't find it on time. Bloody-metallic nose at first, very closed and hinting at momentous tannins, Swirling brings out a slight barnyardiness, then blackcurrant, cherry, leather and flowers, plus a hint of ink and a generous dose of oak. In the mouth it doesn't reveal much beyond its powerful tannins. Should develop into something beautiful in time, but right now it's just too bracing to drink.

10. Château La Mission-Haut Brion, Graves, Bordeaux 1989: On this one I really screwed up. Put it somewhere in California. Very shy nose of dried fruit, cherry and raspberry, plus an element that I can only call "dusty." It's a wine that speaks very softly—in an almost inaudible whisper—at first. But a little time and movement in the glass reveal chocolate and more fruit aromas. In the mouth it loses its shyness. Huge frutal and woody tannins with a nice stuffing of cassis and blackberry. Turns buttery on the long finish.

11. Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon "Reserve," Napa Valley 1991: Another one I knew.It was fresh in my memory from the day before and yet, after writing "Napa" in my notes, I scratched it and put "Australia." I was missing one of the two Aussies there were and I forced myself to find it. Bad, eh? Heavy eucalyptus and blackcurrant aromas. Lots of obvious cassis on the nose, too. And earth. And a touch of vanilla bean. And black olives. Massive blackcurrant fruit in the mouth and smooth but firm tannins on the extra-long finish. Another favorite of mine.

12. Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon "Monte Bello Vineyard," Santa Cruz Mountains, California 1990: Funky, peppery first nose. Then it turns intensely earthy and very complex, with aromas of cured meat, bitter chocolate, soy sauce and plum, plus a lovely element of sweet anise. Some glass time reveals lots of spice, with some pretty racy currantlike aromas. Same in the mouth. It's huge and fabulous and what Dominus wishes it could be in a million years. But I had to throw in the towel. My triangulation system refused to work. Yet another favorite, near the top of my list.

13. Quilceda Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon "Reserve," Washington 1992: A strange sort of menthol on the nose, with undertones of guava and fig, then char and cherry. In the mouth it's like a delicious chocolate cake at first, with a layer of medicinal cherry and some licorice thrown in the mix. Long and very plush, with a nice band of acidity and plenty of fruit on the aftertaste. I only dared guess "New World" on this one and called it "Argentine."

And that was it. At brunch a little later, Lou Roderick gave me some Peter Michael, "Les Pavots" 1996 )once again, please excuse the incomplete name; I took the notes too quickly and the appellation slipped by me). Very buttery-oaky nose, but with layers and layers of raspberry, blackberry and blackcurrant underneath, plus a sexy saddle leather and caramel thing. And espresso. Elegantly built and superlong in the mouth, with lots of fruit in the aftertaste. A great brunchtime wine, if you ask me.

Thus end my reports on MoCool '99. Thanks to all for the laughs, the wine and the wisdom. And do expect me next year.

--San Juan, 24 August 1999

Saturday, Aug. 21
Picnic at Joel Goldberg's, Ann Arbor area

The weather cooperated beautifully for another in a string of memorable Saturday picnic/wine tastings for MoCool. Hordes of revelers brought wine in boxes, crates and backpacks and uncorked them in a large, white tent with bottles from nations and regions around the world placed under each nation's flag.

My notes follow on 32 excellent wines, a total that only scratched the surface of the hundreds of bottles available. As more participants post their notes on the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group or send them to me in E-mail, I'll be happy to add them here for the permanent record.


Turkey Flat Vineyards 1996 Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Hazy dark-garnet. Chocolate and black coffee and deep fruit. Earthy and full, ripe and intense. Excellent wine.

Penfolds 1993 South Australia Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon - Inky dark reddish-purple. Classic "weedy dill" and deep black fruit aromas. BIg, bold and ripe, drinking well but still youthful.

Yarra Yering 1996 Coldstream Vineyard Dry Red Wine No. 1 ($34.99) - Dark reddish-purple. Black fruit and weedy dill aromas. Dusty, dill and blackcurrant flavors, acidic, soft tannins. Odd, complex and pleasant but disjointed. Seems young. ("Bordeaux blend.")


Sherrill Vineyards 1977 Shell Creek Vineyards Shandon Cabernet Sauvignon - A 22-year-old California red of unknown antecedents - no one in sight claims any knowledge of Sherrill or Shell Creek - but it's showing amazingly well, an inky dark-ruby wine with dark chocolate and deep fruit aromas and flavors, "A block of Mackinac Island fudge in a glass."

Groth 1988 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (double magnum) - Very dark garnet, almost opaque. Delicious mature Cabernet aromas - leather, coffee, mint and black fruit - full, structured and fine.

David Coffaro 1997 Aca Modot Dry Creek Valley Red Wine - Inky dark garnet. Ripe black fruit and perfumed aromatics in a big, forward aroma. Full, juicy and bright, tart acidity and soft tannins. A delight! (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Cabernet Franc.)

Clos du Val 1986 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Very dark garned. Ripe blackcurrant fruit, delicious cassis aromas. Full and bright fruit, drinking beautifully now but no hurry to drink it up.

Beringer 1992 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Very dark garnet. Black fruit and leather, appetizing aromas lead into a full and bright flavor, juicy fruit and crisp acidity, with soft tannins still showing a bit in the finish.

Saddleback Vineyards 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark reddish-purple. Fresh fennel over black fruit aromas. Oak frames herbal fruit on the palate. Impressive, but needs time.

Plump Jack 1994 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark reddish-purple. Leathery and fresh black fruit aromas. Huge on the palate, a fruit bomb, but acidic structure and tannins hold it together.

Judd's Hill 1993 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Inky dark reddish-purple. Good fruit and emerging old-Cabernet aromas make for an impressive aroma, and the flavor holds up the nose's promise with ripe anf fresh flavors, good balance and plenty of life in it yet.

Staglin Family Vineyards 1995 Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon- Inky dark garnet. Deep, tight and plummy fruit aromas; sweet fruit flavor, full and quite noticeably oaky.

Silver Oak 1988 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Hazy garnet, dill and vanilla and rich black fruit. Seems younger than '88, and as often happens with Silver Oak, the oak is obvious but the fruit is holding on well.

Ridge 1985 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark ruby. Earthy, discreet barnyard aromas, and an absolutely delicious old-Cabernet flavor, leather and black coffee and lots of sweet fruit.

Dominus 1996 Napa Valley Red Table Wine - Dark reddish purple. Barnyard and herbal aromas, almost makes me think of the Provence herbal "garrigues" - or brett. Similar on the palate, black fruit, big tannins and lots of earthy notes.

Phelps 1996 Insignia Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark reddish-purple. Cassis and mint, full but seems simple in this youthful stage.

Flora Springs 1995 Napa Valley Trilogy ($37.99) - Very dark ruby. Cassis and mint aromas, tightly wound. Big, tart and tannic, long finish. Excellent potential, needs time. (39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc.)


