HANGING OUT WITH MARC LAZAR - Seattle, WA (3/16/2006-3/18/2006)
Previous to the past few days, I had never met Marc Lazar. We first got in touch a couple of years ago when I suggested that he could use CellarTracker on behalf of his Cellar Advisors clients. In the past year he has brought close to two dozen people online along with full inventory services and barcoding of their cellars. We have probably traded 500 pieces of email along with dozens of phone calls. He was out west on business and swung up to Seattle to meet me, hang out and enjoy some good wine.
Marc got into Seattle on Thursday, and we spent the day playing with audio toys and Crestron home automation devices at Definitive Audio. (Some clients are increasingly interested in integrating their wine inventory with their Crestron panel, so we brainstormed as we played). Next up was a quick driving visit of my old stomping grounds at Microsoft followed by a trip to Seattle Wine Storage to chat with Chuck Miller and grab our wine for dinner.
Dinner was at Le Pichet, a fabulously authentic French Bistro that I always enjoy. With this we uncorked a couple of wines as we enjoyed the rustic but delicious food.
- 1990 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile Vendange Tardive - France, Alsace, Haut Rhin (3/16/2006)
This was my first taste of a Freddy Emile VT having only had various vintages of the normal one. This started out a little cool but then proceeded to open up beautifully. Very rich yet in a dry style, much like its sibling. A hint of diesel leads to some nice mineral stink to this with a saline finish. Explosive acidity leads to a huge palate. I wish I could recall more descriptors, but I was lazy and didn't take any notes. Still, this more than lovely. (93 pts.)
- 1990 Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (3/16/2006)
This was simply unreal. I had my first taste of this elixir last month in LA, but this bottle was far, far better. Also, obviously, a taste from a bottle shared with 12 people is going to have a hard time comparing to a bottle shared by two people over the course of 2-3 hours. When first opened I was a little worried, as there were some slightly oxidized notes on the nose. However, this quickly exploded and was alwasy changing rapidly in the glass. Loads of blood, kirsch, licorice and white pepper just pour out of the glass. The palate is a blanket of magical Grenache, crazily ripe yet graceful and elegant at the same time, not an overtly huge wine yet the sort that blankets your palate and fills every pore of your soul. Vibrant, ripe, a bowl of cherries and plums with some ox-blood and pepper tossed in, and then coated in Herbes de Provence. Nice notes of graphite and smoke creep in as well, lots of complexity that is very hard to describe. In fact, I feel awkward trying to describe such an elegant and graceful wine that pretty much defines perfection. But I'll hold a point back knowing that at least a month ago the 1989 Rayas was just that much better. (99 pts.)
- 1981 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (3/16/2006)
This was an AMAZING bottle of the 1981, extremely young, loaded with black olive tapenade, leather, licorice, blood, chunky and powerful, not too much horse but still a perfect example of the Beaucastel style. The only problem was that we opened it at midnight, so I felt compelled to follow it for 2.5 hours right down to the last drop. Yummy!!! (97 pts.)
Friday we popped around town a bit visting coffee shops, snagging a little lunch at Chinoise Cafe and visiting my favorite Seattle retailer, McCarthy & Schiering. I was really procrastinating about a task that Marc offered to help tackle, moving more than 40 cases of wine from my ridiculously overcrowded cellar to Seattle Wine Storage. Finally we dove in early afternoon and unloaded all of the boxes and crap and spread it out to start reboxing, pulling out wines that needed to stay at home. Fortunately everything was barcoded, but it's still a lot of work to sift through 40 cases of wine. We got through about 75% of the job before it was time to grab some food for dinner, light some Shabbat candles and respond to the urgent email from McCarthy that a bunch of Alzinger wines were open in the shop in need of tasting...
We grabbed some produce and chicken that I could turn into Chicken Marsala with mushrooms, some nice angel hair with EVOO/garlic/parsley, and some rapini to saute with even more garlic. And then we ducked into McCarthy to see what was left. I wasn't taking notes, but the 2004 Alzinger Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Loibner Muhlpoint was more than a bit bracing. Much better was the Alzinger Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Loibner Loibenberg, just a terrific example of Grüner. Next up was a 2004 Alzinger Riesling of some sort, then a blind 1991 Austrian Riesling from a different producer and then finally, one more brown bag of something red. I felt a little lost, and then someone guessed Barbera. Wrong guess, but clearly this was Italian, so I correctly offered up Piedmont, Nebbiolo, Barolo. Unveiled as the 1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo, this is a brute of a wine, huge and black, loaded with tobacco, lots of volatility on the nose but clearly an intriguing wine. Good thing we had Piedmont on tap for dinner!
