I was lucky enough to be invited again to a absolutely fabulous wine dinner hosted by Eric Cotsen at his lovely Malibu pad. A number of us Hedonists attended. Eric has these diners regularly and they feature an awesome setting, great company, wonderful food, and amazing wines provided by both him and the guests. All the wines are served blind (more or less).
Eric has these crazy high tech nitrogen dispensers that preserve (and aerate) the wines. He even has sets of glasses with etched number and letter combos so you can pair to the wines. Tonight there were two white wines in here as the set of 6 reds he opened had bottles too big to fit. The whites turned out to be Corton Charlemagne’s, but I forgot to get photos.
From my cellar: 2004 Henri Boillot Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 95. Perhaps the most backward and reserved wine to this point as the nose reveals only hints of white flower and green fruit aromas that are framed in a subtle touch of pain grillé but the flavors explode on the palate as there is a chewy texture to them yet there is ample minerality present, particularly for Bâtard. This too is blessed with abundant dry extract and a finish that won’t quit but for all of the size and weight, this is impeccably balanced. This has that “wow” factor and in terms of style, it’s almost like a muscular Chevalier.
agavin: drinking really nicely, with a ton of acid (which I love).
Eric hires various private chefs for his dinner series. We start with some appetizers, including this cheese plate.
A kind of tomato soup, but perhaps more akin to a salsa.
Blue cheese, mushroom, balsamic pizza. This is similar in style to some of the pizzas I make myself, and quite delicious.
The wine (below) is all served up front blind in numbered socks. I’m a bit ambivalent on this format. On the plus side, there are tremendous wines, and the blind format equalizes them all. Negatively, there are just so many (20+) and unless one took out a notepad and recorded notes and even which numbers one tried (there are repeats too like black 1 and blue 1) it’s hard to even remember if you tried a wine and half impossible to remember what it tasted like by the time they are revealed an hour or so later.
1998 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 94. The 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is a candidate for wine of the vintage. It continues to gain weight, and is better each time I retaste it. Its opaque purple color is accompanied by gorgeous aromas of graphite, vanilla, black currant liqueur, and minerals. This rich, full-bodied Cabernet offers sweet tannin, a layered texture, and a finish that lasts for 45-50 seconds. It is a splendid accomplishment in a difficult vintage. Anticipated maturity: now-2017.
2000 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 93. The 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select was performing even better this year than it was last year. While not as weighty and ageworthy as some of the more hallowed vintages, it is a seriously endowed wine. Deep ruby/purple to the rim, with a gorgeous nose of creme de cassis, licorice, graphite, spice, and cedar, it is more forward than most vintages, but full-bodied, concentrated, and beautifully seductive. Drink it over the next 15 or so years.
2001 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 100. I should not be surprised that the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select merited a perfect rating since I rated it 99 eight years ago. I also gave the 2002 Hillside Select a perfect rating. Kudos to Doug and John Shafer for creating two perfect wines in back to back vintages. The 2001 is a big wine (14.9% natural alcohol), but the alcohol is buried beneath an avalanche of creme de cassis, wood smoke, toast, licorice and spring flower characteristics. Super full-bodied with fabulous fruit purity, a broad, expansive mouthfeel, lots of glycerin and a huge upside, this 2001 is still an infant at age ten, but it is approachable as well as compelling to smell and taste. It has at least another three decades of aging potential ahead of it and is one of the great young, legendary classics from Napa Valley. It was a privilege to taste. There are approximately 2,000 cases of this cuvee which comes from Shafer’s hillside vineyards in the Stags Leap area and is aged 32 months in 100% new French oak.
2004 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 98+. The Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select has been one of Napa’s true first-growths since the early 1990s. The 2004 exhibits a dense opaque purple color along with spectacular, almost surreal levels of fruit that are never heavy, overripe or flawed. Its beautiful notes of creme de cassis, licorice and subtle oak (this cuvee spends 32 months in 100% new French barrels), skyscraper-like texture and extraordinarily long finish are all superb. This is a great wine from a great family who has done everything necessary to produce a world-class wine that can compete with any wine made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. You can’t say enough positives about the Shafers. Drink this 2004 Hillside Select over the next 20-25 years, although it could be even more stupendous in 40-50 years.