Chateau la Lagune 1982 Haut-Medoc - Slightly hazy dark garnet. Delicious, mature aromas and flavors, earthy and ripe fruit, sweet and structured. (John Trombley, the donor, notes that this wine was served from double magnum, and thus probably holding up better than standard bottles of the '82 Lagune, which is widely reported to be in decline.)

Mas de Daumas Gassac 1996 Vin de Pays de l"herault Haute Vallée du Gassac - Dark ruby in color, with earthy and tart cherry aromas. Ripe and acidic, lots of body and structure.

Chateau Yon-Figeac 1985 Saint Emilion Grand Cru - Slightly hazy dark garned, with leather and cassis aromas, deep and rich. Big and structured black fruit flavor, delicious, drinking very well.

Chateau la Marche-Canon 1983 Canon Fronsac - Clear ruby-amber. Vegetal, damp-hay aromas lead into a sweet-fruit and tart perfumed flavor. Past peak, but still appealing.

Chateau Tayac 1989 Prestige Cotes de Bourg (magnum) - Dark reddish-purple. Cassis and anise aromas, ripe and fresh. Big, tart and tannic; good wine, still very young.

Prosper et Louis Marie Tesserenc 1990 Cabernet de L'Arjolle - Dark garnet. Black fruit and restrained herbaceous notes. Ripe and juicy fruit, tart acidity. Good balance, impressive for an affordable (under $10) wine.

Domaine de Chevalier 1982 Graves - Subject to lots of speculative (although not blind) analysis because Robert M. Parker Jr. reportedly rated it a lowly 67 points, this wine seems better than that. Dark ruby in color, it shows a faint but pleasant fruit and floral aroma and seems a bit delicate on the palate, with floral rosy notes and lots of red fruit. Atypical Bordeaux and particularly austere for an '82, which may be why Parker didn't care for it.

Joel Taluan St. Nicholas de Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes - Dark reddish-purple. Intriguing scent, leather and tangerine peel. Light, tart, lean but intense fruit flavors.

Domaine Filiatreau 1997 Saumur Champigny Vieilles Vignes - Black. Blueberries and ripe, vetegal "green" aromas. Big, full and tart cherry fruit, acidic and lean.

Chateau Sociando-Mallet 1995 Haut-Medoc ($37.99) - Inky reddish-purple. Barnyard and black-fruit aromas and flavors. Heavy tannins overshadow ample fruit. Delicious now but will benefit from cellar time.


Karthäuserhof 1997er Karthäuserhofberg (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) Riesling Auslese - No, it's not a Cabernet, of course. But John Trombley insisted that I recalibrate my palate from reds long enough to try this German treasure (of which only a handful of cases were made), and I'm glad he did. Very pale gold in color, it breathes an amazing aroma of grapefruit, mango, pine and conifer aromatics over mineral notes. Full, bright and balanced, fruit-sweet and steely-acidic, it shows great promise for evolution over many years in the cellar.

John offers the following background info: "Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Auslese #34, Gütsabfullung Karthäuserhof, Vintage 1997, from the Großer Ring Versteigerung (Auction) of 1998. This wine is a special auction wine, not commercially available, made for consumption by other winemakers mostly and hand-carried by Ewald Moseler into this country."


Grangehurst 1993 Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark ruby. Earthy, blackcurrant aromas. Ripe, plummy fruit flavor, warm fruit.

Veenwoulden 1996 Paarl Classic - Hazy ruby with an orange glint. Earthy black fruit aromas; full, balanced, long. Very good wine.

Glen Carlou 1991 Paarl Grande Classique Reserve - Slightly hazy dark garnet. Cassis and blackcurrant aromas and flavors, tart and tannic. (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.)


Chateau Ste. Michelle 1979 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Very dark garnet. Good old-Cabernet aromas and flavors, earthy and sweet. Ripe, sweet fruit over a firm acidic structure. Very fine wine.

Here is Manuel Camblor's report:

On the Deliciousness of Pure Extravagance:
The MoCool '99 Saturday Afternoon Picnic

There's a temptation I feel very strongly inclined to resist as I begin to transcribe my drinking notes from the MoCool '99 Saturday Cabernet Feast at Joel and Sally Goldberg's (21 August, 1999). The temptation is that to get organized and place my remarks under specific geographic or stylistic wine rubrics—Napa with Napa, claret with claret, etc... Which is how the wines were presented for sampling. I don't want to do that simply because, regardless of the layout, that's not how it all happened to me. I experienced a large number of wines in a happy chaos, making countless (and obviously very promiscuous) 180-degree turns from one region or style of wine to another. The array of extraordinary Cabernet-based wines on offer was enough to make one's head spin, even without having had the first sip. The crowd (the very people who had provided most of that magnificent range of wines) was quite beautiful to behold—ruddy-cheeked, extra-talkative and full of good laughter (a luscious mixture of what Milan Kundera once called "the laughter of the angels" and something else, more sensuous and earthly). Let's just hope I can do justice in writing to such a fantastic occasion...

I arrived late as usual—true to Latino type—and with my good friend Camilo Suero in tow. We had indulged in an XXL, high-fat lunch in preparation for the bacchanalia (never mind Robert Parker's salads and no coffee; we were getting ready for out-and-out extravagance and so, only a pint of Guiness and a Reuben in Ann Arbor would do, with a liter of Perrier to clear the mouth afterwards...) and got straight to business after a few greetings.

For some odd reason, the Aussie table exerted a strong gravitational pull upon me and I found myself tasting the Yarra Yering, Red Table Wine No. 1, Victoria, Australia 1996 first. A deeply colored wine with exciting aromas of cassis, brown sugar, eucalyptus, sea water, soy sauce and charcoal. In the mouth it's very supple, yet quite lively. Long finish with plush tannins and interesting mineral accents.

With the Yarra Yering still in my glass, I was pulled away to the French table by someone (don't ask) who pointed to a decanter and said "Try that, it's one of Callahan's wines..." No elaboration on the matter. Since I knew our friend Robert Callahan wasn't present, I asumed this Joël Talnau, St. Nicholas de Bourgueil "Vieilles Vignes," 1996 to be some sort of in absentia offering for MoCool (strightenings of the record on this head are quite welcome). Medicinal and leathery aromas, with a healthy dose of menthol and black cherry on the nose. Sweet, smooth and very plummy in the mouth. Long finish with good acidity and gentle, dark-chocolatey tannins. How ultimately winning this wine is depends on how much its retail cost is.

Rudolf Erasmus (who travelled all the way from South Africa for MoCool) took my elbow and pulled me to the clarets, where I was treated to a sequence of delicious '82s. First came the Château Grand Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac 1982—love at first sniff, with delicious saddle leather and earth scents greeting me from the glass, then giving way to a wave of cassis and dark chocolate, plus a tiny hint of straw. Very sweet and packed with luscious blackcurrant flavor. A very generous wine that stayed with me for as long as... Somethig else wasn't poured in my glass for a taste! Next up was the Domaine de Chevalier, Graves 1982: Intriguing nose of chocolate and menthol, lead pencil and coal. I kept sniffing and all sorts of tiny nuances became discernible. Of course, I couldn't pause long enough to list them, but they were there... Tannic in the mouth, but with an ample backdrop of blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Long and quite tight on the finish, with a lovely curranty acidity. In its infancy, still. The third of this impromptu horizontal was the Château La Lagune, Haut-Médoc 1982, from a double magnum presented by John Trombley. Deep mahogany color. Big cassis, raspberry, dark chocolate and herbs, with an undercurrent of leather and lead in nose and mouth. Long finish with lively, very youthful tannins. Bordeaux that commands attention, tout court.

