Since my Tasting group of hard-hitting Sonoma County Pinot Noir producers somehow disbanded last year, I have taken it upon myself to fill the void in various ways. First and foremost, as my friends in the Valleys will tell you, when I have a cocktail party at my house, it is always accompanied by a theme – for example, an 80's NYC Art Scene Gallery Exhibition Opening when guests were requested to wear black, white or a combination of both and cheap white wine and cheaper sparkling wine was served over white and fluorescent orange hunks of cheese; or a Gatsby themed party where Prohibition era cocktails were mixed and silos full of Champagne were consumed. Hosting a traditional dinner party or pot-luck is also an engaging option for wine geeks – whether it be regional focused (with accompanying foods) or vintage focused. A recent dinner party at my house contained a face off of a 2006 Sancerre (Alphonse Mellot Edmund) vs. the 2006 Larkmead Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The red portion of the program contained two 2000 Bordeaux second labels (Mouton's Chateau D'Armailac and Leoville-Las Cases' Clos du Marquis) and two 2001 Italian wines, Terralsole's Brunello di Montalcino and Pira's Vigna Rionda Barolo. The reds weren't a precise theme, but it opened up the palates of us Cabernet focused Napa Valley types.
Over the last couple of months, I was fortunate to organize a blind tasting of 2005 Cabernet's from Napa Valley (a work event to compare Larkmead's wines from said vintage to some of the ‘cult' Cabernets garnering lots of attention and even higher price tags). I posted a forum note, here on the site, and reviewed the wines. More recently, I was fortunate to be pulled into another Cabernet (blind) tasting to, once again, gauge a wine (this time a new wine to market made by Thomas Brown of Schrader fame) and how it compares to relatively similar wines and their price points. While I was in NYC last month working at our distributor tasting, I had the good fortune to get out from behind the table and taste a few of the Int'l imported wines that you'll see in New York restaurants and retail but may not necessarily make it out to the West Coast (esp. the wine stores of Napa and Sonoma). These trade tastings happen pretty regularly and are free of charge, all you need to do is have a good relationship with a wine shop owner or restaurant wine director and ask if any trade tastings are coming up – when and where. [Ed. Note: I am sure the Snooth team can help on this one, hint, hint. Get connected, good wine drinking will follow!]
After the NY tasting I had the good fortune to sit down to dinner with, in my opinion, one of the top wine enthusiasts and generous fellows I have ever met. He organized a dinner where ten people gathered at Little Giant on the Lower East Side and we uncorked 21 wines that were brought by said fellow and friends. (Below is a list of the wines and my half-crocked tasting notes, of which I posted on this site - if the wines were in the Snooth database.)
In an ‘event' like this, it is obvious that the wine will overshadow the food and the company and conversation will educate you beyond the bottle. I definitely feel this dinner (among similar others I had in the past year+ with this fellow) rank up their with some of the incredible tastings and dinners organized by Snooth's own, Gregory Dal Piaz. Keep thanking him for his generous notes and tastings!
So, if anyone has read Gregory's posts, and are reading this, I do hope that you have that itch of a drunken desire that prompts you to organize your own wine tasting, cocktail party, dinner party, blind tasting, theme drinking, BYOB drinking, etc., etc. In these recessionary times, there is no better way to spread the resources around than to encourage your family, friends and work colleagues with a relatively low cost BYOB night of drinking under the pretense of this or that theme. Which reminds me, something that has been lingering in the ears and mouths of my friends is the 80-point blind tasting. We have all had our fair share of poor reviews and we all feel blotted by them. It is our hope to uncork the bottles, raise the glasses and to enjoy the heck out of these wines that may or may not have become second-class citizens based on someone's third party review. It will happen soon and I will let you know when it does; but, in the meantime, it would be great to hear about what is inspiring you to gather and gulp some of the good stuff. It may inspire us all to make the best with what's around. And by the way, I invested in a couple of restaurant wine dinners recently and was pleasantly pleased with the week's worth of food and wine that accompanied a price that would be close to the retail value of one or two of the wines that were consumed on the night in question. Return on investment very high in some of these dinners – so, check your resources, something too good to be true will be on the horizon, I am sure of it. Eat well, drink better and let us know what you have been tasting!
Little Giant Dinner
March 24, 2009
Domaine de Croix 2006
Beaune, 1er Cru, Pertuisots
- Youthfully subdued nose, opens to a soft, supple aromatic midpalate; elegant use oak that translates on the finish.
Domaine Humbert Freres 2006
Gevrey Chambertin, Premier Cru, Poissenot
- Textured nose of cherry-aspirin pill box sweetens undertones of earth and mushroom; a hint of cola on the palate broadens to a bitter cherry finish.
