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Scene: A local restaurant, San Carlo, the site of numerous wine events. The fact that they have the best antipasti in town is not merely incidental. The date: Not long before Halloween. (I dressed like a lawyer.) Dramatis Personae Well known importer Dan Kravitz (Hand Picked Selections), various friends from the Prodigy Wine Bulletin Board that I lead, and Breck & Gareth .....the Wine Boobs. [For their version, see Wine Boob Version of Reality
Prologue: Into every generation, there come Wine Boobs, whose task it is to protect the world from solemnity in wine. I like their approach, notwithstanding that my web site is somewhat more staid. Does that make me The Anti-Boob? In their heart of hearts, perhaps they half expected me to lean over and whisper, "In time, you will call me......Master." [Those with sound enabled browsers may click here]
This is our story.....
I was first to arrive. I brought four bottles. It was an omen of things to come. As others arrived, it became horrifyingly clear that they were exercising a similar level of restraint. On the other hand, the wines included back-to-back Bonneau Chateauneufs (1988 and 1989 Cuvée Marie Beurrier), 1982 Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume (Duplessis); 1978 Cabernet (Mayacamas); 1988 Hermitage "La Chapelle;" 1983 Chateauneuf du Pape (Beaucastel); 1978 Barbaresco "Pora" (Produttori); 1993 Chardonnay "Diamond T" (Talbott), NV Solera Riserva Sherry Pedro Ximenez "San Emilio" (Lustau) and sundry other interesting things. I didn't make notes on everything, and I don't list everything that was there, especially things I've reported on recently.
Over the years, I have met lots of people on the 'net with 0 bad results. (Of course, I don't bother to meet people I dislike after online encounters.) Over the years, I have been subjected to verbal darts thrown by my Luddite friends whose view of computers and the Internet is that only stalkers and porn freaks participate. This is not true. There are also Boobs.
The Boobs arrived ensemble, dressed as computer wine geeks for Halloween. Actually, so were most of the rest of us, but we were not as well accessorized. They brought a laptop for wine notetaking. This made the rest of us very happy. Now, when Luddite friends wonder whether we suffer from Internet addiction (have you ever wondered whether the people who invent such terms suffer from personality disorders that make them unable to have a sense of humor?), we have someone else to point to in order to prove that we have not gone too far, that, yes, there is an outer limit, a line, a border, and WE have not crossed it!
While congratulating ourselves on this revelation we learned yet more. The laptop had a UNIX operating system. Geekdom personified. A moment of silence ensued during which we offered solemn thanks. Never again would WE stand out. A little envy popped in, too, perhaps. But, hmmmm. What happens if you spill Yquem into the laptop?
Sadly, there was little time for existensialism. The work of a wine geek is never done. It leaves little time for rumination.
I passed over the artisanal DeSouza champagne, that I've had before and enjoyed frequently. That was a mistake. In a paper bag, we were soon presented with another sparkler, served blind, of sorts. As Gareth, Boob #1, poured it, he said ominously, "You may not like this." These Boobs are nothing if not prescient. The sickly sweet, pétillant Muscat was frothy and cloying. Those were the good adjectives. In its defense, it was served too warm. There were too many other interesting wines to try to think twice about it, though. Dan, by the way, was the only one to guess Muscat, and how he could bear to taste it long enough to decide......well, I guess that's why he is the full time professional in the field!
Dan is fond of gentler, softer wines, and true to form, tried to bring some older ones. His 1982 Chablis "Fourchaume" 1er Cru (Duplessis), a wine he imports, was a bit controversial in my view. I'm becoming a fan of this producer, who by reputation makes long-lived whites, but this was showing some problems. I think it was not a question so much of age and the wine cracking up, as it was maderization, and possible cork defects. Be that as it may, this wine showed like other samples I have had up to a point, with a long finish, austerity giving way to fruit, and a subtle intensity. The madeira on the back of the palate was annoying, and given the condition of the rest of the wine, I'd say this was more a defect peculiar to this bottle than inherent in the wine. Anyway, defects were offputting and destroyed the whole. 85 points, an excellent score considering deductions for defects. There was not a lot of much else interest in white wines. The 1993 Chardonnay "Diamond T" (Talbott) was a winner, but I've reported on it before and recently. See May/June, 1997 Tasting Notes.
My turn for paper bags. A 1994 Chardonnay "Philip Roth Vineyard' (Chaddsford)(Pennsylvania). Dan guessed Northern Italy. I enjoy seeing Dan miss. (g) Another said Arneis. Some thought Marsanne. At least one Boob, I'm not sure which, said chardonnay. One vote for slightly corked, and after some reflection, I thought it did have some unusual minerally aspects not typical of the wine, that might have been slight TCA. Anyway.... When I first had this wine, it was simply wonderful. It has never shown as well since. It did seem more open tonight than on my last tasting, but it seemed odd, too. Those who missed the varietal are not to be blamed. 79 points.
