I got together with a fun mix of guys a little while back to have dinner at Troquet and to drink some good wine. Everyone brought a random bottle and they were all decanted and served blind by our host, with the exception of the starter wines. There was no formal theme cited beforehand, but we ended up with a lot of Bordeaux, Cali Cabs and Cote-Roties, which was just fine by me.
1998 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs. This Champagne exudes fine aromas of minerals, tangerine, lemon zest, liquid caramel and little slivers of ginger. It’s very foamy and frothy on the palate, puffing up and expanding out to the corners of the mouth with flavors of lemon, ginger, cream, caramel and dark tropical fruit notes. It has a very solid punch of flavor riding a solid and grippy texture that delivers an interesting and pleasing start to the evening.
2005 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Monts Mains. The bouquet of this wine is very clean, structured and finely-etched—with coiled but classy and elegant aromas of white currants, white peaches, grapefruit, lime rind and cold high-end butter combining together beautifully. It has a ways yet to go to really open up, but it’s quite appealing already. In the mouth, it delivers a great combination of intense acidity and full, languid and oily-textured yellow fruit. Bright citrus flavors, together with the baked pear, cream and mineral touches have excellent presence, precision and balance, but also a certain rounded density of character that really works. While outstanding today, it should be even better down the road.
Main tasting (blind):
1994 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill Napa Valley. The first red of the night possesses a truly delightful bouquet that I absolutely love. It’s sexy, penetrating, sweet and captivating with its velvety smooth aromas of pure cherry puree, cassis, red flowers, eucalyptus, peppermint Altoid dust and little bits of fun funk notes. It stays rock solid on the palate, too, where it shows off gorgeous crushed red fruit flavors that have a seductive power to them. It’s plush and languid, with somewhat surprising femininity from this producer. It’s right in my wheelhouse and just a wonderful wine all around. WOTN for me.
1995 Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains. This wine opens up on the cranky side, and most at the table were saying it was showing mild signs of being CORKED. To me, it is definitely a tad musty and dusty way in the background, but I tend to focus on the more interesting aromatic notes of dark cranberry, multivitamin, clay dust, cracked leather and old chest of drawers. On the palate, I can’t really detect the TCA, and I find the cool, slightly chunky dark berry fruit flavors to be pretty tasty, though not especially distinctive. Perhaps that last observation was the sign that this was less than a perfect bottle?
1998 Château Palmer Margaux. Here, there is no doubt. This wine is CORKED.
1996 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien. This wine is big and sort of broad-shouldered on the nose—with aromas of tobacco leaf, tomato plant, limestone, black currant andfaint sliced green pepper coming through as perhaps a bit stiff but quite classical in many ways. In the mouth, I like it a good deal. It’s richly-textured but finely acidic, presenting a twangy, tangy face to its black currant fruit and fine mix of tobacco, limestone, dried funk and green pepper accents. It has moments where it seems clearly young, but then it also tends to take on an increasingly filigreed feel the longer you stay with it. I was impressed with this wine and had it in my top 3 wines of the night, feeling it will just continue to improve over the next several years.
1995 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac. My notes for this wine cite dark, rich and pasty aromas of black raspberry and black cherry fruit riding beneath some oaky spice notes that just don’t have the finesse or complexity one might want or expect from this producer. In the mouth, it is one of the densest, pastiest wines on the table, feeling kind of thick-boned and heavier-styled all around. Dark and pouting flavors of black currant, black cherry and smoky ash are draped over a rigid but occasionally pliant structure that also features some fine-grained tannin. It is an overly-serious wine right now for my tastes but will hopefully gain more charm and nuance in the coming years, though I am not entirely confident about that.
1998 Château Angélus St. Emilion. Here one finds a lovely bouquet that features fine and classy aromas of red currants and red flower petals to go along with earthier bits of shade tobacco, leather, jalapeno and limestone. In the mouth, it is showing really well, too. It’s smooth, refined and slinky in texture, with languid black cherry and mixed currant fruit flavors that display effortless drive and balance. It’s just really engaging right from the start, delivering a great combination of class and precision to go with outstanding depth of flavor and a welcoming character. It was definitely one of my top 2 wines of the night.
1998 Rene Rostaing Côte-Rôtie La Landonne. This is nicely-done on the nose, with a fine mixture coming together from scents of fur, hung game, mineral salts, cooled bacon fat and red currant fruit. In the mouth, it’s big and mouth-filling, but with a cool, masculine demeanor. It’s creamy-textured and has impressive staying power, but the tannins are definitely present and could use some additional time to integrate a bit better. Still, the slinky blackberry and black currant fruit flavors add a nice little twist of sweetness to what is otherwise a sort of feral and savory profile of bacon fat, earth and saline elements. Overall, I definitely enjoy it and find it to be a really good wine for my tastes.
1990 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne. On the nose, this wine delivers a solid dose of bacon fat and peppery Syrah aromas to go with scents of blackberry fruit, charcoal and grilled herbs. Over time, it slowly evolves to take on a warmer-fruited, sexier personality, but it still stays earthy at its core. In the mouth, it is rather beautifully-textured, with very good length and fine persistence of dark berry fruit, smoked meat and charred earth flavors. The acidity is certainly more present here than in the previous wine, and I suspect this should age easily for awhile.
1989 Château Cos d'Estournel St. Estèphe. As with the last bottle of this I had about a year earlier, this is one old-styled, savory and masculine wine, to be sure. This bottle was not quite as overt or compelling on the nose as my last experience, but I do enjoy the aromas here of cherry paste, black currant, potting soil, black leather, white pepper, pen ink and animal fur. In the mouth, it is youthfully rigid in structure, with notable tannins in play, but with a lot of flavor complexity already starting to unfold, including notes of black fruits, gamey meat, dried blood and a very distinctive sliver of seaweed wrapper/umami sort of thing going on in the background. Overall, my impression remains that this is a wine with a lot going on, but which should deliver an even better performance down the road.
2003 Château Labatut Bouchard Cadillac. The nose of this wine is intense and vibrant, featuring somewhat high-toned but decidedly sweet aromas of tangerines, apricots, peaches, caramel and botrytis spices. In the mouth, it features zingy acidity and solid drive around the rich flavors of caramel, brown sugar, baked apricot and ripe peach flavors. I think a lot of folks were guessing Sauternes with a bit more age, so this was a fun way to finish things off.