Hedonists know how to do house parties right.
Tonight’s affair is creol food at Lana’s house, which has been host to a number of events in the past. She has a magical garden full on Beverly Hills style that makes for a peerless setting. The chef was Guy DuPlantier III of Crazy Creole Catering.
NOTE: I’m just going to break the wines down into white (with appetizers), red (with mains) and dessert. The format was free-for-all.
1999 Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Cuvée Palmes d’Or. IWC 90. Vivid gold. Peach, orange zest and gingerbread on the pungent, smoky nose and in the mouth. Lush and expansive, offering very good depth and power and picking up exotic toffeed apple and marzipan nuances with aeration. Closes sappy and long, with resonating spice and orange notes and a touch of candied fig.
From my cellar: 1994 Robert Ampeau & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. 90 points. Nicely aged white Burgundy with notes of butterscotch and citrus. It started promisingly but faltered pretty quickly in the mouth, dissolving into a dry, pithy finish.
2006 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons. Burghound 91. The nose reflects only modest aromatic development on the notably ripe, spicy and intensely floral nose that introduces strikingly intense and sappy flavors that are supple and textured yet the finish tightens up very quickly and possess a lovely sense of underlying tension on the palate staining finish. This is impressively long and possesses good if not truly class Chablis character. To my taste this is nearing the front edge of its peak drinkability though it will be capable of holding here for years to come.
2007 Sine Qua Non Body & Soul. IWC 94. Vivid gold color. More energetic than the previous wine, with zesty aromas of Meyer lemon, pear skin and grapefruit pith complemented by deeper notes of peach pit and yellow rose. Juicy and finely etched, with the palate displaying sweet orchard and pit fruit flavors and a strong note of grapefruit pith. Strikingly pure, lively and incisive on the finish, which clings with excellent juicy persistence.
From my cellar: 1998 Dominique Laurent Bonnes Mares. IWC 93-96. Full red-ruby. Ineffable nose features briary black cherry, iodine, licorice, caramel and smoke. A wine of incredible sweetness and thrust; profoundly deep, sharply delineated and finishing with superb grip. The aftertaste mounts and lingers for nearly a minute. I’m sure there’s great underlying tannic structure, but I was too entranced by this wine’s fruit to notice.
2000 Marcassin Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard. IWC 94. Reticent but complex nose combines smoke, apricot and menthol. Sappy and rather powerful in the mouth without coming across as phenolic. Strong flavor of baking spices. Rather dominated today by its structure, but this also possesses lovely sweetness of fruit. A less exotic style of chardonnay than the Upper Barn.
2008 Tenuta Guado al Tasso (Antinori) Bolgheri Superiore. AG 95. The 2008 Guado al Tasso is once again fabulous. In fact, it may be Tuscany’s most improved wine over the last few years. Firm, vibrant tannins support expressive layers of dark fruit, plums, cherries, sage, espresso and mocha. The wine shows fabulous detail and nuance in a translucent, totally seductive style, with tons of focus, drive and verve. It is a striking wine that will be a joy to follow over the coming years. Guado al Tasso is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.
2000 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Conteisa. AG 95. The 2000 Conteisa is one of the most positive surprises in this tasting. The wine is positively explosive, with marvelous balance and richness in its generous, radiant fruit. The 2000 is a terrific Conteisa.
1990 Gaja Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn. AG 97. The 1990 Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn opens with a wonderfully expressive, floral bouquet that leads to a finely-knot core of ripe red fruits, sweet tobacco and spices. Here the warmth and generosity of the vintage offer superb balance and fleshiness to the wine’s sculpted, well-articulated aromas and flavors. The wine’s overall sense of harmony is spectacular.
agavin: Most of us (including me) thought this was the wine of the night.
1988 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. 91 points. This shows wonderful development in contrast to the younger Amarone. Full of funghi with leafy, compsty nuances that build on the agelica root spiciness. Hints of cigarette tobacco and powdered sugar add depth. This is still big and rich in the mouth with excellent balance, full of red fruits and a hint of apply sweetness across the midpalate and leading to a clean, long finish.
2006 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto. Parker 99. I can still remember nearly falling out of my chair the first time I tasted the 2006 Masseto (100% Merlot) from barrel. The wine is now in bottle, and it is every bit as monumental as I had hoped. The wine possesses staggering richness in a style that perfectly captures the essence of this great Tuscan vintage. Black cherries, flowers, licorice and sweet toasted oak are just some of the nuances that emerge from the 2006 Masseto. A wine of breathtaking depth, it also reveals superb clarity, freshness and vibrancy in a sumptuous, beautifully-balanced style. Simply put, the 2006 Masseto is a masterpiece from Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia. According to Agronomist/General Manager Leonardo Raspini the dryness of the vintage slowed down the maturation of the sugars, leaving the wine with an unusually high level of acidity, and therefore freshness, considering its overall ripeness.