2006 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 96. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select, which was just released, is a stunningly rich effort displaying notes of licorice, cassis, camphor and subtle toast along with a full-bodied, powerful texture and richness. Very pure with surprisingly sweet tannins for a 2006, it’s long finish lasts over 40 seconds. It should drink well for 25+ years.
2007 Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. Parker 98+. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select has the potential to be a perfect wine in 5 to 6 years. Although it has shut down since I tasted it last year, it is unquestionably Shafer’s finest Hillside Select since the 2001 and 2002. It needs 2-3 years of bottle age and should keep for 35+ years. This selection is made from the Eisele clone of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in a choice 50-acre parcel. It takes concentration, graciousness and complexity to its highest level in Napa Valley. An inky/blue/purple color is followed by sweet aromas of blueberries, blackberries, charcoal and subtle toast. The wine possesses fabulous concentration, a seamless/flawless personality, a textbook integration of alcohol, wood, tannin and acidity, an almost endless finish and a voluptuous texture. Exhibiting more tannin and structure than it did last year, this is a colossal wine that will still be going strong in 2050.
1983 La Mission Haut Brion. Parker 90. This was the first vintage made under the administration of Jean Delmas. The most notable and dramatic change made at La Mission-Haut-Brion since 1983 became a more refined, polished, sophisticated style without the pure mass of older vintages, but also without the excesses of tannin and volatile acidity that sometimes plagued ancient vintages. The 1983, a very good vintage in the southern Medoc and Graves, is a relatively lightweight La Mission (particularly compared to the 1982) that is fully mature. Complex notes of smoked herbs, cigar tobacco, black currants, sweet cherries, damp earth and spice box jump from the glass of this dark garnet-colored wine. Medium-bodied with silky tannins, well-integrated, low acidity and abundant perfume, this fully mature 1983 should be consumed over the next decade.
1989 Latour. Parker 89. An evolved dark ruby color reveals amber at the edge. The nose offers aromas of caramel, coffee, ripe black cherry and currant fruit, cedar, and spice box. Although medium-bodied, with low acidity, the wine lacks richness in the mid-palate, and is surprisingly abrupt in the finish. It is a very fine, delicious Latour, but it is hard to believe it will attain the weight and flavor dimensions its producers suggest. Anticipated maturity: now-2020.
agavin: this was a contentious wine. I liked it, so did many others. Some hated it.
1995 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Parker 96. What sumptuous pleasures await those who purchase either the 1996 or 1995 Pichon-Lalande. It is hard to choose a favorite, although the 1995 is a smoother, more immediately sexy and accessible wine. It is an exquisite example of Pichon-Lalande with the Merlot component giving the wine a coffee/chocolatey/cherry component to go along with the Cabernet Sauvignon’s and Cabernet Franc’s complex blackberry/cassis fruit. The wine possesses an opaque black/ruby/purple color, and sexy, flamboyant aromatics of pain grille, black fruits, and cedar. Exquisite on the palate, this full-bodied, layered, multidimensional wine should prove to be one of the vintage’s most extraordinary success stories. Anticipated maturity: 2001-2020.
agavin: Blind, I instantly knew this was a Paulliac. It couldn’t have been anything else.
2007 Colgin IX Syrah Estate. Parker 95. There are 475 cases of the 2007 IX Syrah Estate, which offers up flowery, roasted meat, balsamic, tar, and blackberry characteristics in a full-bodied format. The wine reveals sweet tannin, and layers of fruit, including a note of lavender that emerges as the wine sits in the glass. It should drink well for a decade.
2007 William Cole Cabernet Sauvignon Cuvée Claire. 94 points. Remarkably soft for it’s age, as if it already had 15 years of bottle age. Drank like a silky, mature Margaux from a ripe vintage, but with Napa’s fruit forward stamp. An excellent food wine. I only wish it had a longer finish.
2003 Hartwell Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Misté Hill. 92 points. Very nice deep purple/red, hardly showing any signs of age yet. Big nose with lots of cabernet fruit coming through. In the mouth this one is very, very dry. The tannins are nicely integrated, though I’m sure my wife would consider them somewhat overpowering at this point. Lots of herbal stuff going on here, and I’m thinking a lot of anise and eucalyptus dominating with the black fruits coming through the back. This wine is really very nicely rounded, but it needs a fatty food to cut through those tannins.
