© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
With 21 revelers gathered, each bringing "interesting" wine to a dinner with no theme other than sharing very good bottles among wine-loving friends, a mild spring evening turned out just about perfect, with good friends, good food and, of course, very good wine.
The following notes on more than two dozen wines shared are presented with the understanding that the social setting, food on the table and restaurant-quality glassware makes for less than analytical note-taking.
Domaine Jean-Martin Spielmann Altenberg de Bergheim 1993 Gewurztraminer - Clear brass color. Clean, full litchees aroma; sweetish, soft, good fruit on the palate.
Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener 1983 Sonnenuhr Auslese - Clear gold, with perfumed, piney, honeyed aromas, sweet and very long.
Guillemot-Michel 1996 Macon-Clessé Quintaine - Pale straw color. Faint, citric and melon aroma notes; crisp, tart and clean flavor, with a faint bitterness in the finish. Mystery brown-bag wine presented by Thor Iverson. I'm tempted to guess "White Beaujolais" but keep my own counsel. When the bag comes off, I wish I hadn't been so shy, White Beaujolais and Macon being first cousins.
Rolly Gassman 1983 Reserve Millesme Alsace Muscat - Clear, bright gold, with bizarre gasoline and kerosene aromatics that induce much hilarity along the lines of "New Jersey? Exit 87 ... " Stay with it, though, and the aromatics give way to perfumed, aromatic, but intriguing fruit, a bit hot and bitter on the finish. This one's Rey Fortney's brown-bag quiz item, and he takes the kidding with good grace. It's actually a very interesting wine, but I don't even try to guess its provenance, half-fearing that I'll never live it down if it's something like Thunderbird.
Weingut Bründlmayer 1996 Zöbinger Heiligenstein Kamptal (Austria) Riesling Kabinett Trocken - Pale straw, with pleasant yeasty bread-dough aromas and a full, dry and tart flavor, apples and pine.
Frog's Leap 1997 "Leapfrögmilch" - A blend of Chenin Blanc and Riesling, presumably from California, although if there was an appellation on the odd, straining-for-humor faux German label, I missed it. The aroma is odd and cheesy, and the flavor, to my taste, watery-sweet and insipid. Others like it better than I do ... they're welcome to my share.
Vatan 1997 Clos la Néere Sancerre - Clear straw color. Citric and faintly grassy aromas; crisp, tart and mouth-filling fruit, long and lean. Fine Loire Sauvignon Blanc.
Bigot 1996 Bourgogne Pinot Noir - Les Peters, the king of Burgundy QPR (quality-price ratio) turns up with this one, and it's a $10 winner. Clear ruby in color, with bright cherry fruit aromas and tart red-cherry flavors. Nice!
Flowers 1997 Perennial - Clear garnet in color, with a potent and pleasant raspberry aroma and juicy fruit flavor limned by oak. The third brown-bag game of the evening, contributed by Dan McQ. Buoyed by my close guess on the Macon above, I blurt out "Spanish Garnacha," a long jump from Tom Troiano's "California Pinot Noir" entry. Turns out Tom is much closer to the truth: It's a bizarre blend of Pinot Noir and carbonic-maceration Zinfandel in roughly equal amounts, with smaller portions of Pinot Meunier and botrytized Chardonnay! It still reminds me of a fruity Spanish Garnacha ...
Dievole 1994 Novecento Chianti Classico - Dark garnet, with ripe black cherry and spicy oak flavors and an unsually big, tannic and structured flavor. A bulky but balanced Chianti indeed, very fine.
Paolo Bea 1991 Rosso Vino da Tavola (Umbria) - Dark garnet in color, with aromatic cherry-berry aromas nuanced with hints of caramel and fennel. Tart, dry and juicy fruit, delicious. Hard to interpret the ancient-looking label, but it's a very interesting wine. I'd like to know more about it.
Thunder Mountain 1995 Bates Ranch Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon - Clear, surprisingly light ruby color, with good cassis aromas and a pleasant, not overblown vegetal whiff of green pepper. Full, juicy fruit -- someone says "plushy" and that's a good term for it -- mouth-filling and easy to quaff, but plenty of structure beneath the approachable fruit.
Chateau Cabrières 1990 Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Inky dark garnet, somewhat shy black-fruit aromas; deep, tart and plummy, brooding and complex. Great character and potential, but perhaps a bit closed.