Gary Kahle guided me to the "OTHER USA" table and showed me somethng that I just had to try, from a very unsung (at least to my ears) region. It was the Horton, Cabernet Franc, Orange County, Virginia 1998 and I'm glad to report that it's well worth seeking out in terms of amazing QPR (it's in the $10 neighborhood). Herbs, black cherry and blackcurrant on the nose, all sweet and playful. Chocolatey and loaded with raspberry and blackcurrant in the mouth. Very yummy and something of which I wouldn't mind having an ample supply for casual consumption.

After this I got Napaed—and stayed Napaed for a while. I began with the Joseph Phelps, Cabernet Sauvignon "Backus Vineyard," Napa Valley 1986: Hugely minty and blackcurranty to smell, this. Very characteristic. Smooth and deliciously chocolatey in the mouth, but also quite robust. Long finish, with well-integrated but still quite palpable tannins and all sorts of earthy nuances. It seems like a more open, friendlier and altogether more polished version of the "Bacchus" bottlings from the early '80s—which, at least for me, have always felt rather backward. Next up was somethng I had tasted three months before and which had impressed me for its tannic vigor, the Joseph Phelps, "Insignia," Napa Valley 1987: Also lots of menthol, plus bitter chocolate, ink, earth and a ton of cassis on the nose and the palate. This one has enough tannins and acidity (albeit, also quite a bit of alcoholic heat on the finish) to keep for ages.

After the two Phelps came a wine I had never seen or heard of before, the Oakford Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley 1994. It's a textbook Oakville Cabernet on the first whiff—much eucalyptus, ink, toast, cassis and blackcurrant that carry over to the palate. It's sweet and very, very sexy right now, but has great structure for aging. Very long and scrumptiously fruity-chocolatey finish. A beauty I'm glad to have discovered.

Next there was the Château Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon "The Montelena Estate," Napa Valley 1990. Metallic, slightly mentholated aroma at first. Then dark chocolate, cassis and raspberry start to show through—but very restrainedly. Flavors of cassis and raspberry are overcome by some quite raspy tannins that carry the finish. A very hard and uncompromising thing right now that could need a decade to open up. But that's the way of young Montelena, isn't it?

A double magnum of Groth, Cabernet Sauvignon "Reserve," Napa Valley 1988 (brought by Bob Hendrick) provided a freaky surprise. Upon opening the bottle, it was discovered that a thick plug of tartrate crystals, sediment and other gunk had formed in the neck of the big bottle, impeding the wine from coming out. A careful blow with a blunt object summarily took care of the problem, pushing the plug down. It went straigh to the bottom of the bottle without disintegrating, apparently, because what was poured showed no "bits." Beautiful aromas of blackcurrant and cassis, with hints of spun sugar, dried herbs and raw meat. Deliciously sweet and deep, this Groth had me instantly calling it the best '88 Napa Cabernet I've ever had (okay, a dubious honor, but hey...) Big, cassis-loaded finish with a bit of acidity and some lovely mint accents. The tannins are integrated to the point of being almost imperceptible. Fine stuff.
I then went to the Flora Springs, "Trilogy," Napa Valley 1995 (which was Robin Garr's offering). An elegant wine and without a doubt, one of the best wines I've had from Flora Springs in several years. Anise, mint, soy sauce and cured meat dominate the nose. In the mouth it's very polished, with ample blackcurrant and raisin flavors and wave after wave of anise. Silky tannins and well-focused acidity on the long finish.

I ended this sojourn at the Napa table with the Duckhorn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1992: Very tannic nose with a nice cloud of cherry and raspberry, blackcurrant and minerals, providing relief. It's sweeter than what the initial aroma would suggest and the fruit flavors linger for quite a while at mid-palate. But the hard, tannic truth kicks in on the finish and reminds me that this one's still young...

At that point it was 5:30 in the afternoon, time for me to take part in the last of three blind tasting of Cabernets organized by Mark Horvatich for MoCool (two different groups of people had gone in, one at 3:30 and the other at 4:30, to participate in similar tastings). Six wines were poured, in two flights of three. Follwing are the notes I took while blind on all six wines, then the identities of the wines as revealed when the tasting ended.

1. Intense purple-ruby color almost to the rim, very opaque core. Lead pencil, mighty licorice and raisin on the first nosing. Mint, dark chocolate and floral elements emerge after a bit of swirling. Very fruity and pert, but with significant oaking showing through as well on nose and palate. Very long and with powerful tannins. Hints of dried forest fruits and brown sugar on the aftertaste.

2. Ruby-purple, less saturated than #1, but also quite young-looking. Earth, raspberry and a medicinal vibe come through after some heavy-duty wrist action on my part. Very tannic in the mouth at first, but with good concentration of cherry, blackcurrant and raisin showing underneath. The tannins are smooth enough, also, to keep things enjoyable. Big, earthy finish.

3. More claret-like from the start. Flowers and forest fruit, plus balsamic wood (cedar) and a gorgeous minerally something. Lots of mocha and fruit in the mouth (cassis, black plum, blackberry). Huge finish where massive tannins take hold and don't let go. Difficult to assess further, this one.

4. Older? Deep garnet-purple with faint orangeing at the rim. Eucalyptus, wet earth, cocoa and forest fruits on the nose. Sweet and surprisingly unheavy in the mouth, with plentiful blackcurrant and black cherry flavors. Very elegant and also patently Napaish from all the menthol I get as I swirl the glass. The finish is a bit disappointing. One expects the wine to fan out and show layers of flavor, but no... At least for now. Very nice, nevertheless.

5. Leather and Brett; a nice horsiness and tobacco notes on the nose, with loads of cassis underneath. Swirling in the glass reveals a smell not unlike Band-Aids, plus something of sundried tomatoes and red currant. This one is very tightly packed with fruit. In the mouth it shows cassis, blackberry and blackcurrant, but very reigned in. Astringent finish with big tannins and acidity. Excellent, ageworthy stuff.

6. Strong elements of black olives and dried herbs on the nose; also plum, black cherry, earth and lead pencil shavings. Slightly bitter in the mouth, with lots of anise over plum and blackcurrant flavors. Long finish with powerful but quite polished tannins. A taste of soy, black olives and char lingers in the mouth for a long time. I could swear I've had this one before and it felt as unready as it does now...

The group was not requested to guess the actual names of the wines. We only had to triangulate general provenance and give a judgment. Consensus on where the wines came from was Napa, with a Bordeaux ringer possibly thrown in. The quality assessment was trickier. I volunteered a "How Much Would You Pay?" scale which was good enough for Mark Horvatich, our moderator. General opinion put them between $35 and $60" range. Judge for yourself how "on" or "off" we were.

