Once again the group gathered for an afternoon of double blind tasting. After a month of rain with only one or two sunny days, Bacchus smiled and granted us a glorious afternoon. We met again at Urbino Pizza e Pasta on Henderson and enjoyed their terrific cheese and salimi boards, flatbreads and pizzas. The front wall of the restaurant opened to the afternoon, so we were virtually sitting outside. Many thanks to the Urbino staff for their gracious hospitality. Enough about that, on to the wines!
#1 Though it started in brown paper, the clear bottle and delicious bubbles quickly betrayed the 1999 Louis Roederer Cristal. The bursting bubbles released aromas of rich yeast surrounding the essence of any citrus oil you would care to name, with delicious notes of honey toasted brioche lingering on the long effervescent finish. Nice start!
#2 This dark black/ruby wine offered aromas of deep dark fruit buried in earthy flavors of mocha and espresso. Definitely Old World in flavor, the wine showed New World richness and texture. It was quickly identified as Malbec and after further discussion as the black wine of Cahors. Chateau Coutale, 2007. It was noted that the local name for Malbec in Cahors is Cot.
#3 Another wine is betrayed by its packaging. The aromatic red fruit and the red waxy capsule left no mistake, this was a Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir. All that was left was to identify the vintage and the vineyard. The lack of pure intensity led some to think it was 2006, but it was 2007. The sappy aromatics and minerality led to guesses of Clos Pepe and the Santa Rita Hills blend, but it turned out to be the high scoring 2007 Cargasacchi.
#4 Whoa! This wine was huge, rich and powerful! It was still close to cellar temperature and the aromas were reticent, but the wine didn't last long enough to warm up. Complex and elegant, with dark smoky black fruit, distinct minerality and a rich velvety finish with a lingering grip of tannin, the wine prompted initial flirtations with Super-Tuscans and Bolgheri, but these notions were quickly quashed. It was finally revealed as an Argentine Malbec, Archaval Ferrar Finca Altamira la Consulta, 2006.
#5 Darkly transparent, the deep ruby wine was beautifully silky and floral with rich red fruits and licorice. Almost Pinot-like, its Southern Rhone origin was betrayed by subtle smoky notes of garrique. The first guess was Vacqueras and the total lack of rusticity precluded Gigondas. The bag was removed... 2005 La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape.
#6 Big rich flavors of classic Pinot Noir jumped out of the glass. The combination of wild cherries and dark black fruits on the rich velvety texture spoke compellingly of the New World. En Route 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir from Far Niente made an auspicous debut! Limited availability.
#7 As the first glass of this beast was poured from the glass, it was immediately pegged as Petite Sirah! Powerful and dark, the wine showed copious black fruits with limestone, mint, pine, rhubarb and a myriad of other flavors buried in the dense finely integrated tannins. Sirius Petite Sirah 2006 from the iconoclastic winemaker Sean Thackrey. Powerful stuff!
#8 This wine stumped the chumps! Black and blue fruits were followed by complex spices and a citrusy finish. Not only that, it had a shiney glass cork! I don't think anyone identified this Austrian blend of zweigelt and blaufrankisch. Heinrich Red, 2005.
#9 Immediate impression of this elegant refined wine: Aged Bordeaux! The tells were the slight hints of brick on the rim and the cedary notes of dried fruits. 1995-96 was the consensus on age, the problem was nailing down the appellation. The cedar and tannin pointed to the Left Bank, the dried tobacco and cigar pointed to Cabernet Franc and the Right. 1995 Chateau Moulin St. George, Saint Emilion, owned by Alain Vauthiers, co-proprietor of Ausone. The wine has an unusually high percentage of Cabernet Franc.
#10 Another wine that threw the group for a loop. The rich red/black fruits with the herbaceous mid-palate and toasty finish had everyone on their chairs screaming Napa Cab. But I know I overlooked the spicy acidity and leathery notes in the delicous structured finish. Hello! A big slug of Napa Sangiovese blended with bits of Cab, Syrah, Petite Sirah and even Viognier sure made everyone crazy happy! Pazzo by Bacio Divino.
#11 Beautiful aromas of cassis, vanilla and refined fruit led to a complex blend of primary red and black fruits with delicate aromatics of dried cranberries filling in the empty spaces. A wine this refined with beautifully integrated structure has to be Bordeaux, though at this point in the afternoon, specificity was getting difficult. 2001 Quinalt L'Enclos, Saint Emilion.
#12 Dark purple color and strong notes of rich cassis and black fruits betrayed the youth of yet another Bordeaux. Beautifully balanced and silky, yet powerful in its youth, this wine is drinking great today! Chateau Coutet, Saint Emilion 2005.
#13 Wow! #13 jumps out of the gate and it looks like... NO! It can't be... but it is! Another Bordeaux. Yessss! Bright black fruits intermingle with red fruits amid notes of licorice, cedar and toasty oak on the long integrated finish. Very ripe fruit with sweet tannins. Marojallia 2003, Margaux. This small garage operation is managed by Jean-Luc Thunevin. Production is usually less than 500 cases.
#14 Definitely brick in color, the 1995 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape showed floral notes with abstracted dried cherries and cranberries over the lengthy herbal and earthy finish.
#15 Vanilla, flowers and jammy black fruits lead to speculation that the wine is an Aussie Shiraz. But the fruit is not quite jammy enough and the pepper is more white than black. The wine was correctly identified as a Washington State Syrah. Doyenne Syrah 2006 from deLille. (delicious!)
#16 Andrew Will Sorella 2006. Damn! How did I miss this? By the time I saw the bottle it was empty.
#17 The last wine was not tasted blind, (well the wine wasn't blind.) Antinori Muffato Della Sala, 2000. A blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc with Grechetto, Traminer and Riesling. Botrytis gives the wine its characteristic honeyed sweetness, it has delicious complexity with dried fruits and candied fruit peel dancing on the long finish. There is enought vibrant acidity to keep the wine alive and fresh on the palate. A wonderful close to a long, wonderful day!
THANKS to all for their valuable contributions to making these special days special and THANKS to Scott for pulling it all together!