- 1998 La Spinetta Barbaresco Vürsù Vigneto Valeirano - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco (3/17/2006)
This opened up with a big, big blast of raspberry but seemed a little bitter on the palate. Still, the nose was huge and fairly intriguing, very bright. Finally about 45 minutes later as we were sitting down to dinner with this I noticed a faint shiff of mold and started to wonder if it was corked. Alas, as is always the case, the longer it sat the more clear it became that this was corked. By the next morning the remainder left in the decanter screamed of TCA. Bummer!
- 1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Red Label Asili - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco (3/17/2006)
Wow, what an utter BEAST of a young wine. Smokey with lots of tar and increasingly floral and piercing with aeration. Some tobacco creeps in. Soaring black-cherry palate, very poised, this is very powerful with simply amazing structure. This took hours and hours to open up, but the real answer here is a lot more time. Wait 10 years? (95 pts.)
The night wound down as we watched the latest Harry Potter movie. Alas, everyone but me fell asleep, so they still don't know what happened.
The next day while I was at music class with my 3 year old son, Marc finished up packing up the cellar. I returned with some coffee (from Caffe Fiore, the best new coffee shop in Seattle) and organic/vegan chocolate doughnuts; only in Seattle... Then we dove into the not so fun task of loading more than 1,600 pounds of wine, bottles and boxes into the family minivan and trundling off to Seattle Wine Storage. Chuck met us at the open loading dock with a pair of rolling carts, and we loaded them up for the trip down the freight elevator to my locker. With Marc's help this went very, very fast, and 20 minutes later we were unloaded and quite parched. Good thing we brought a little refreshment!
- 2004 Weingut Willi Schaefer Riesling QbA #2 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Middle Mosel (3/18/2006)
Ahhh, what an amazing quaffer! We popped this after moving a ton of wine to my offsite storage facility, and it hit the spot in a big way. A little spritz and mineral reveals a remarkably fresh and vibrant palate, fantastic minerality, sweet and sour, and just awesome, quenching acidity. What a wine for $15! (89 pts.)
- 2002 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Clavoillon 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet (3/18/2006)
This is very young to be getting into this wine. Some notes of slate jump from the glass at first, and the first taste shows strong, lemony acidity with a finish that carries for 30+ seconds. However, the longer it was open the more that some notes of vanilla creep out. Not crazily oaked, this needs time to drink it up, as the vanilla on the nose and the toast on the palate show just a bit too overtly for my taste. Still, this is very nice, and it is impressive to see just how rich a wine can be while still showing amazing acidity. (91 pts.)
- 1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée St. Vivant - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée (3/18/2006)
Wow, this is one darned exciting wine. The nose started out with a bit of barnyard and a slightly marine smell, not brackish, but just a hint of seaweed and brine air. The palate, wow, bursting with cherries, spice, gorgeously silky on the front and mid but cutting up a bit towards the finish with some overt acidity that detracts. Still, air and food did this well, as the acid became more harmonious. The more we swirled the more you could find on the nose with some nice peat and graphite coming out. Really an exceptional wine that I am probably scoring too conservatively. (95 pts.)
- 1970 Château Trotanoy - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol (3/18/2006)
It's hard to believe that this wine is not even close to being ready. The nose is obviously right bank with telltale smells of soy sauce, black fruit, hints of powdered sugar. The palate is huge, very tannic, very long but really in need of more time. I enjoyed every drop of it, but the structure is off the charts. Big waves of black fruit interplay with mineral, tobacco, Asian spices, exotic yet muscular, masculine, almost bruising. A wine like this makes me wish I was born in 1970 instead of 1969. (95 pts.)
It was a great evening of conversation, food and wine, and just before midnight we called it a night, as Marc's ride to the airport was showing up in a mere 5 hours!
Thanks Marc, it was a blast!
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