#1 was the Joseph Phelps, "Insignia," Napa Valley 1991. #2 was the Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon "Private Reserve," Napa Valley 1991. #3 was the Château Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon "The Montelena Estate," Napa Valley 1991. #4 was the Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon "Reserve," Napa Valley 1991. #5 was Opus One, Napa Valley 1991 (which was the very first Opus One that I do not consider preposterous, hugely overpriced crap, by the way...). And #6, which I had indeed tasted before (here in Puerto Rico, just a few months ago) was the Dominus, Napa Valley 1991.

The opportunity to taste these six premium wines was a very generous gift from Mark. I thank him yet again.

When I returned to the tent and the tables in the yard, I found John Trombley wielding a very special bottle of something refreshingly non-Cabernetted. It was a truly wonderful Karthäuserhof, Eitelsbacher Karthäuselhofberger Riesling Auslese No. 34, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 1997. A nervy, very tightly wound wine which shows lots of minerals on the nose and many suggestions of frutal glories: bits of green mango, peach, orange zest... Gracefully sweet in the mouth, it just fills one's head with dreams of glories to come once the wine reaches maturity. I'd love to see what happens to this in twenty years... From an extremely small production, available only at auction.

Returning after this sweet respite to the Cabernet fray, I began with the Justin, "Isosceles" Reserve, Paso Robles 1989, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Jammy on the nose, with scents of barnyard and blackcurrant galore. Ribena with a kick of licorice, alcohol and oak. Not much there, really...

I followed this with another wine completely new to me, the Ramspeck, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1994: Toasty, too-obviously oaky nose with leather, chocolate, soy sauce and big blackcurrant. More of same in mouth. Gripping oak tannins and nice acidity on the finish. Too oaky for my taste, but it manages to feel somewhat balanced.

Next was the La Jota, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley 1985: Very forward eucalyptus on the nose, with olives, soy and barnyard aromas. Plum and cherry in the mouth that give way on the finish to a burst of pretty severe tannins. Disappears quickly. Another dud was the Francis Ford Coppola, Black Label "Claret," Napa Valley 1997: More Ribena with a kick. Simple and sweet.

Trying to get out of this little spell with mediocrity, I tried the Whitehall Lane, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1992: Beautiful cassis scent made even better by nuances of black olive and saddle leather. Very balanced, with plenty of cassis and red fruit in the mouth, plus velvety tannins on a very long finish. Quite ready.

With dinner I tried two wines, which were the first ones I actually ingested. First came a delicious Henschke, Cabernet Sauvignon "Cyril Henschke," Eden Valley, Australia 1992: Saturated garnet with ruby highlights and a fully orange rim. Licorice, eucalyptus, blackcurrant and old-style hair tonic all over the place. Sweet and chewy in the mouth, with very well-integrated tannins. The flavor of cassis lingers for a looooong time. The second wine had me at a loss for words. It was the Beaulieu Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon "Georges de Latour Private Reserve," Napa Valley 1985: A headful of caramel, cedar, dried cherry, milk chocolate, plum and herbs... Dramatic, yet extremely elegant. This one is a real treasure that is drinking gorgeously.

After dinner—no dessert— came time for me to open the bottles I had brought up for MoCool all the way from San Juan, a mini-vertical of Joseph Phelps, Cabernet Sauvignon "Eisele Vineyard," Napa Valley of the years 1984, 1986 and 1987. The 1984 was quite shy, considering what I had expected from that vintage—the characteristic eucalyptus and blackcurrant aromas were there, but not quite forward and somehow taking a backseat to scents of licorice, olives, earth and leather. Intense, chewy and tannic in the mouth, with lots of fruit locked in behind a sturdy structure. Feels extremely young. The 1986 was the favorite among those who got to taste all three wines. Manure, tobacco and cedar on the nose, followed by a wave of blackcurrant and eucalyptus. In the mouth it's sweet and appears very developed. The tannins are very silky on the impressively long finish. The 1987 was the mintiest of the bunch, with the aromas of blackcurrant, leather and hair tonic quite subdued in comparison to the menthol. Sweet and chewy in the mouth; more tannic and rather shorter of aftertaste than the 1986.

Hot on the heels of the "Eiseles" came two wines I have been meaning to try for quite some time. The first of them was the Caymus, Cabernet Sauvignon "Special Selection," Napa Valley 1994, a bottle brought along by Mike Conner). I dedicate my brief comments about this wine to my friend Orlando, who cannot believe how I could prefer the regular 1994 Caymus over the "Special Selection." Of this latter... Well, a buttery-sweet nose of OAK. Then a whiff of violets, blackcurrants, spice and more OAK. Chewy in the mouth and with a very toasty, buttery finish. My conclusion stands: If '94 Caymus it must be, then go with the regular. Save a hundred bucks or two. The next wine was the Thunder Mountain, "Star Ruby" Bates Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains 1996: An extremely interesting nose of balsamic wood, dried fruits, blackcurrant, violets and milk chocolate. Fabulously sweet and deep and with a long, charry finish. Hard to determine its cellaring future because it's even harder to stay away from. A study in oak "how to" (as opposed to the "how not to" of the Caymus "Special Selection").

Night had fallen when I made my way to the dining room of the Goldberg house. Mark Horvatich was sitting there with a preposterous number of empty or quickly-emptying wine bottles in front of him. There was some pretty heavy-duty tasting and imbibing going on. I was warned that I would have some fast catching up to do. And so I did. I began with a vertical of David Caffaro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley from 1994 to 1997. I insisted on doing this vertical backwards from youngest to oldest, just for a change from habitual procedure and because it was stated that dramatic changes had taken place in the winemaking at Caffaro between 1996 anbd 1997. Never mind the logic, as faulty as it is perverse, of my request—let me just tell you about the wines. The 1997 is spicy on the nose, with cassis, dark chocolate and espresso, plus a loamy note. Massive in the mouth, with big fruit and more spice; extraordinarily long aftertaste with a nice undercurrent of vanilla and soft tannins. The 1996 was indeed a different beast. On the nose, sweaty socks and dried fruit. Quite angular and unyielding. Blackcurrant fruit and massive, astringent tannins in the mouth. Also very long on the finish. The 1995 seemed much more forward and fruity, with a nose ful of chocolate, leather, blackcurrant, blackberry and cherry. Tough tannins kick in on the finish, along with a pleasantly tart acidity. The 1994 was toasty and chocolatey on the nose, with abundant—but definitely not "in yo'face"—blackcurrant and cassis; a more oak-dominated style. It also had an odd vegetal note that reminded me of tobacco that has not been well cured. Oaky in the mouth, with big cassis underneath, yes, but not enough to balance out the cooperage.

On the table were also some bottles that seemd to be blatant violations of the MoCool '99 "Hail That Cab" theme. But as what the following notes will hopefully prove, the divergence from Cabernet was not all that much. We tasted some high-end Pinot Noirs that had me repeating in my head the Abbé Tainturier's wise question: "Are we not fortunate to have grapes that can adapt to fashion?" High oak, high alcohol, high extraction... Just like sooooooo many latter day Cabernets!

