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Recent Wines: Hillside mini-vertical and others (l


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The recent holidays in Tokyo provided a perfect opportunity for a little cellar thinning. We started on 5/3 with grilled burgers and a mini vertical of Shafer Hillside Select cab. The Hillside Select tends to be more balanced and less opulent than a number of the other high-end California cabs like Bryant, Harlan, Dalla Valle, etc.

1994: Absolutely delicious, rich, ripe fruit with hints of cedar and pencil lead, beautiful now and has many years ahead of it

1995: Shockingly youthful and more in line with the over the top California style, big, powerful with more currants and berries than the 1994

1996: Beautiful, evocative nose, but disappointingly thin in the mid-palate, like a doughnut, lots of fruit up front and tannins at the end, but a hole in the middle

1997: Quite similar to the 1994 in many ways, bigger but still balanced

1998: Remarkably good wine in a difficult vintage, not as big or opulent as its sisters, but still delicious, in many respects, the best food wine of the bunch.

Showing atypical restraint, we did not delve further into the cellar until the next evening when we had the following.

Assorted sushi rolls, spanish pimento stuffed with bacala, and rucola, prosciutto and parmesan mini rolls with:

1990 Dom Ruinart Rose: nice enough, but seemed a little tired, not enough acidity to give backbone to the wine

Billecart Salmon NV Rose: a remarkably consistent and delicious champagne (we went through 3 bottles of Billecart for every one Ruinart)

1985 Salon: still youthful, fantastic balance and a memorable wine.

Duck confit with vegetables and potatoes roasted in duck fat and garlic with:

1993 Rene Engel Grands Echezeaux: a wine built to last that is finally starting to come around, nose is still a little muted, but a smorgasbord of spices, blackberry and cherry on the palate

1996 Ponsot Chambertin: bleh (like Florida Jim, these &*%$#@ get no more of my yen, dollars, or any other currency)

2000 Janasse Cuvee Chaupin: this is really, really delicious and a better match with the duck than the burgs, violets, spices, kirsch, wow.

A ridiculous amount of cheese with:

1989 Huet Vouvray Moelleux le Mont: touch of botrytis, racy acidity, beautiful with both the Comte and the Bleu d'auverge, only ok with the Mimolette

1999 Seavey Cabernet: only opened to appease the heathens who want red wines with their cheeses, not tasted but was told it was only ok

2001 Gaia & Rey chardonnay: lovely wine, over oaked, but has an exotic quality I like

2001 Weil Spatlese Kiedrich: way, way too young, but a beautiful wine, pears, litchee, minerals, must hide these.

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1998:  Remarkably good wine in a difficult vintage, not as big or opulent as its sisters, but still delicious, in many respects, the best food wine of the bunch.

Several friends who prefer domestic wine have mentioned how poor a vintage 1998 was for CA cabernet. As evidence of my considerably different palate, I have yet to have one that I thought poor and several I would actually buy; that being rare, indeed.

Shafer usually does pretty good work, even at lower price points - at least that's my experience. And I've had a few of their cabs. that have developed beautifully for thirty years or more in the cellar.

Along with Phelps and Montelena, I don't know many others on the leftcoast I can say that about.

Best, Jim


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