2008 Morlet Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Coeur de Vallee. Parker 98. The inky/purple-tinged 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Coeur de Vallee is a 250-case blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Cabernet Franc. It offers up complex notes of unsmoked high class cigar tobacco, creme de cassis, subtle barbecue smoke, licorice and pen ink. Full-bodied with outstanding texture, purity and length, this awesome Cabernet Sauvignon can be enjoyed over the next 25-30 years.
1994 Penfolds Grange. Parker 91. This is the first vintage where Grange went to a bottle with laser-etched identification numbers to preclude the possibility of fraudulent bottles. The wine, a blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, shows some toasty oak mixed with notes of root vegetables, damp earth, blackberry liqueur, prune, and licorice. The wine is dense, full-bodied, not terribly complex in the mouth, but layered and rich. I would not be surprised to see the rating on this wine improve as this youthful Grange continues to evolve. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2020.
2001 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Parker 98-99. Remarkably, the 2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon may be even better. Staggeringly pure notes of creme de cassis, violets, licorice and graphite soar from the glass of this inky/purple-colored wine. Composed of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot, and tasting like it is 2-3 years old, it is a stunningly pure, rich, full-bodied, prodigious example of high elevation mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that will not reach full maturity for another 5-7 years, and should age beautifully for another two decades or more. It is a magical wine to smell, taste and contemplate.
2007 Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes. Parker 98. The 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is still an infant in terms of development. Composed of 98% Grenache from 100- to 110-year-old vines, and made from incredibly tiny yields, it boasts a dense ruby/purple color followed by a sweet kiss of kirsch liqueur, incense, camphor, truffles, and lavender. The wine hits the palate with sensational richness, a full-bodied, multilayered texture, awesome purity, and remarkable freshness as well as vibrancy. The tannins are velvety, the acids provide uplift and delineation to the wine’s enormous richness and depth, and the finish lasts nearly a minute. This 2007 is still very young and unevolved, so 2-4 years of cellaring is recommended. It should age for 25 or more years.
agavin: very young and very pure. I wouldn’t have guessed it was a CNDP, it tasted more like a 09 Bordeaux. The balance was perfect though.
From my cellar: 1998 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve des Celestins. Parker 98-100. The glorious 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve des Celestins has finally finished its alcoholic fermentation, tipping the scales at a whopping 16%, much like the surreal 1990 Reserve des Celestins. The deep ruby/purple-colored 1998 exhibits a glorious nose of brandy-macerated black cherries, aged beef, smoke, licorice, pepper, lavender, and sweet figs. Enormous in the mouth, yet remarkably light on its feet, its unctuous texture oozes fruit, glycerin, and extract. There is not a hard edge in this silky-textured, voluminous, majestic Chateauneuf du Pape, the likes of which seem to be incapable of being duplicated anywhere else in this appellation, or the world. This is a singular wine of great intensity and power with multiple dimensions. Liquid Viagra meets Rabelais! Anticipated maturity: 2008-2035.
agavin: I opened this hours before and it was still a brooding monster at the start of the dinner, but lots and lots of enormous fruit. Really lovely with a lot of complexity, but then again, I buy what I like.
2001 Tua Rita Redigaffi Vino da Tavola. Parker 96. The 2001 Redigaffi, an exceptionally deep ruby with an exotic nose of chocolate covered cherries and plum jam along with additional notes of coconut and roasted coffee, has the tell-tale super richness and density of perfectly ripe Merlot, lush, enveloping, plush, and concentrated. Drink: 2005-2020.
agavin: monster Italian merlot
1988 De Suduiraut. Parker 88. The 1988 reveals a textbook, light gold color with a slight greenish hue. Although it does not display the weight of the 1990 or 1989, it has better acidity, high alcohol, and considerable sweetness. It is somewhat disjointed, needing time to knit together. It is impressive if its components are evaluated separately, but it is less noteworthy when reviewed from an overall perspective. There is bitterness as well as fiery alcohol in the finish.
The wine does not offer much delineation, so cellaring should prove beneficial as it does have admirable levels of extract. Suduiraut can make powerful, rich wines that are often rustic and excessively alcoholic and hot when young. I am told they become more civilized with age, and certainly older, classic Suduiraut vintages have proven that to be true. I feel this estate’s propensity to produce a luxury cuvee (Cuvee Madame) in vintages such as 1989 tends to have a negative impact on the regular cuvee.
agavin: parker didn’t love it, but there was a ton of 1988’s typical acid, which I very much enjoyed.