2009 Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Parker 100. The finest wine ever made by proprietors Daniel and Florence Cathiard, the 2009 Smith-Haut-Lafitte exhibits an opaque blue/purple color in addition to a glorious nose of acacia flowers, licorice, charcoal, blueberries, black raspberries, lead pencil shavings and incense. This massive, extraordinarily rich, unctuously textured wine may be the most concentrated effort produced to date, although the 2000, 2005 and 2010 are nearly as prodigious. A gorgeous expression of Pessac-Leognan with sweet tannin, emerging charm and delicacy, and considerable power, depth, richness and authority, it should age effortlessly for 30-40+ years. Bravo!
2003 Gruaud Larose. Parker 88. The 2003 Gruaud Larose’s dark plum/garnet color is followed by sweet aromas of damp earth, forest floor, herbs, espresso roast, cassis, licorice, and plums. Medium-bodied as well as surprisingly up-front and precocious, it possesses sweet tannin, very nice concentration, and loads of earthy/herbal characteristics intermixed with black fruits, and an attractive, but supple, evolved finish. Drink it over the next 12-15 years. It does not rank alongside the top St.-Juliens.
1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 87. Readers looking for soft, immediately appealing Cabernet Sauvignons with some of the Montelena personality should check out the 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga Cuvee. Dark ruby/purple-colored, with sweet tannin, and black currant/cassis fruit, this lush, expansive, tasty, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon should drink well for another decade. This wine has an uncanny aging potential, and is powerful, but its lack of barrel and malolactic fermentation gives it a refreshing, zesty, Chablis-like personality.
2011 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 85. The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits a lighter ruby color as well as more diluted aromatics, and a pleasant, short, round mouthfeel that tails off. There is no herbaceous or vegetal character, but the wine reveals the vintage’s lack of intensity. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.
2005 K Vintners Charles Smith The Skull Syrah. Parker 98. The 2005 Syrah The Skull comes from a different section of the Royal Slope. If it is possible, the wine is a bit more structured and powerful. It needs 8-10 years of cellaring and will be at its best from 2017 to 2035.
2003 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard. Parker 96. Absolutely superb, this 2003 is drinking beautifully. This blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot from the famous hillside Eisele Vineyard in northeast Napa Valley tips the scales at 14.5% natural alcohol. Gorgeously fresh black currant and black raspberry notes intermixed with spring flowers and forest floor jump from the glass from one of the most aromatically complex wines of the vintage. Medium to full-bodied with sweet fruit, velvety, melted, integrated tannin, a round, generous mouthfeel and no evidence of oak, this is a classy, elegant as well as substantial beauty that continues to age well. It may even be superior to Araujo’s 2002, which, on paper, is a better vintage. The seductive, alluring 2003 should remain at this level for another 5-8 years, but there is no reason to defer your gratification. Bravo!
2009 Colgin IX Syrah Estate. Parker 95. I could have sworn the 2009 IX Estate Syrah had some Viognier in it, but all of these wines are 100% Syrah. Flowery, peppery, blackberry and bacon aromas reminiscent of a Cote Rotie jump from the glass. However, once in the mouth, the masculinity, power, awesome richness and incredible texture come forward. This killer Syrah should drink well for 20 or more years.
1998 Kongsgaard Syrah Hudson Vineyard. Parker 92. There are about 200 cases of the opaque black/purple-colored 1998 Syrah Hudson Vineyard. As John Kongsgaard said, it was made from “stupidly low yields.” The wine is tight in the mouth, but reveals tremendous stuffing along with scents of blackberries, licorice, earth, truffles, pepper, and graphite. Massively tannic, but sweet and rich, this wine should enjoy two decades of life. However, one word of caution — either decant it for 60 or so minutes prior to drinking, or wait 2-3 years.
2009 Turley Wine Cellars Petite Syrah Hayne Vineyard. Parker 94-96. It was difficult to chose a favorite although the 2009 Petite Syrah Rattlesnake Ridge, Hayne Vineyard and Library Vineyard are the three greatest in terms of concentration, depth and potential complexity. As I have said so many times, Petite Sirah is by far the most underrated varietal in California, so it is reassuring to see how many producers continue to make remarkable wines with around 13-14% alcohol as well as 20-40+ years of aging potential.
Crawfish etouffee. This was okay (and I normally love this dish) but there really wasn’t much crawfish in here, about 98% sauce, and the sauce itself was buttery without also having that brandy-type flavor. This roux was probably a lighter version and could have used more intensity.
From my cellar: 1994 Dow Vintage Port. Parker 97. Deep garnet colour. The nose is just beginning to evolve into musky, dried plum and raisin aromas with whiffs of tree bark, nutmeg, cumin and cloves. The palate is seriously big and voluptuous with medium to high acidity and a medium to firm level of fine tannins. Very long finish.