Sweet 16 and Bubbly – My MOCOOL Weekend
In anticipation of the event, I spent a few days getting things ready for my trip. I even wrote up a To-Do list, which I somehow lost before loading up the car. I left home about 9:30 Friday morning and headed for Ann Arbor, traveling across Southern Ontario. It was while crossing over the Garden City Bridge in St. Catherines that I realized I forgot to pack my wine glasses. I got into Ann Arbor about 2:30 and spent about 45 minutes driving around trying (unsuccessfully) to find anyplace that sold wine glasses. After checking in and unpacking, I found my way to Julia’s room where I found John Crow and John Fiola getting a head start on me, tasting the Rex Hill 2004 Oregon Pinot Noir
, which I found quite nice. Julia was opening 2 Gewurtz’s from Peninsula Cellars
, one of which received awards in SF. The one which received the awards seemed a bit strange to me – it was a late harvest, fermented bone dry, with 14% abv. I learned that BobH and the Nolan Brothers were out shopping for wine and with a quick cell-phone call, managed to get Bob to score a bubbly flute for me. Shortly, Robin joined us and the wine shoppers returned with my new glass. Before I knew it, it was time to head to Joel & Sally’s for the Friday Night get-together, so as I headed back to my room, the elevator door opened and none other than OW and his lovely daughter stepped out. I escorted them to Julia’s room and we tasted a few more wines, thus, making us a wee bit late getting to Joel & Sally’s.
As the designated driver I had to behave myself, so I was selective in my tastings (someday I’ll have to learn to spit). I forgot to bring in my notebook, so I didn’t take any notes, but do recall enjoying Montes Alpha 1998 M Chilean Red Wine, Domaine des Brureaux 1997 Chénas, Edmunds St. John 1997 Story Vineyard Amador County Zinfandel
and the Ch. Leoville-Barton 1986
(see Robin’s post
). Of course, Joel and Sally put out a wonderful spread, with the help of generous donations from the other MOCOOLers there. As the designated driver, when the desserts were put out, I looked for a cup of coffee to wash down biscotti (Sally’s Mom seemed to like these) and brownies. Sally graciously made a fresh pot, but by the time it was done and I poured myself a cup, OW had hijacked the whole plate of brownies and taken them to Joel’s cellar, where a crowd had gathered, opening what I assume were wonderful wines that matched up with the chocolate brownies. I grimaced, commandeered 2 brownies to have with my coffee and headed back upstairs. By this time, my feet were killing me, as I mistakenly wore an uncomfortable pair of sandals. After a while, things broke up and we headed back to the Hawthorne. When I returned to my room about 10:30, I felt paralyzed, the result of a long day of packing, driving tasting and bad sandals. It took me 20 minutes to garnish enough strength to move from the hotel chair to the bed. When I awoke about 4AM my cell phone displayed a call from BobH. Apparently I missed a late night tasting in Julia’s room. I read a few chapters of Thomas Pellachia’s book, slept for a while more and joined the gang for breakfast, after which, John Fiola and OW came to room for a taste of a few of my home mades.
The next thing I knew we were in the Noland brother’s room for the Musar
tasting. These were a real treat. In spite of being cloudy and brownish, I did enjoy the ’89, but not as much as the others, which I liked all of them, with no particular favorite. The ’93 seemed to have bit of funk, which Robin identified as brett, and I thought seemed familiar. That familiarity prompted me to go to my room and return with a glass of my home made ’04 Cab Franc/Merlot blend (for smelling purposes only). Everyone who smelled my wine concluded that the funk in my wine was different from the funk in the ’93 Musar (oh well, wrong again).
In going to the picnic, there was the usual confusion about transportation. I thought I was going to drive, but ended up riding there with the Nolands, along with Julia and BobH, getting there with the intention of helping with the setup and plans to return to the hotel before the picnic. However, I decided to stay, again leaving my notebook in my car back at the hotel. There was little I was able to help with for the setup, as most of the work was done when we got there, except for the engineering project of the day. This involved erecting a tarp at one end of the tasting tent to stretch out as an extension in case bad weather arrived, which it never did. Success was finally achieved by fastening two corners to the tent, some judicious folding, attaching one corner to a tree, the other corner to roof rack of Mike Conner’s SUV and supporting the center with two lengths of PVC pipe secured by stakes in the ground. My suggestion of using a tractor beam was ignored.
The first wines I tasted was a mini-vertical of Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese, ’97, ’99 & ’01
, which OW graciously donated. I disagreed with Robin here and preferred the ’99.