Anyway, here's what we tried... First came something fairly unique by any standard, in a labelless bottle: A unique blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from Sonoma Mountain, produced by a guy named Martin van de Kamp [sic?]. Very unexpected, somewhat rustic nose of blackcurrant, spice and minerals that reminds me of Bourgueil more than anything else (it's probably the Meunier content...) Smells rather alcoholic and lets out a strong scent of coal and lead. It's pretty deep and—in spite of all my expectations of a Turleylike freak—actually very nice. Long finish that unfortunately reveals quite a bit of alcohol heat.

Next up came the Flowers, Pinot Noir "Camp Meeting Ridge," Sonoma Coast 1997, a wine I know gets all the raves from the press even if (or, more likely, all things considered, because) it clocks in at over 14% alki-hole. It comes across as overtly oaky at first, all caramel and vanillin. But then fruit emerges in a jammy torrent (imagine that! sometimes my mental images can be a tad over the top)—cherry, raspberry and dried cranberry. Long, cherry-overloaded finish with gritty tannins. A big-boned beauty of the Jayer extra-concentrated school of thought, is all I can conclude. The alcohol is very well managed. Huge and spicy aftertaste with a strong element of, of all things, flowers.

The third Pinot of this interlude was the David Bruce, Pinot Noir, Chalone 1997: Mighty oak on this one, toasty and milk-chocolatey; also masses of cherry, raspberry and blackberry in nose and mouth. More toasty oak barges in on the finish, but doesn't quite manage to mute the fruit flavors, which stay and stay and stay. Shame that this fat one is conspicuously underendowed in the acidity department. To drink in the near future.

Slipping away from the Pinots, I got to something that proved a truly nice surprise, the Di Stefano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington 1994. Deeply chocolatey, cherry-filled and with lots of licorice on nose and palate. A bit oaky on the finish, but with enough nice fruit to integrate well over the next five years.

I was quite sober, if very tired, when I decided not to look at my watch anymore for that night. Wines just kept coming my way and the supply of water and bread with which to clean my mouth seemed inexhaustible. Two delicious dessert wines appeared, one brought by Rudolf Erasmus from South Africa and the other by Mike Conner. Rudolf's was the uniqueKlein Constantia, "Vin de Constance" 1994 (I apologize for not getting the full name): Minerally, well-honeyed and peachy; impeccably balanced, with great depth of flavor and nice, lively acidity. This wine is genuinely exquisite and simply vanishes, just living a little trace of honey on the back of the tongue. A true delight... Mike's wine was the Domaine du Mas Blanc, Banyuls 1994. Another revelation. Incensy, caramelly, dried-flowery nose. Plum, char, lead and mighty tannins in the mouth. Alongsidchocolate cake, it became sublime: a smooth wave of sweetness, then a delicious, lingering bramblness.

What can I say? After these tow, I was ready to pack it up and go to bed. But suddenly Camilo appeared and said to me "You gotta come to the cellar, quick!" Which I did. Joel's cellar was jammed with people who were bringing the temperature inside to levels I'd normally have worried about. But everyone was laughing and partying away... So I joined in. When I squeezed in, notebook and glass in hand, I was immediately presented with an open bottle of Turley, Zinfandel "Hayne Vineyard," Napa Valley 1996. Tasted, took some notes... They go like this: "Sweeet Jaysahs! 17% alcohol! No wonder these people are so red in the face! Hugely extracted; plum, blackcurrant and blackberry. A woody, boozy dud to make me perspire. Urgh!" After some water, I was offered the last of a bottle of Forman, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1991. I stepped out of the crowded cellar to taste it. Very elegant nose of violets, leather, chocolate, blackcurrant and lead. More of same in the mouth. A graceful, gorgeous wine I was wishing I had tasted earlier. Very long finish with ultrafine tannins and excellent acidity. In quick succession came the Markham, Cabernet Sauvignon "Reserve," Napa Valley 1983 and the Sterling, "Reserve," Napa Valley 1984. The Markham had an arresting nose, full of truly delicious aromas of blakccurrant, cedar, chocolate and hot stones. But in the mouth there was an anticlimax... The chocolate and blackcurrant flavors are lackluster and grainy tannins take over, drying up the sides of my tongue. The Sterling was earthy, chocolatey and full of coffee on the nose, with plenty of cherry and blackcurrant on the palate that are marred by an off vegetal element. Big, tannic finish.

The last wine I tasted before being charmingly convinced by Dana Burton that my note-taking anality was thoroughly out of place, was the Ridge, Zinfandel "Late Picked," Paso Robles 1997. Another "definitely not me" wine. Pleasant nose of cherry and wild berry that seems a little Port-like and has lots of oak. In the mouth it's a touch pruney and has too much licorice flavor for my taste. It's long, and I can see how people could enjoy it... But not me.

When I got to Camilo's house I took a shower. I drank a liter of cold water. I took two Zantacs. I went to bed. and fell asleep in a matter of seconds. I slept like a rock.

--San Juan, 24 August 1999

Friday, Aug. 20
Cabernet Feast at Five Lakes Grill, Milford, Mich.

The "official" festivities got off to a great start Friday with more than 80 revelers gathering at Five Lakes Grill, a really excellent restaurant where Chef Brian Polcyn and Sommelier Ron Edwards made the group welcome with a very special meal of courses designed to match a variety of (mostly) Cabernet-based wines.

The reception
Hot smoked chipotle glazed salmon with melon salsa
Assorted charcuterie
Chicken liver mousse
Royal de Neuville Vin Rosé Pétillant - This Loire "crackling rosé," said to be a Cabernet Franc although the label didn't say so, made a delicious aperitif. Pale salmon in color, it showed biscuity and light berry aromas and a surprisingly fruity and crisp berrylike flavor backed by tart acidity.

Henry Poiron & Fils 1997 "Le Fief Giraud" Muscade de Sèvre et Maine - Clear straw color. Full musky melon aromas; tart, full and yeasty flavor.

The dinner
Seared ahi tuna with caramelized and crispy onions, Chinon demiglace
Serge et Bruno Sourdais 1996 Chinon "Les Cornuelles" Vieille Vigne - Inky, dark reddish-purple. Sour cherries and elusive conifer aromatics. Big, juicy and ripe, mouth-filling and lemon-tart, huge wine somewhat closed and tight. A remarkable Chinon.

Sauté breast of duck with confit, roasted applewood smoked bacon, wild mushrooms and truffle essence.
Chateau Tayac 1982 Prestige Cuvée Côtes de Bourg (from magnum) - Dark garnet, clear at the edge. Good mature Bordeaux aromas, heady and complex, mingling black coffee, restrained "barnyard," leather and plenty of ripe black fruit. Rich, plummy and cherry-berry fruit flavors, still quite youthful. My choice as wine of the evening.

