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Diamond Creek, Silver Oak, Karl Lawrence, Havens..


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Back in the saddle after a self-imposed hiatus (in note taking, not tasting) over the holidays.

These are notes from the once a month blind tasting lunch I arrange at a local restaurant.

2002 Pierrette et Marc Guillemot Macon Villages ‘Quintaine - this small and apparently fanatically purist (no oak, or malo, all biodynamic), producer puts out some interesting wine. There was LOT going on in the nose here, including a hint of perfume, and mineral, and while the wine seemed advanced in terms of colour it had lost left on palate, juicy acidity and a great way to start the event.

2001 Rockford Eden Valley Riesling – I snuffled at this one a bit and tasted it and then went out on a limb and guessed Australian Riesling – sometimes you are hot (usually you are not…).The nose was Riesling but elegant and not overstated, and the wine was pleasant on entry, but cut off short at the end and is priced above many better German Rieslings. Interesting, especially for those who thought that Rockford only made Shiraz.

We noshed on a very nice course of white asparagus and smoked salmon with a poached egg atop.

2000 Di Maio Norante 'Contado' Aglianaco del Molise – this has always seemed to me to be a fairly international wine as opposed to a typical old style Italian – to the point that identifying it as an Italian wine takes a bit of doing, although I finally got there. It has softened up in the last 2 years and drinks well now but probably has 4-5 useful years ahead of it. Cocoa and coffee in the nose, medium weight with soft tannins and fair length. A bargain at the price.

2000 Apex Syrah – this Washington state producer has issued some lacklustre wines, but starting about the 1999 vintage, there were some more interesting things coming out of the cellar door and it became worth watching. This wine had some nice dark fruit aromas with vanilla and toasted bread notes, was dark purple and smooth and friendly, ending sweet. Not overblown (a nice rest from over the top Aussies) and ready to roll now and for the next 2-3 years.

1997 Havens Bourriquot – I am quite fond of this maker’s merlots, but their unorthodox (well outside the Right Bank, anyway) blend of 2/3 cab franc and 1/3 merlot is pretty interesting as well. Lots of interest in the nose, featuring cherry and cocoa, and maybe a hint of cassis. Smooth and elegant, it was neither too big nor too ripe. It narrowed a tad at the end, but the overall impression was very good.

With a plate of mushrooms in veal demi on a thick slice of Salt Spring Island goat cheese.

1990 Silver Oak Napa Cabernet – I thought that this wine had a particularly interesting nose – the first thing that struck everyone was a pronounced coconut element, but the vanilla and fruit were just underneath. It was smooth and harmonious, sweet and long. It has peaked and should be drunk in the near term (this was from my cellar, which tends to be cooler than many).

1999 Karl Lawrence Napa Cabernet – we never see this wine in Canada and it is always great fun to have a lady introduce me to new things….a dark, young concentrated wine with a currant and plum nose, layers of sweet fruit on palate, but the wine deftly avoids being to ripe, too concentrated, or too tannic. Lovely balance and a pleasure to get to try it in youth. I bet these wines age well – anyone comment?

With a tasty course of rabbit prepared with coarse mustard.

1978 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace Cabernet – I was guessing in the mid 80s on this, but 1978 made sense when we were told and the characteristic sweetness of fruit might have eventually led us that way. A touch of vinyl in the nose, that blew off then a complex, mature warm nose, great flavour concentration and very good length. Proof that American cab will age well – and we didn’t prearrange the predominance of Americans this time – it was entirely random.

1978 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Cabernet – darker than the previous wine, and the nose was even better, showing tobacco, cedar and anise. It was also darker and had even better length. Of course when I got home I had to look up my notes on the 1978 Volcanic Hill we had at one of these lunches last year and it was a step up from the Gravelly Meadow. Then I found my notes on a blind tasting of 1978 and 1979 Gravelly Meadow against 1978 and 1979 Pichon Lalande and realised how lucky I’ve been to taste these older vintages so many times. Great wines.

2001 Dom. Duloquet Coteaux de Layon “Quintessence” – my previous experience with this producer had been most discouraging – a simple Anjou wine I deemed not to be worth the sub $10 cost. This was totally different. Very sweet, huge nose decent acidity and a floral hint at the end.

Served with cheese.

An especially nice lunch with interesting wines. Very hard to go back to the office afterward!

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1978 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace Cabernet – I was guessing in the mid 80s on this, but 1978 made sense when we were told and the characteristic sweetness of fruit might have eventually led us that way. A touch of vinyl in the nose, that blew off then a complex, mature warm nose, great flavour concentration and very good length. Proof that American cab will age well – and we didn’t prearrange the predominance of Americans this time – it was entirely random.

A recent bottle opened with friends was a huge surprise and about as good a domestic cabernet as I can remember.

Best, Jim

www.CowanCellars.com

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