Chateau Gruaud-Larose 1986 St-Julien - Dark ruby in color. Earthy, a hint of the barnyard, but ripe and delicious, tannins present and still well short of peak, but it would be hard to keep hands off if I owned a stash of it.
La Pousse d'Or 1985 Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets "Clos des 60 Ouvrées" - Slightly hazy ruby, with delicious aromas of red fruit, roses and discreet "barnyard." Ripe and full, fruit and acid in balance, an absolute delight ... and another of Les Peters's remarkable QPR finds, marked down to $30 in a Boston wine shop's moving sale.
Rochioli 1996 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - Clear dark garnet, with ripe red fruit on the nose, sour cherries and white pepper on the palate. A good young California Pinot in its own right, but it's dramatically overshadowed by the mature Volnay, always a risk at these "wines-just-keep-on-coming" gatherings.
Chateau Prieuré-Lichine 1983 Margaux (magnum) - Inky dark garnet. Pleasant cassis aromas with cedar nuances. Surprisingly youthful, clean and fresh fruit and soft tannins. A delight, thanks to Jeff Steinberg for bringing this special bottle.
David Coffaro 1997 Estate Cuvee Dry Creek Valley Red Wine - Dark ruby. Plummy, deep and closed, a bit funky. An odd blend of 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Zinfandel, 24% Carignane and 11% Petite Sirah. Perhaps it suffers from contrast with the Prieure-Lichine, but I've found other Coffaro offerings much more impressive.
Chateau de Beaucastel 1983 Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Dark ruby. Full, gamey and "meaty" scent, but stops well short of the chicken-manure excesses of some older Beaucastels. Good fruit flavor, holding up well, but seems simpler and more straightforward on the palate than the nose.
Bodegas y Viñdos Alion Cosecha 1994 Alion Ribera del Duero ($31.99) - Inky blackish-purple. Deep, plummy black fruit on the nose and palate, opens with time in the decanter to a lush, mellow and almost sweet black-fruit flavor structured with lemony acidity and soft, palatable tannins. Young but drinking delightfully. My contribution to the evening's deliberations, and I'm pleased that a day's shaking in my carry-on luggage hasn't apparently done it any harm.
Jean-Louis Chave 1988 Hermitage - Dark ruby, with a huge aroma, earthy and complex, deep and subtle. Delicious, but perhaps I'm hitting a wall of palate fatigue or simply bring unreasonably high expectations to the highly reputed Chave. It's very good indeed, but I want it to be transcendent and feel vaguely disappointed when it's not.
Monsanto 1993 Chianti Classico Riserva - Clear ruby, with black-cherry and spicy oak aromas and good, crisp and tart fruit. Good Chianti, but perhaps should have been opened earlier in the evening before we progressed to the bigger boys.
Chateau du Cèdre 1991 Cahors - Very dark garnet, plummy and juicy fruit on the nose and palate, softly tannic. As with the Chianti, probably served out of sequence and would have drawn more notice before we got into the Burgundies and Bordeaux, Rhones and Riberas.
Machard de Gramont 1976 Beaune 1er Cru les Chouacheux - Cloudy reddish-amber; subtle and delicate, roses and dried fruits. A glorious experience, but objectively, hints of damp hay and faint nutlike cues of maderization suggest it's well past its prime.
Jordan 1993 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark reddish-purple, with red fruit, apple-skin and blueberry aromas and a rather simple flavor, tart and tannic. Perhaps it's the context again, but I find it frankly disappointing.
Joh. Flick2 & Söhne 1988er Bornheimer Kirchenstück Rheinhessen Beerenauslese - Dark gold in color, surprisingly dark for an 11-year-old BA. Doesn't smell old, though: Delicious honey and apricot aromas; thick, soft and sweet, with plenty of acidity for balance. (Is it a Riesling? My notes don't say so; I may have overlooked the variety on the label, but soft structure makes me wonder if it's another grape.)
Chateau Rieussec 1986 Sauternes - Clear gold, classic Sauternes, delicate and complex, honeyed apricots framed by steely acidity. Comparing the acid levels in this and the Beerenauslese makes for a startling contrast.
Grande Maison 1996 Cuvée Mademoiselle Monbazillac - Clear straw color, with light and pleasant citric scents. Much more impressive on the palate than the nose, with crisp fruit, juicy sweetness and tart balancing acidity. At first I feel this wine suffers from contrast with the BA and the Sauternes, but as the evening winds down I find myself going back to it and increasingly impressed with its delicacy and balance. A fine way to end a fine evening.
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