Roast rack of lamb with epigram, fava beans, Michigan sweet corn and roast garlic whipped potatoes
Seven Hills 1996 Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley (Washington State) Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark reddish purple. Oak! New wood dominates the nose, vanilla and tobacco leaf. Black fruit and a truckload of wood on the palate, rich and extracted fruit sufficient to stand up against a tight and tannic structure. Certainly needs time, although I wonder whether the fruit will ever stand up to the wood.

Ontario peach ice
Chocolate paté with raspberries

Thursday, Aug. 19
"Warm-up" party at Gary and Georgine Kahle's

We're reliably informed that a crowd of locals and MoCool early arrivals did justice to an amazing array of wines during the unofficial weekend pre-opener. Here are tasting reports from two of the participants:

Manuel Camblor/Puerto Rico

A truly amazing experience it was, that Thursday night. I arrived with habitual Latino tardiness at Gary and Georgine Kahle's beautiful home near Brighton, Michigan. I was about to meet in the flesh a number of people who were, up to then, only names on my computer screen. With me were my old friend Camilo Suero (formerly of the Dominican Republic, now residing in a Detroit suburb) and three bottles of wine. This was the first event of my first MoCool and Camilo's first-ever exposure to any major congregation of hardcore wine lovers. He is quite new to fine wine and I wanted him to come along in order to taste and learn. Needless to say, neither one of us knew what to expect and we both were, consequently, a little nervous.

But that tiny nervousness vanished very quickly, at least in me, as soon as we were on the deck overlooking the Kahles' backyard. Faces quickly appeared to match the names I knew. There were handshakes and a couple of great, friendly hugs. Immediately, I felt I was among friends, right at home. Which, at least to me, is something quite invaluable...

Anyway, it also took no time at all for me to find a glass and begin tasting from some extraordinary bottles. The drinking notes that follow are about twenty-seven of the wines poured. There were many more, some of which I got to sample and some of which I didn't. Notice the emphasis on the word "drinking" above. The atmosphere was very informal and lively and, even though I did a lot of spitting and kept myself sufficiently sober, it should be fairly obvious that my assessments were not especially rigorous ones.

I must thank from very deep within me everyone who was there and who made the gift of this lovely experience (one of several over the weekend, no less, as you shall see from the three reports on MoCool that shall follow this one shortly) to myself and to my good friend Camilo. For his sake I am particularly happy: he got to try some incredible wines in an environment of brilliant congeniality, and it was a treat for me to watch the joy in his face as he did so. Of course, he is now spoiled for life; a neophyte suddenly in possession of impossibly high standards for future vinous comparison.

And so, to the wines...

I began by taking on the two whites I saw on a table dominated by many, many reds. First there was the Mason, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley 1998: Earthy and with several layers of tropical citrus flavor that seemed not particularly characteristic for a Californian Sauvignon. Long and with good acidity, plus plenty of a very nice pineappley vibe on the aftertaste.

The second white was one of my own offerings for the festivities, the J.M. & T. Puzelat, Sauvignon, Touraine 1998. This delicious little white is full of wet leaves, apple and pear and explodes with fruity sweetness on the finish.

Beyond that, it was all red. I began my foray with the Domaine Tempier, Bandol 1990: Pretty mahogany color, with coffee, chocolate and underbrush one the nose. In the mouth I got waves of blueberry, fig, anise and balsamic wood. Long and chewy, with some pretty big tannins that need plenty of time ot resolve.

Next up came the first revelation of the evening, a wine that was my hands-down favorite from the younger offerings, the L. & A. Brunel, "Cuvée Boreale," Châteauneuf du Pape 1995. Saturated purple color. On first sniff it seems more Hermitage than Châteauneuf. with vibrant and extremely sexy Syrah fruit dominating. It's all cherry, raspberry and redcurrant aromas and flavors, very pure and expressive. A seemingly endless finish with lovely acidity and a touch of earthiness.

After this, I was offered the Manousakis, "Nostos," Crete 1997. My experience with Greek wines being rather limited, I was glad to try something new. Alas, it turned out to be rather California-like. Nose of well-buttered microwave popcorn (major malo and American oak galore...) and ultrarripe red fruits. It's funky, to say the least, but it stays pleasant. Big plum and cherry frut in the mouth. Medium-length finish with a strange hint of baseball-card bubblegum, plus abundant plum and butter at the end.

Another curiosity was the Pia, Grenache, Vin du Pays Catalan 1998: Big scent that is almost unmistakably Grenache; in the mouth it's slightly medicinal, with bold cherry, blackberry, cranberry and caramel flavors. Long and refreshing finish. It's gorgeous and I gather it's under $10, which makes it a true winner in my book.

From there, I went on a Syrah run. Before taking on some really big guns, I tried the Hartenberg, Shiraz, Stellenbosch, South Africa 1994: Bacon, menthol and deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep blackcurrant on the nose—very dramatically Rhôneish, in a way... Same in the mouth, with a long, gripping finish.

And then... two top Hermitage wines from the same year, the Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage 1983 and the Paul Jaboulet Ainé, Hermitage "La Chappelle," 1983. The Chave shows irresistibly pure Syrah aromas and flavors with nuances of cassis, raspberry, red currant, leather and spices. Megalong and with lovely, mouthwatering acidity. This one is still on the up and up, I think. The nose on the "La Chappelle" seemed muted compared to that of the Chave Hermitage.Which is not to say that it isn't absolutely fabulous and quite complex, with lots of bitter chocolate, black olives, herbs, charcoal, licorice and soy. Nice and earthy in the mouth, with nice black cherry fruit to it. It's long, but not quite as transcendental as I had hoped. Needless to say, the Chave was my favorite of the two—a view shared, if I recall correctly, by Mike Conner, who was sitting with me as I tasted the wines.

This 1983 taste-off was followed by a true showstopper of an aged Rhône, the Paul Jaboulet Ainé, Cornas 1972: Raisins, licorice, chocolate and flowers on the nose led to lush—almost chewable—blackcurrant and black plum flavors with accents of char and more flowers. Big tannins and acidity on the superfinish. A youthful and all-too-seductive wine that will keep improving over the next ten years or more.

From that, I went to the Mommesin, Volnay "Taille Pieds," 1990 after a few judicious chunks of bread and several glasses of water. This Mommesin is huge! An earthy, leathery, caramelly, nutty nose. Very chewy in the mouth, with blackcurrant, black plum, blackberry and char. Barnyardy finish with masses of fruit, good acidity and tough-but-manageable tannins. Still needs a few years.