So, let's just go to the red stuff already. Dan, true to form, trots out a 1978 Barbaresco "Pora" (Produttori). We had interesting divergences of opinions all night and a lot of instances where there were strong but definitely minority opinions. Gareth (Boob #1) thought the Talbott too oaky. By California standards, at least, I think the oak is relatively well integrated there, and everyone else seemed to like it. The Boobs fell in love with the Duplessis, but I was not alone in thinking it had some problems. For my curmudgeonly part, I was unhappy with the Produttori, which Dan rightly noted seemed at least reasonably well liked by the others. To me, this wine symbolizes what's wrong with Nebbiolo, especially as produced by more traditional Italian winemakers. The finish is astringent, with harsh, bitter, mouth drying tannins. This, on a wine almost twenty years old. There is fruit, but as tends to be the case with Nebbiolo, it is fruit without much intensity of flavor. It's not much different when young, just more tannic. This varietal never seems to produce the pure waves of flavor that you get in various pinot noir, syrah, and cabernet based wines, whether because of Italian winemaking styles or qualities inherent in the grape. (I tend to think, some of each.) When you can taste fruit, it has a bit of a burnt almond aftertaste. Some subtle oxidation. On the whole, I'd rather spend my money elsewhere. My scores are relative, remember, and this was a good Barbaresco. 89 points. Personally, though, I wouldn't spend $10 on this wine. Hey. I have opinions. That's why I write!
More paper bags. First, the Boobs poured a friendly, appealing wine. When pressed for a comparison by the Wine Boobs, I chose Drew Barrymore, sweet and fleshy, but not much character or depth, and rather superficial. I suspected some partial whole berry fermentation to create an initial rush of fruit and obscure the lack of depth. Still, pleasing wine if not too pricey. I guessed Cote Rotie, perhaps DuBoeuf's, and I think that was the table's best guess. It was Cote Rotie, but Vidal-Fleury.
Even more paper bags. This was Dan's selection. Guesses were over the lot. Boob #2 (Breck) guessed Merlot and America. Most of us nailed the varietal as cab but went elsewhere for the region. I guessed Languedoc, maybe Mas de Daumas Gassac. This was partly because Dan imports a lot of wine in that area. It just seemed a Dan thing to do. It couldn't be American. There wasn't enough discernible American oak. Dan said it was old, but I guessed mid-80s. It was in fact a gorgeously well preserved 1978 Mayacamas Cab. I've had better mature California wines, but not many. Still tannic, built for the long haul, this wine is nonetheless showing extremely well. With age, the fruit has thinned somewhat. I'd use the word "focused" rather than "lush and ripe." But there was no sign of deterioration, the flavors were pure and redolent of cabernet. The wine sung many songs. I liked it a lot. I like them more on the velvety, lusher side, but this just had too much going for it in every other respect to quibble. I would have liked to have sat with it through the night. This was not a hit and run wine, although we were forced to hit and run. It deserved better. We had controversial wines this night; everyone liked this one. My only caveat is that the I expect the tannins will outlive the fruit. It will be some years before that becomes a major concern, though. 91 points.
1988 Hermitage "La Chapelle"was a different story. I suppose I would pick the Mayacamas as the wine of the night for current drinking, but I think the Hermitage will surpass it. Trouble is, it is five years away. Maybe ten, if you like them on the softer, gentler side. This was the biggest, brawniest wine on the table. It opened tight and intense, with plenty of tannin, but also a core of concentrated, pure syrah fruit. The heady nose was pretty powerful as a result, too. Whereupon, one taster noted that it didn't seem to taste much like syrah. We had pithier and crueler rejoinders at the time, but suffice it to say, this is not only like syrah, it is quintessential syrah. Someone took a syringe of essence of syrah and injected it into the core. 1988 is not a lush year for Hermitage, but the wines are big and structured, and this one is stuffed with unusual amounts of pure, varietal fruit that will go head to head with the tannins. When this finally softens a little, it is going to be flat out delicious. As for our taster who thought it wasn't syrah-like, about 2 hours later, as the wine opened up, thinned out and aired out, he changed his mind, too. 93 points.
The 1983 Beaucastelis a wine I've learned to like. I was scarred in its youth when I came across some hideously bretty bottles. The ones I've had since have certainly been, um, earthy and smoky, but if brett there is, it's well under control. Call it "good" brett. (g) This wine now just seems to have so much character. Some bacon fat flavor on the palate melds well with the whole. The texture gives the impression of weight and richness, yet it also seems relatively soft and gentle. Distinctive and unusual, maybe not to everyone's taste, but simply splendid. 93 points.
1988 & 1989 Bonneau Chateauneufs Cuvée Marie Beurrierwere good to go, as far as I'm concerned. A touch of TCA in the '88 couldn't rob it of much. It was a little tighter and more tannic than the 89 (the 1988 Rhones on the whole seem more austere and tannic), but pride of place goes to the 1989, which started so sweet and sexy, that I almost ignored everything else after I took my first sip. These are not as thick and surly as the 88 La Chapelle, but they are really user friendly. It was hard to keep your hands off of them. The 1989 seemed not half as tannic or as big as the La Chapelle, but it is drinking far more beautifully now. I leave the '88 unrated due to slight TCA,, and as for the 1989, I will merely adopt the Wine Boob convention and compare it to Sandra Bullock. It would otherwise get a lot of points. Hope that helps. (g) And I hope I'm not invading any Wine Boob copyrights here.
The NV Solera Riserva Sherry "Pedro Ximenez" "San Emilio" (Lustau) is simply one of the great wine values around. In Pennsylvania, a mere $15.29 for a wine that tastes more concentrated than several Yquems combined. Creamy, incredibly sweet, rich and heavy, this wine is hard to match with dessert because it overwhelms everything. Let's just say it IS dessert. And it is more than adequate in that role. 94 points. It's rare that I feel guilty enough to wonder whether I should send the winemaker a check because they provided so much quality for such a little price.
Disclaimer and Postscript: Contrary to popular belief, the Wine Boobs were not born near Area 51. I also note that although they sat next to me, they left unharmed, sans fang marks or other discernible damage..
Copyright © 1997, all rights reserved, Mark Squires.