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Diamond Creek, Thackrey, Jaboulet, Castelgiocondo.


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The monthly ‘business’ blind tasting lunch notes:

2002 Guillemot-Michel ‘Quintaine’ – this is a Macon Clessé that impressed us all. The nose was pretty identifiable as a chard, with good fruit and light oak, but the mout-feel was what was exceptional – very full flavoured, long and crisp at the end. Very good.

1994 Robert Pepi Sangiovese Two Heart Canopy – this California Sangiovese is an early example of the American experimentation with Italian varietals. The wine had a nose that did cry out “Italy” with sweet ripe fruit, and the feel was initially quite silky, but the wine was ultimately simple and a little tedious.

2003 Sedlescomb Organic Vineyard Regent – brought back from England as a curiosity, this wine was deep dark purple in colour, and had a nose like odd slightly sweet still fermenting blackberry juice. In the mouth, the most appropriate descriptor was beets…..agghh…….I applaud, however, the intellectual curiosity that inspired this attendee to pick this wine up and bring it - you never know until you try something whether it is any good or not. In this case, ‘not’ won unanimously!

2003 Winchester Sharp Rock Vineyard Pinot Noir – another ‘unusual’ wine, from one of the new BC wineries, made by Ken Winchester. A BC Pinot at 14.3% alcohol, with just about no recognizable Pinot characteristics! A ripe raisiny nose reminiscent of an Amarone, but with a stewed plum element that is thankfully absent in the Italian version.

1999 Doudet Naudin Savigny les Beaune – a little cloudy from the bus ride over to the restaurant, and displaying a non-typical Pinot nose, this wine nonetheless showed good balance, good acidity and is ready to drink. I should add that this is not much like the Doudets of old – back in the 80s and early 90s they were age worthy wines that would just be hitting stride at 5-6 years of age. I believe there was a change of winemaker and possibly a change in style about 15 years ago.

1996 Jaboulet Dom. Thalabert – this Crozes Hermitage showed wonderful black olive tapenade and pepper in the nose and I kept veering toward the southern Rhone in my attempts to nail it. Smooth and very tasty. This was from a warm cellar and typical bottles will probably not be as far along.

2000 Burge Holy Trinity – a ripe sweet GSM from Oz – as one expects, tons of ripeness and sweet fruit, in the end a bit of a one note presentation, but alright if you are in the mood. It’s funny – I took one sniff of this and pronounced it Australian, yet none of the other tasters had the same reaction, and thought it variously American, French etc. Maybe I’ve partaken of too many Oz wines lately…..

Thackrey Pleiades XII – I forgive myself for not getting Thackrey’s melange of Italian and Californian varietals – a real test in a blind tasting! Minty nose with all sorts of herbs, leather, earth, then a sweet entry and smooth feel, the wine very tasty and ready to drink. I’ve had this oddball once before – maybe I’ll remember it if there is another time. The Pleiades are the Seven Sisters, yet there seem to be more than seven components to this wine. I don’t know whether there were originally only seven, or perhaps Sean just had a ‘thing’ for nymphs….

1990 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino – I’ve been drinking my way through a case of this since release and it changes just about every time I taste it. It went through a lean acidic phase, then miraculously the fruit came back. It has been drinking well for several years, yet this bottle showed much more tannin than recent tastings. I found a little blood/iron in the nose, a bit of browning at the edges, and lots of acidity to go with the surprising tannins, the finish a bit hot and raisiny. Not the best bottle I’ve tasted and I look forward to revisiting this.

1985 Kenwood Cabernet (Sonoma) – I tasted this early in its life and decided that it would age well. While it hasn’t got the legs of the exceptional 1978 (sadly, I have no more of this), it has held up well and drinks nicely now, a feat for a ‘regular’ wine. I suppose you could call this a third label after the Artist’s label and the Jack London.

Also showing browning edges, the mature cabernet nose unmistakeable (at least to me), this wine still has sufficient fruit to drink well, and has turned out to show an elegance in old age that was absent in youth.

1978 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cabernet – we were musing about what had happened to this legendary, iconic winery. The wines of the 70s were fantastic, then the winery seemed to slide after the early 80s and while I’ve seen the odd good comment on later wines, it just doesn’t seem to be producing at the same level. Showing age only at the edges, this wine had a lovely nose of oak and mellow mature fruit. On palate it was as close to perfection as you’d like to see or taste – still weighty with complex flavours and impeccable balance, it is a wine for thoughtfulness – sure, the wineries in California are making wine of an average quality level much higher than was the case when this wine was made, with fewer failures. But do they attain the heights that some of the 1970s wines did, full of character and individuality, lasting for decades? I have my doubts. Have I had better California Cabs? Probably, on occasion, maybe some of the other 70s vintages would rival this, but with lunch with friends, this was a truly memorable bottle, and my thanks to the one who brought it. My clear vote for best of lunch!! I’ll add one other comment. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste this vintage of Diamond Creek pretty much across the board. The last one I had was a Gravelly Meadow a couple of years ago, and I found it to be much more like a Bordeaux. The Volcanic Hill was somehow (to me) quintessentially American. Sorry to ramble on, but this wine merits discussion!

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