Bob Henrick brought the next three wines, a wonderfully terroiristic horizontal of Diamond Creek Cabernets from 1979 (the difficult uncorking of which was carried out by Gary Kahle with the kind of grace that, according to Lew Rodrick, "makes synus clearing look easy..."). The Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon "Red Rock Terrace," Napa Valley 1979 had some volatility on the nose that quickly faded to the point of insignificance, revealing an earthy, brambly aroma with lots of cassis and wild red berry behind it. Even if it can seem a little rustic, this is a deep, wide and long wine with well-integrated tannins and a graceful drop of anise just before it leaves you... The Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon "Gravelly Meadow," Napa Valley 1979 is a completely different wine: Oozing mint, licorice, spice, raisin, blackcurrant, more spice, more raisin, minerals and dried cranberry. Extralong and sumptuous, it made me call it "perfect" in a burst of giddiness. The Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon "Volcanic Hill," Napa Valley 1979 was also quite clearly distinct from the other two wines. It had me thinking that the depth of color in these Diamond Creek Cabernets is indeed remarkable. The nose on this one was very complex, moving subtly from sweaty horse to ink to herbs to dark chocolate to cassis. Full, sweet and smooth in the mouth. The aftertaste is very long and nuanced. If I loved the "Gravelly Meadow" as a hedonist, the "Volcanic Hill" I loved as an intellectual. Ah, that the Apolonian/Dyonisian split were always soooooo delicious!

At one point after this, my glass caught a splash of the Paloma, Merlot, Napa Valley 1996, a wine which I had tried a couple of months ago, here in Puerto Rico with my friends Tito Lugo and Orlando de Jesús (it was Orlando's bottle). In my notebook I see that "structure is beginning to show more, as 'puppy fat' recedes. Nice blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, but the tannins are a notable presence. Should develop over three to five years."

More bread. More water. Then the Chante Perdrix, Châteauneuf du Pape 1976: Beautiful perfume—brown sugar, ink, incense, plum, earth, coffee, leather, violets... Sweet and caressing in the mouth. Flowers and micely astringent tannins on the finish.

Next was the friendly Château Cordeillan-Bages, Pauillac 1989, a wine I had tried a couple of times before... Polite cocoa, cherry and raspberry nose, with the cocoa and cherry turning more intense in the mouth. Tobaccoish on the long, sweet finish. A deliciously friendly drink for right now.

An excursion to our generous host's cellar yielded a couple of treasures. Firstly there was the breathtaking Château Musar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 1970: Intense garnet color with only slight orangeing at the edge; sweet nose of leather, manure, plum marmalade, dried figs, spices and many other things—aromas that amount to something reminiscent of old claret, but that are also very distinctly Musar. Wonderful concentration, with lovely plum, fig, tart cherry and orange peel flavors. Long finish showing much complexity and enough tannins and acidity for the wine to keep a while yet. A truly unique wine. After which Gary produced a bottle he claimed to have been wanting to open for a while—all he needed was a good excuse—, Château Montrose, St. Estèphe 1934. Yep, that's a 3 there... I wasn't kidding when I called Gary generous. The Montrose looked extremely youthful for its age, deeply colored (a dense garnet-ruby) and with surprisingly little lightening. Aromas of old leather, spice, milk chocolate, dried herbs, Band-Aids, black cherries and caramel. And in the mouth... Let me just say that this one's alive, well and ready to play: a goodly amount of juicy plum, black cherry and enough tannins and acidity to make me think of—gasp!— further development. A beauty that's far from drying out.

Between these two greats, a bottle of Château Margaux. Margaux 1979 happened upon our merry gathering. It was, at least for me, one of the minor disappointments of the evening. The color was a fabulous purple-garnet with a violet and orange rim. The nose was quite austere—brambly and bitter-chocolatey and with accents of red berries. But almost completely absent was a certain floral sexiness that makes Margaux one of my favorite wines in the whole world. It's a mightily tannic wine, this, with a substantial bit of grit on the finish, which makes it feel almost rustic.

On the appearance of a bottle of Turley, Zinfandel "Old Vines," California 1997 in the house, things got rather too "free-form..." The Turley is overripe and blowsy from the word "go." Smells like Bonny Doon "Framboise," but with a truckload of stems in it... And another truckload of new oak staves. Sweet an buttery, with a spicy finish that cannot keep down gargantuan alcohol and its heat. Turley is one of those producers that has yet to make a wine I can say I don't fins in some way offensive. I really don't know why I keep trying their stuff...

On the heels of such a monstruosity, I decided to open a bottle I had brought to the party and which had gone unnoticed so far—perhaps for good reason. It was from a Loire producer about whom I had heard much good and it had been sold to me with an emphatic recco by the proprietor of the Elie Wine Co, in Royal Oak, Michigan, a wise man whose opinion I have come to trust. Price: $39.99. The wine was the M. Foucault, "Clos Rougeard," Saumur-Champigny 1995. Brown sugar, fig, plum, red berries and all things sweet on the nose. In the mouthit's light and very graceful. Long and pretty, with plenty of plum and berry flavor and excellent acidity. The trouble is that I felt a little ripped off about having paid as much as I did. $40 should buy a decent human being more in this world. I followed this hard swallpw with the La Motte, "Millenium," Franschoek, South Africa 1994, which, for all appearances is a Bordeaux-style blend, though there is no statement regarding composition on the bottle label. Muted nose of dried flowers, raspberry and cassis. Medium-bodied. Plum and raspberry in the mouth, with firm tannins andstiff acidity on the medium-length finish. Decent, but nothing to write home about.

Feeling slightly cheated about three consecutive semi-duds, I went for the sweeties before calling it a nigh. I began with a wine from Canada, the Hernder Estate, Late Harvest Vidal, Niagara Peninsula, Canada 1997: Spun sugar, peach and a hint of lime in nose and mouth; simple stuff. I quickly movedto the Château du Cros, Loupiac 1990: Lots of pear, apricot, spun sugar, orange amrmalade and wet stones; botrytis not quite obvious. Searching for more serious stuff I tried the Château Rieussec, Sauternes 1983 and struck gold. Honey, apricot and lots of botrytis-induced depth filled with delicious mineral scents and flavors. Truly great citrus acidity on the extended-play finish. This is one worth going out of one's way for.

The colophom to the sweet stuff was provided by Gary, whose will to offer his guests great wine is something at which I marvel... He brought out something about which I'd heard much high praise, the Ridge, Zinfandel "Essence," California 1993. This one had me remembering an earlier period of my life when I used to walk every day along the conifer-lined Silver Street in Cambridge, England. I always loved that smell of Christmas trees, which this wine replicates uncannily. Underneath the pine there's raspberry jam and loosely knit threads of supersweet blackcurrant. An XXL finish with the discreetest band of tart-cherry acidity.

That was the last wine. I went back to Camilo's (where I was staying for the weekend) feeling exhilarated. When I finally got to sleep. I did so with a smile on my face, to dream about the great stuff MoCool had in store. I promised to take notes of everything, so I could share the experience with those who couldn't be there.

And I did...

Mike Conner - Knoxville, TN

I've got to figure out some way to do some sort of notes and yet continue to mingle and trapse around with glass in hand. I guess I'll have to invest in some sort of Secret Service-type headset and Richard Nixon recording device! Or, maybe someone will invent something that can transcribe my thoughts while I'm sampling the wines.

Anyway, I have no strong disagreements on the notes that Manuel posted on just a thread or two below. But, I thought I'd try to rattle the brain to see if the nerve connections still exist so I could list the wines I sampled.

Much thanks to Gary who posted the list of bottles - with one additional wine: '96 Abadia Retuerta that I opened, and took home since only a few pours were taken. I guess that speaks volumes to the line-up of wines on the table! I did sample the Abadia the next evening, and found it to be a wine of tremendous class and quite pleasing. A wine that I definitely need to purchase a few more of!