Shortly thereafter, the appetizers appeared and the bubblies started to be opened. There was a large selection of ’90 Champagnes and I believe I tasted 8-10 of them, but missed the Dom.
Pol Roger 1990 Brut Rosé
and Pol Roger 1990 Brut
– both of these exhibited the truffle aroma as Robin described, and is something I’m not familiar with in bubblies, but enjoyable.
Mumm Cordon Rouge 1990
– this is one of the wines I brought and almost panicked when I pulled the cork with only a gentle pop, but when poured, a nice froth appeared and bubbles rose in the flute BobH picked up for me the day before, I was relieved (I was one of only a few people I noticed with flutes).
Champagne Delamotte 1990 Blanc de Blancs
– I liked this one a lot. I recall commenting to OW that this tasted like what my ideal of a bubbly should be and would like to make such a wine.
The rest of the afternoon I spent migrating between tables, tasting too many wines to remember – Bordeaux, Red and White Burgundy, Cal Cabs, etc. and I don’t recall tasting anything I disliked, savoring them all! Knowing the caliber of people at this event, I was sure I could set my camera down on a chair and not worry about it being stolen, so I set it on a wooden bench overlooking the lake, where I sat every now and then to relax. I also set whatever wine glass I wasn’t using there. I took a few pictures at the picnic and when I got back to my room later, I realized there were a few pictures on my camera that I didn’t take, of people I don’t recall meeting. This, of course, brings back memories of stolen cameras at high school reunions, where mystery pictures appeared (before digital), but such stories should not be relayed here.
All Hail Chef Alan!
The Thai shrimp cakes were served on a thin slice of cucumber, which had apparently been blanched in a simple syrup – a bit of tang, but not too much for the wines. Usually, cucumbers have me burping, but no problem here, as I consumed several of these. The bacon wrapped oysters were to die for (sorry, I can’t report on the bacon-wrapped scallops as I’m allergic to scallops). These were a pleasant surprise, as I don’t think they were listed in the menu that was posted. The Salmon on blinis with caviar was truly remarkable – I’ve never had such a delicately flavored salmon before. The grilled Argentinean beef on arepas with guacamole and chimichurri sauce, eggplant and tomato bruchetta and hummus with pita were all wonderful. As I was cutting off a piece of some hard, dry white cheese, I asked another person at the table what kind of cheese this was. He replied “good cheese”, and I had to agree. When it came to the dinner, I asked for the piece of the smoked roasted rib of beef that had the most fat. I’m still tasting it. I was also delighted by another item not listed on the menu, a barley salad. It was much later in the evening, when I finally got around to the desserts and wasn’t disappointed here either. I filled my glass with Silver Oak 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon
to accompany my dinner and found it to pair up quite nicely – one of my favorite wines of the day.
After dinner, the sweeties started to be opened. My donation to this table was a ’05 Johnson Estate Chambourcin Ice Wine
, from Chatauqua County, NY, one of the wineries visited during NiagaraCOOL. I found this very well made and enjoyed it. I also had a Michigan Vignoles Ice Wine
, which I thought was excellent, but, as I said earlier, I left my note book in my car, back at the hotel. The Graham's Malvedos Centenary 1990 Vintage Port
was also a treat. Also after dinner, I opened the “Mystery Wine
” I brought with me. This was Vitis Riparia - deep blueish-red color. Smells kind of like Foch – no labrusca characteristics. Sweet, but with enough acid for balance. Good finish with berry flavors. This was a wine made by a friend, John Czyrny, from wild grapes he found growing on an island in the Niagara River while perch fishing.
This was a truly remarkable event and I only have a few regrets – that I forgot my tasting notebook and that I missed out on a few wines, most noticeably, ’90 Dom Perignon, ’90 Lafite and the 1934 Portuguese Black Muscat. I hitched a ride back to the hotel with OW (his daughter graciously served as designated driver). I returned to my room, promptly crashed and managed to sleep through another late night hotel room tasting. I woke up early and finished Thomas’s book, then went to the lobby to use their computer, where I found Robin checking out about 7AM. I met the gang a bit later for breakfast, and we all exchanged farewells “Until next year”. I dropped John Fiola off at the airport and headed home. I was held up at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge entering back into the USA for 1 hour, 20 minutes, but still managed to get home for the end of the Sunday Chat session. A truly remarkable weekend of companionship, wine and food like none I’ve had before. Thanks again to all of you who labored so hard to make this event such a great success.