Wind Gap 2006
Grenache Booker Vineyard Paso
- A bit overripe, masking tell-tale Grenache rusticity and texture; however, surprisingly refined on the mid-palate with a soft, supple tannins that dry out quickly.
Wind Gap 2006
Syrah Sonoma Coast
- Intense Kalamata olive nose; stemmy to a fault (?). However, luckily, more impressed with the aromatic mid-palate but can't get over the nose!
Solari Reserve Cabernet
- Rich, luscious, sweet, tannin and acid. Vanilla, cream, dried herbs, black tea and Asian spices. Tastes like a Jolly Rancher when compared to the Canon.
Ch. Canon 1982
- Signature BDX nose (some said “Brett,” I say “Terroir”); Cedar, cherry, eucalyptus; bitter cherry finish. Or as we discussed: the Grande Dame at the ball, wearing Chanel, sweating a bit after the Waltz, returns to the table after powdering her nose.
- An Oakville nose of dusty, textured fruit; creamy mouthfeel, vanilla, sweet and succulent with a weed (i.e. hempy) finish. Elegant and refined tannins, a nod to good winemaking in the 06 vintage.
Dr. Crane Vineyard
- Similar (identical oak ?) mid-palate to the To-Kalon under a darker, more brooding nose and off-putting, astringent tannic finish. Finishes a little hot with similar hempy character of the To-Kalon – may say something about the barrels used.
Zinfandel, Montafi Ranch, RRV
- The warm, inviting nose. Teasing. Powerful, explosive fruit wrapped in a creamy core. Lull's you in and then throws you a spliter of astringency on the finish. Leaves you wanting to redeem yourself (or it).
Paul Jaboulet Aine 2003
La Chapelle, Hermitage*
- Elegant and balanced. Soft and polished. Focused purity. Meat. Fruit. Cream. Acts I, II and III. Runs you up the tree. Offers you the options to get down. And finishes with happily ever after.
- Reggie Jackson circa October 1978. Power, structure, consistency. A true champ. Highlighted with a bit of verve – spice, menthol, mint. A spectacular finish. Lingering in the memory.
* Hard to beat these two wines.
Domaine Robert Arnoux 2007
Vosne-Romanee, 1er Cru, Les Suchots
- “Pretty”, soft, subtle sweetness on the nose that dominates the wine. A little shy in the mouth but finishes with some tell-tale, “I want another sip” acid. Needs time to balance a bit.
Domaine Jaques Fredrick Mugnier 2004
Chambolle Musigny, Bonnes-Mares
- Best representation of a mood based wine. Intriguing in exotic kind of way. Dark and brooding; best consumed on a rainy day because the acid and tannin promise the spirit of sunshine in the future.
Domaine Prieure Roch 1995
Vosne-Romanee, Les Suchots
- Shockingly still fruit forward. Dark, rich and elegant midpalate balanced with fine acidity. Not necessarily noble, a bit more rebellious.
Clos Saint Jean 2005
Deus ex Machina, CdP
- One of the most intense wines (in balance) that I have ever tasted. It's richness is kept in check with layers of purity, complexity and texture. This wine bleeds terroir and passionate winemaking.
Clos Saint Jean 2006
Deus ex Machina, CdP
- A bit off-putting - the roller-coaster ride of a young wine's evolution in bottle. Unlike its previous vintage, the wine is a bit more linear (laser like fruit focus with more expressive alcohol); oak influence rearing its ugly head. Overjoyed to have tasted it, but some infanticide took place with this wine.
Clos Saint Jean 2005
La Combe des Fous, CdP
- Best in show. Dark and brooding at first glance. Soft and succulent as you get to know her. Balanced and perfect when you walk away thinking about her. The wine's concentration and intensity is focused throughout the experience. Never wavering, cannot find a flaw in this wine.
Domaine La Barroche 2005
Youthful. Tight. Showing its extremes - high-toned fruit focus, vegetative and black olive (whole cluster), a little too much alcohol becoming raisin-like; shy on its potential. Would love to revisit.
Domaine de la Mordoree 2005
La Plume du Pientre, La Crau, CdP
- Similar to the PURE, needs time. It's port-like character shows hints of intense, concentrated complexity. Remove its chastity belt in ten or twenty years and this wine will be a knock-out.
Domaine Gustave Lorentz 1983
Shockingly fresh. Clarity is remarkable. The pineapple and malic character is stunning. A refreshing way to re-liven the palate after luxurious red wine consumption. I would drink this nightly to count sheep in the spring-time pasture happily.
Dan Petroski is Assistant Winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards in Napa Valley. Dan has an MBA from New York University and worked as an Ad Exec in New York for several years, before switching it up and trading his suit for a move out west.