Notes from a brown bag tasting dinner I put on recently. The theme was wines you’d been saving for an occasion that never seemed to come – we all have stuff that we keep squirreled away for just that right tasting.
I gave them a bit of bubble to start, but didn’t want it to be easy to nail.
Clos du Ch. de Mosny Montlouis sur Loire – some nice apple notes in the nose and well balanced acidity makes this a QPR winner. It took them a bit of narrowing down to figure it out, but quickly eliminated the possibility that it could be American or Spanish – didn’t fit that idiom.
We moved on to steak tartare with:
1996 Gallo Estate – this was Gallos first attempt to produce an upwardly mobile wine from modest beginnings, and it has always succeeded for me. Dark, with a good varietal cab nose and plumy fruit, mellow and ready to drink with soft tannins.
1999 Kenwood Jack London Cabernet – I have always appreciated this Sonoma winery and still have a smattering of 1980s vintages of this wine. This one showed some decent depth in the nose, and was medium weight, smooth and drinking well, although not up to many of the other vintages in terms of weight and concentration.
About this time they partook of spiced roasted carrot soup which offers flavours I like to match with this sort of wine.
1998 Ch. Pichon Baron – instantly recognizable claret nose of earth, smoke and black currant. Very together now and drinking very well with smooth palate presence and supple finish, on the elegant side compared to some other vintages. Hold or drink.
1994 Estancia Meritage – I’ve had this Bordeaux blend (cab, cab franc and merlot) in the cellar since release, and while some reviews have it being over the hill, I don’t find it so. The wine was softer and sweeter than the previous wine and featured a definite caramel component in the nose, good fruit and acidity and mellow long and smooth finish. I’ve had excellent luck cellaring relatively modest but well made wines longer than many do.
2001 Talenti Paretaio Brunello di Montalcino – very dark wine showing a smoky tobacco and red fruit nose, weighty with significant tannins. Very good but needs time.
Next (main) course was braised lamb shanks served on a bed of roasted root vegetables (potatoes, parsnips and rutabaga).
2001 Ch. La Confession – this was the first vintage of this wine (which I also bought and cellar) from St. Emilion, and it was a pleasant fully mature (but holding) claret with a fairly full nose of red fruit and a little cocoa coming in after airing. Smooth, long and with hints of espresso bean and cassis near the end. Ready to go.
1994 Caymus Cabernet – this was the regular cab (also out of my cellar where it had resided since release). Cocoa and coconut in this nose and mellow soft tannins in the midpalate along with red fruit, ending medium long with a pleasant sweetness. Ready now.
2002 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah – for my money (and I have also bought this wine in other vintages) this higher end Cape wine is perhaps the best Syrah I have tasted from S.A. Darker, hotter, sweeter nose than the previous wine and ripe and sweet in the mouth, with significant remaining soft tannins, there is no rush, but it drank well. There was some raspberry in the nose, but on the whole, I’d say that the maker hit closer to the Aussie than his avowed target of Northern Rhone with this particular wine.
2000 Vergelegen ‘V’ – the person that brought this wine wisely trotted it out after he saw the previous one. This is the estate wine of this Stellenbosch producer and it always shows well and ages well. This one had a notably Bordeaux nose, mostly (understandably give that it is 100% cab) cab with some green hints. It was tasty but notably ripe and less claret like in the mouth than on the nose. It developed some herbal and anise hints with air.
We segued into the cheese, but did it stepwise in this case as I had scored some Vacherin de Mont d’Or, a cheese only available at this time of year. If you don’t know this cheese, it is worth looking out for it. It comes in small (and expensive) rounds packed in wood, and has an orange outer rind. It is medium soft to soft as it matures and is made in the mountains from raw cow’s milk. It is only available in late Fall and winter and when it is past it’s useful life can become something you’d take out and bury or throw on an enemy in the hope that wild dogs would eat him, as nothing else would want to get that close. When in prime, however, it is sublime and you eat it by spooning it onto fresh baguette slices. I had to think of a wine to serve with it and came up with:
1995 Roger Sabon Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Prestige – this cuvee is made from the oldest (up to a century or so) vines. In youth this wine was tannic and assertive, so I laid a case away to await enlightenment. It is now there – medium colour, slightly funky typical nose of mushroom, earth, and black currant, with an undertone of black olives and road tar. Good fruit levels, nice length, mature and ready but will hold, and most importantly, all agreed an excellent match with the Vacherin.
Next we served the rest of the cheese with:
1992 Churchill Agua Alta Port – once again I wanted to try and stump some of the Port mavens in the group. I’d been searching for an errant half case of Warres 1977 in the cellar for another dinner I did recently (still haven’t located it) and unearthed this forgotten Port, which I’d tasted early on, been less than enthused and consigned it to further cellaring in hope that age would improve it. It did. This house is of recent vintage, going back to only 1981 and the owner was unable to use his own name (Graham) so used the maiden name of his wife for their new Port house.
This single quinta wine was dark, slightly ripe and a little hot with a nose of crème caramel and espresso, medium weight, less sweet than, for instance, Grahams, and with good length. I was very pleasantly surprised at how this wine has turned around (I’d seen some mediocre reviews when researching it) and I don’t think there is a lot of rush to drink it so expect to try it again in a few years.