Friday we attended a truly fun 40th birthday party for my friend Marc, who is in my local tasting group. Marc is Belgian, his wife Annabelle is French, the crowd was about evenly European and American. Annabelle and the kids had done a great job- decor was great, food delightful, and group was fun. People brought lots of wine, and I did my best to taste most of them:
NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne
I used to like this producer (co-op?), but it seems to bore me almost every time I try now. This was empty and forgettable, just apple fruit and not-so-fine mousse, and a short finish. B-
NV "Cuvee Lancel" Lucas Carton Champagne
I actually have a bottle of this (gift from same one who brought to Marc's). Not sure if this is the same Lucas Carton Champagne (from the restaurant) that Sherry-Lehmann is always pushing? Surprisingly good, with a lot of body and texture, bready yeastiness, good finish. A little coarser than my preference, but pretty good. B+
NV Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne
This lighter style is really more my thing, especially as an apertif, though I'd put them on the same quality level. Delicate, sprightly, tasty. B+
2001 Michel Lafarge BourgogneOne of the wines I brought along. A little too much acidity even for me, and some tannins sticking out. Good cherry fruit with some air, a bit of forest floor. I've liked this better before, but credible effort for vintage in CdB. B/B-
2003 Los Vascos Reserve (Colchagua)
Good cassis fruit, some vanilla/toast notes over the top. Ripe easy tannins, a crowd-pleaser if not especially distinctive. The more I tried the less I liked as it seemed sweeter and sweeter. B/B-
2004 Morgan Cotes du Crows (monterey)
This was a shocker, because of my assumptions. The only reds I had ever seen from Morgan were Pinot Noir, and I apparently projected that rather than look at label - I take a sip expecting Pinot. Overripe raspberry and blackberry fruit slaps me around a bit. Trying to readjust my expectations, I guess this is ok as an example of CA syrah/grenache or a supermodern CdR. Just not my style. B-/C+
2005 Berger Gruner Veltliner
We're having fun with a liter bottle! Herbs and limestone/chalk over a nice crisp not-very-fruity core. At $9 a liter a very good deal. B wine, A- value.
2000 Le Crock (St Estephe)
I kind of groaned when I saw this, having been a bit bored by the 1996 on several occasions. But this is surprisingly good- broad black fruit, round tannins, low acid. Not an poster-wine for complexity, but nice Bordeaux earthiness, and I'm sorry I passed this up at something like $12-14 at release. B
1966 Ducru-Beaucaillou (St Julien)
At some point between the soup and salads and the tagine main course, our little wine group dragged Mark into the kitchen. We have chipped in on a bottle of 1966 LLC as a present, and those of us at party (all but Alex who was in Paris) chipped in on 1966 Ducru for the party (I missed out on a Montrose mag by minutes-damn!). HS fill, cork saturated but intact. A little muted at first, but opens quickly. Mature, maybe a tad past peak, but nice round dark fruit framed by cigarbox and a slightly exotic spiciness. Nice wine with not such a great rep, very happy with result. A-/B+
(note: so here's the problem with opening special 750s at a big party. We opened, gave each of the 6 tasting group members small pours- 2 oz tops- maybe 3 for Marc. We had agreed we'd then pass out the remaining 10 oz or so to other party-goers who might be interested as small samples- maybe 1 oz. Annabelle's dad was very appreciative, but next woman said "what- you have more than this!" I just responded that those that PAID got a bit bigger- we were trying to see as many others as possible got pours. She glared at me for rest of party).
2002 Woodward Canyon Artist Series (#11) Cabernet Sauvignon
Lots of chocolatey oak, big blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Some Europhilic Europeans are surprised at how much they like it. Some real depth and concentration for what I think is a more base level bottling. B+
2004 St. Cosme "Les Deux Albion" Cotes du Rhone
I find this oaky, overmodern, overripe. I always like the St Cosme basic CdR better than this bottling, and this night is no exception. B-
NV Charbaut Brut Champagne
I admit I tasted this late in evening after a lot of reds, and am less confident of my impressions than the other bubblies. A middle of the road style, but definite yeast/parker house roll notes and ok finish. B
Great night with (mostly) great people. Betsy had a rare weekend night off, and after making a chopped salad helped Annabelle in the kitchen for a while. Then after some socializing she did the grace (singing a Sufi prayer from her CD, we're having the release party at Marc & Annabelle's cool modern house) and split to go to bed. I left hours later and walked the couple miles home. But I walked with a buzz not just from the alcohol, but from a great night with friends.
Grade disclaimer: I'm a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C mediocre. Anything below C means I wouldn't drink at a party where it was only choice. Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.