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May Lunch Notes


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The monthly blind tasting lunch brought out the usual bunch of interesting wines.

With lobster carpaccio and Dungeness crab remoulade:

1990 Paul Blanck Schlossberg Riesling Grand Cru – oily nose, though I had some momentary misgivings about whether or not it could be anything except Riesling. This had some colour to it, and was smooth and well balanced.

1997 Joseph Swan Russian River Chardonnay – from a producer whose whites are all but unknown to me – guess I must have fastened on his reds. Also quite dark in colour with a really nice vanilla honey nose that developed a nice nuttiness. Unctuous feel, nice flavours and a lifting kick of acidity at the end.

On into the reds with:

1995 Torres Mas Borres Pinot Noir (Penedes) – while I am a long time fan of Torres wines, we have never seen this Pinot in our market. Warm, mildly funky pinot nose (it was a dog, but the dog wasn’t wet), nice sweet entry, the wine mellow and ready. A surprise.

1998 Fonseca Garrafeira ‘FSF’ – this winery does quite a few special bottlings and they are almost all worth searching out. Dark youthful colour, interesting sweaty sort of nose, with high toned fruit behind, and fairly high terminal acidity. This wine just kept getting better and better in the glass, so if you have any (I was pleased to see that I do), open it well ahead of time. The grapes that went into this are a truly odd combination – Trincadera, Tannat and Syrah!

We started in on quail stuffed with wild rice and foie gras, with a Port and truffle sauce.

1998 Les Cailloux CnduP – some browning of the edges, a really nice garrigue and tar nose, medium weight with good acidity and a shot of pepper at the end, with decent fruit in the middle. The only surprise is how forward the wine is. I guess it is time for me to think about starting on my 1995….

1995 Amiral de Beychevelle – another offering from our friend we nicknamed “King of the Second Labels” Good nose, medium amount of tannin, dry wine, even a bit austere, with a bit of dusty/musty character. Bit perplexing to try to nail the vintage.

With lamb chops with roast garlic and rosemary:

1998 Terlan ‘Porphyr’ Lagrein Reserve – most of the group had zero experience with this grape – I know it, as I drank quite a few in the 80s. A varietal that grows in the Dolomites, it is usually used t make either Rosé or light reds, and the few dark versions (which the grape does lend itself to) have been rustic and uninteresting. This was a revelation, however – huge fruit in nose and mouth, and a pleasant sweetness, although the typical acidity was also present. Black cherry at the end. A good wine and an eye-opener as far as something new to keep a watch for.

1999 Rustenburg Cabernet ‘Peter Barlow’ – this single vineyard Cape wine was absolutely wonderful. Dark, with purple edges, lost of oak, and on palate luscious with silky feel and good length. If you ever see this, don’t hesitate.

With cheese:

1991 Caymus Cabernet – the regular cab, not the SS. The nose was disappointingly absent, the wine dark and with an unusual amount of sweetness in the mouth. Soft ripe tannins, drinking well now, but where was the nose? Had a bottle last month that was a bit better.

1990 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet – I used to try both regular and Reserve bottlings from Mondavi, and make up my mind if the Reserve was worth the additional cost, because in quite a few vintages, it wasn’t all that much better than the regular. In 1990 I bought regular, and I feel a bit vindicated when I tasted this wine. Pleasant fruit driven nose a bit ripe, with obvious age and development, medium tannin, very Bordeaux like, but ultimately not a great bottle. We ended up tasting two bottles as the first one got kicked over and spilled some (riotous bunch, these lunch tasters) so we opened another and the note is on that second one. When we were a bit disappointed, we went back and tasted the first bottle, and though we found a bit more sweetness and marginally more depth, the two were pretty similar.

I went home and thought about the Mondavi, and decided to renew my acquaintance with the regular 1990. My note from the next day:

1990 Mondavi Cabernet – a nice mature nose with just a bit of mustiness at first. The wine was soft and sweet, though without the almost over-ripeness of the reserve wine, and was very drinkable with soft tannins. Elegant, probably was better a couple of years a go. Pleasant but not memorable.

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