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Interesting event with Ray Signorello at Gavroche in Vancouver. Ray commutes –lives in Vancouver part of the year and makes wine in Napa the rest of the time.

2002 Edge Cabernet – served as a kick-off wine. 86% cab, 14% merlot. This bottle was showing a bit more tannic than the last one I had, but similar levels of fruit and a 4-5 year life ahead of it, though enjoyable right now.

Then into the main event – Ray had very kindly supplied a number of 5 litre bottles – they produce 6 of these in each vintage for each wine, so we were making a serious dent in the winery library.

2003 Seta – 60% Semillon, 40% sauv blanc and it sells much better under a name like this, according to Ray, than it would labelled as a ‘Sem-Sauv’ even if US laws allowed it. Fair bit of oak, on a typical Bordeaux nose, with reasonable length and good acidity. It improved with food. About 600 cases made.

2003 Napa Chardonnay ‘Vielles Vignes’ – (210 cases made) – they like a crisp end product, and so unlike most California wineries, the do not use malo-lactic fermentation. An intriguing nose of passion fruit and vanilla, though the oak was not excessive. Nice balance.

Served with Kumamoto oyster, Albacore tuna tartare, and smoked salmon.

1994 Founder’s Reserve Chardonnay (Napa) – 475 cases) – we saw very marked differences in the next two wines. This one showed not much oak, but did have a very odd, but not objectionable nose that I would liken to steamed mussels! A crisp drinkable style, without too much colour, given the age.

1995 Estate Napa Chardonnay – totally different wine, this one with a much more oily nose with lots of oak. Touch hollow in the middle, ending with more oak. I preferred the first by a long shot.

With Alaskan scallops (done perfectly al dente) with carrot ginger flan and truffle vinaigrette.

1994 Russian River Pinot Noir – from the Martinelli vineyards. Fairly dark (no confusion with Burgundy here, even before you tasted it) with a rich classy fruit driven nose, some remaining tannin, and to my taste an excess of terminal acidity that was only partially muted by the food.

1995 Las Amigas Carneros Pinot Noir – the nose on this was a darker deeper version of the Martinelli wine, the tannins now quite soft and drinking very well. My favourite.

With duck magret with foie grad cromequis (basically a little deep fried FG puff that explodes in your mouth with great FG flavours. If you ever find the bar that serves these instead of salted peanuts, you’ll know where to find me!)

We then had inflicted upon us a real gustatory clanger of the magnitude of a cow pat at a tea party – the ubiquitous sweet sorbet! Introducing an ancillary dessert right before tasting the main wines of the evening is just bloody stupid, and I was relieved to see many people push it away, shaking their heads. Come on, people, we know better than this. If you want a palate cleanser, not a ‘palate cloyer’, go for zero sugar and something clean like citrus, or my personal fave, Earl Grey tea. Crikey!

1990 Founder’s Reserve Napa Cabernet – 78% CS, 10% CF, 12% M. A real treat to taste a mature cab from this producer. Big dark wine with chalky sweet fruit, quite intense. It was still big and tannic on palate, but I didn’t see enough fruit to convince me that further ageing will result in anything but slow decline. Long sweet finish. Nice wine.

2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) – what a contrast! 71% cab, 14% CF, 11% M. Dark, the nose one of still simple deep fruit, and the wine still quite tannic, but obviously well made with the fruit lurking just under the tannins. This may eventually be even better than the 1990.

With lamb rack with Dijon and rosemary.

2001 Padrone – this is Ray’s tribute to his dad, made from selected batches, unfiltered, all French oak. Very dark wine with a riper nose, lots of up front sweetness on entry, then medium soft tannins, rich and full on palate, with good balance and lingering finish. I liked this a lot.

With pear stuffed with Stilton, wrapped in phyllo.

An instructive and very enjoyable event, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Vancouver American Wine Society.

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