Our wine group attended a birthday dinner last night for Zelie Tan, one of our good friends whom we got to know through our common interest in wine. The dinner was titled "With Friends, By Friends" in reference to all the wines served since the wines are either sold or distributed by the host's friends ITB, or made by winemakers whom the Tans were able to meet in their extensive wine travels in Oz.
The setting was a private dining room at the Oakwood Residences. 3 tables were prepared; one each for family, non wine-drinking friends and wine drinking friends. There was also a projector screen set up so Vince, Zelie's enthusiastic wine-geek husband, could give a short introduction on each wine as it was served and show us slides of their travels in Australia. Each place setting had a menu and each table had two folders containing published notes or reviews on the wines. The menus and folders were decorated by lovely paintings made by our host's son, Jose Antonio.
Each guest was greeted at the door by a flute of Champagne Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee des Moines Brut Rose NV - Light and rather sweet for a brut but reasonably good as an aperitif. I prefer Bellefon's Blanc de Blancs which is drier and has a bit more weight.
The first course was Pan-seared scallops on mango salsa with curly lettuce and raspberry vinaigrette. The wines for this dish were subtitled "Alsatian-style Aussie Aromatics." Kilikanoon Mort's Block Watervale Riesling Clare Valley 2004 - Full-bodied and lemony with a sweet finish. Very ripe with some rubber on the nose. Better than most Oz Rieslings and good enough for me. Henschke Littlehampton Innes Vineyard Pinot Gris Adelaide Hills 2003 - Fragrant, soft, with a spicy finish. Very lush mouthfeel. Lovely wine. Not content with the wines on the menu, Vince pulled out a Kilikanoon Mort's Reserve Riesling 2005 - Nearly colorless. Peach nose. Very fruity with a good acid dose in the finish. Way more finesse than the regular Mort's Block which appeared clumsy beside this. Some candyish tofee and caramel character showed in the finish after some airing. Very good.
Second course was Fettucine with Smoked Salmon, Keta Caviar in a light cream sauce. The wine set for this course was subtitled "Softer Reds with a Bit of Backbone." First up was a Barrat The Reserve Picadilly Valley Pinot Noir Adelaide Hills 2004 - Strawberryish. Slightly woody. Weak finish. Not my type. Next was the eagerly anticipated Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 1984 - Still very dark. Warm and sweet. Very soft. Cinnamon and cloves on the nose. Later a bit of mint as well. Charred wood also made an appearance with some exposure to air. This wine needs to be drunk up as it is clearly on the decline. An hour's exposure to air caused the wine to fall apart.
After a lemon sorbet, we proceeded to a main course of Pan Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Forest Mushroom Sauce and Dauphinoise Potato. The theme for this course was Syrah from Tuscany, South Australia and Washington State. First up was Ca' Marcanda Promis Tuscany 2001 - This is actually 35% Syrah, 55% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese. Good fruit but quite dry. Still young. Good balance. Smoky finish. Drinking very well now and my favorite red this dinner. Next up was the Kilikanoon Oracle Shiraz Clare Valley 2003 - I've had this wine before on a few occasions and frankly it doesn't really appeal to me. I much prefer Kilikanoon's slightly less dense Covenant Shiraz. A taste of this confirmed my earlier impressions. This was alcoholic, spicy, leathery and smoky. It also had some medicinal character. Didn't like it. The last Syrah was a Sequel Syrah Columbia Valley 2003 - This was made by John Duval who was former chief winemaker of Penfolds. I was not aware of this fact when I tasted this wine a few months back, commenting at that time that it tasted very Australian. Some time after that tasting, Vince and Zelie had a chance to meet Mr. Duval and they mentioned my comments regarding the Sequel. Mr. Duval was somewhat miffed at my comments since he said he was trying to let the Washington terroir come through. Whatever. I call 'em as I taste 'em. The Sequel was sweet and soft with excellent balance. A somewhat subdued nose developed beautifully with coffee and vanilla dominating. I liked this a lot and would rank it my second favorite red after the Ca' Marcanda.
With the cheese plate we had the rather rare Torbreck Les Amis Barossa Valley Grenache 2003 - Served from bottles autographed by Dave Powell, winemaker of Torbreck. A very closed wine making it difficult to taste. Mostly oak, coffee and some medicinal character. Much lighter than the 2002 which we tried a few months back. This should have been kept longer to develop. Again, another wine not on the menu made an appearance. This was the Celler de Capcanes Cabrida Montsant 2001 - Also pure Grenache, This was served from a bottle that was opened the day before. Earthy wine with good, sweet fruit. Very good wine.
A chocolate mousse was served for dessert together with " Decadence Distilled;" Dutschke Ivy Blondina White Muscat Barossa Valley 2004 - Orange and peach nose. Peach and pineapple flavors. Light in color. Not as fresh as it used to be. This isn't a wine that should be kept too long. Best to drink this up. Another Dutschke desset wine followed-Dutschke The Muscat - Raisins. Very ripe fruit. Very sweet with a smooth, velvety mouthfeel. Excellent stuff.
We all thought that was the end of it but Vince produced about 1/4 of a bottle of Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay Margaret River 2002 - This was opened the previous day and, although sealed with VacuVin, the wine had clearly deteriorated. Gentle oak and zero fruit. A letdown unfortunately.
Our wine drinkers' table heroically tried to consume all the un-touched wine from the other tables but the sheer volume of liquid overwhelmed even our thirsty table. Much lubricated after 4 hours of feasting and drinking we finally gave up just before midnight; leaving behind perhaps a liter of assorted, uncomsumed wine from open bottles. All in all, a great party with excellent food and some outstanding wines.