(Note: The following is in no particular order... just ramblings as I try to remember the wines)

The NV Pierre Boniface Brut de Savoie (made from some obscure grape that Gary mentioned - and I have forgotten twice now!) was 'bright', bubbly and flavorful. Not a rough edge to be found. The perfect sparkler to enjoy during the summer!

I thought the '98 Mason Sauv Blanc to be a bit heavy - not from oak, but just 'heavy.' Not sure how else to describe my reaction to the flavors and feel on the palate.

I was quite impressed that the '98 Brun (Des Terres Dorées) Beaujolais Nouveau to be very much alive and flavorful. I'll have to latch onto some of his other standard Beaujolais cuvées once they arrive.

The '98 Pia Grenache was an intriguing wine. Almost the essence of raspberry to my palate, there was plenty to enjoy in this light-to medium bodied wine. A wine I'd love to pour for folks not used to red, dry wines.

My first Ogier, the '91 Côte-Rôtie was only a minor notch down from the Chave and La Chappelle. I shall have to endeavor to latch onto some bottles....

The '90 Jean Raphet G-C Lavaux St. Jacques desparately needed more attention than I gave it. Round and full, it was quite tasty, but was in tough competition to the next wine.

I thought the '90 Mommessin Volnay Taille-Pieds to be simply stunning. Full bodied with nice ripe tannins still lurking on the long finish, it is an outstanding Burgundy. Makes me wish I knew more about Burgundy to have made some purchases while some of the '90s were still "reasonable." At least I'm correcting that deficiency with a few purchases of '95 and '96.

The '95 Les Cailloux Cuvée Boreale CdP was in the running for best young bottle of the night. Tight but very rich and flavorful. I just wish I could afford to grasp a few bottles to see what will happen in 10-15 years. Maybe I'll have to track Gary down in 2012 and see if he has any left!

The Tempier Bandol ('90) seemed to be still on the upswing of its aging curve and still fairly tannic. It made it a bit difficult for me to decide wether I enjoyed tasting it or not. Once again, more samples are needed!

I should have spent a bit more time pondering the '83 Chave Hermitage and '83 Jaboulet Hermitage "La Chappelle." But, I made the mistake of sampling the Chave first. It definitely made the Jaboulet place in second if both were in a long-distance race. Not that I wouldn't mind having La Chappelle in my cellar; the Chave was much stronger and just seemed to have everything one could wish in a wine. Wonderful complex nose, full bodied with a stunning depth to the fruit flavors, and the finish which lasted almost forever. And the Chave was just about at peak too! The Chappelle seemed a bit muted on the nose, but did have a super core of rich fruit on the palate. It seemed in need of a few more years of sleep.

I too was slightly disappointed in the '79 Margaux, expecting a bit more fruit amongst the structure and tannins. A bottle tasted several years ago has been the high water mark for me. Subsequent tastings have been more problematic. Obviously more research is needed!

The '90 Tertre Rotebeouf was an extremely flavorful glass of St-Emilion juice. Tremendous depth of fruit and showing a long finish. The wine is just about ready for 'prime-time' consumption.

The '70 Musar was stunning in its depth of flavors. I am greatful to Gary for sacraficing another (especially since three were also sacraficed to the wine gods on Sunday) so I could have the opportunity to try it. Now, I wish I had purchased every last bottle that had been available here in Knoxville several years back!

I didn't give adequate time to either the '72 Jaboulet Cornas, or the '76 Chateauneuf (Perdrix) - but I did slightly prefer the Chateauneuf with its fuller flavor profile.

Likewise, I did a poor job of sampling the '79 Diamond Creeks (Red Rock Terrace, Gravelly Meadow and Volcanic Hill). Actually, I should re-phrase that. I didn't seem to be able to notice much difference in the three bottlings, as by this time, I was beginning to suffer palate fatigue. I was definitely impressed that each of the three bottles had plenty of fruit left and relatively good finishes.

The '34 Montrose was very fascinating. As Manuel states, it could easily coast for another 10+ years (heck, it has made 65 years, so my estimate is probably low!), but will never be a lush bottle of wine. Quite austere, there is more enjoyment in the nose than on the palate. But, to sample a wine that is almost 2 times as old as I! WOW!

The '97 Old Vines Zinfandel by Turley was typical Turley. Ya either love it or hate it. I'm still leaning towards the love it catagory, with the caveat that I can still change my mind once I sample one of my bottles under "proper" sampling conditions. Thanks to Bonkers for opening it. But, I think it was that bottle that put him "over the top."

The '90 Chateau do Cros Loupiac was a remarkably (at least to me) flavorful dessert wine. Soft and generous, with a hint of botrytis to carry it along. And, a pleasing finish. Unfortunately, a distant second to the following wine.

The '83 Rieussec was outstanding. Just about at peak (for this taster), a very complex and flavorful nose of botrytis-inspired tropical fruits follows along in the concentrated and plush flavors in the mouth. Quite long, it is a joy to sample such a grand bottle of Sauternes.

Lastly (really?), the '93 Ridge Zinfandel Essence lived up to all the hype that I have read about it. A sumptuous nose of ripe and rich zinberry fruit flavors, with a deeply concentrated palate which gives way to a tremendously long finish, this wine truly shines. Although sweet, there was wonderful acidity and structure to keep it from being the least bit flabby. I'm quite sorry not to have purchased any of this when it was available on the market.

I missed a bunch of wines - I think I omitted sampling all the bottles that Rudolph opened.... what was I thinking? What a missed opportunity to sample unique wines that I'm not likely to see soon again.

My sincere thanks to Gary and Georgine for opening their wonderful house to all of us. It is a true joy to be able to share an evening with such a terrific collection of wine geeks! And my thanks to everyone who brought all those fantastic wines - just about all of which I have never before sampled!

Whew! (and, that was day 1!)

QUESTIONS? Email, or any of the organizers (addresses below) for answers or more information about the weekend's events, travel and lodging help, suggestions for things to do in the area, etc.

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MoCool is non-profit and non-commercial, organized since 1992 by a volunteer group of wired wine lovers in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area. Our goal is a non-snobby, cooperative, affordable weekend for cyberwine fans to get together and enjoy wine, food, and each others' company.

Joel, for the MoCool bunch:

Jay and Cindy Baldwin
Joel and Sally Goldberg
Gary and Georgine Kahle
John and Jennifer Wolf

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Previous Events ...

The 7th Annual MOtown COoperative Off-Line, the world's longest-running gathering of wired wine lovers, took place on the weekend of Aug. 21-23, 1998. MoCool 98's theme was North American ABCs -- our way of saying "Anything But California". We spent the weekend together with wines from Oregon, Washington, New York, and Canada, along with some of the finer bottles from other stops across the continent. Here's the full report, with tasting notes!.

For more information, and to get a sense of what these events are all about, check out the MoCool '95, MoCool '96, MoCool '97 and MoCool '98 Notes Pages.

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