Holiday wine tasting highlights

Our wine tasting group had its holiday get-together this Tuesday, where we each bring “something that hurts” from our cellars. Typically this means a spectacular bottle, something that we have only one bottle, that sort of thing. There were quite a number of people and quite a number of wines, so I won’t list them all (lest anyone think we’re a bunch of lushes…). But here are some highlights, skipping a number of reds that weren’t as interesting and a few of the starting whites (although I usually don’t skip Raveneau…).

Pol Roger 1990 Cuvee Winston Churchill
The best champagne I’ve had in a long time, this was savory and creamy, with few hard edges but still good acidity and body. Really a lovely way to kick off the evening!

Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc 1985
Haut-Brion Blanc is the best white wine in Bordeaux, and at its heights, some of the best white wine any of us have ever had. The 1971 is almost painfully good, ruining your palate forever for white Bordeaux. The 1985 runs a close second, and this wine continued to improve in the glass for hours. An incredible coconut nose was followed by immense body and the honey of botrytis, with a melon-like palate and long finish. The wine smells like a top Sauternes on top of a crisp dry white. Spectacular.

Chateau Palmer 1983 Margaux
A superb Bordeaux, with an initially leathery and stinky nose that made us all think Beaucastel. The wine mellowed out and was a superb older Bordeaux, but still well within its prime.

Vega Sicilia Unico 1981
Elegant, with that “strawberry and old wood” Spanish nose, but big, beefy, and structured on the palate. This was our “pizza” wine, as we devoured Pagliacci pies with sausage and sweet fried peppers and the Proscuitto Primo — and the wine matched really well.

Les Cailloux Cuvee Centenaire 1989 Chateauneuf
This was my red wine offering, and it was a big but subtle wine. Smelled like roasted peanuts out of the decanter (1.5 hours decanting), with deep dark Grenachy fruit and a savory/herbal palate. Really incredible bottle of Chateauneuf, and hopefully the 1995 and 1998 will turn out this well.

Les Cailloux Cuvee Centenaire 2001 Chateauneuf
Coincidentally brought by my friend Chuck, this was huge, spicy, very sappy and viscous, with a lemony black fruit palate and immense concentration. Everyone at the table immediately wanted to know where it could still be bought.

Chateau Rayas 1988 Chateauneuf
A gorgeous example of the Rayas strawberry nose, with savory palate. Good finish and a fine wine.

Mouton 1982
What can you say….it’s a Mouton. Deep, dark Bordeaux with a hint of green pepper. The concentration and power is phenomenal but this bottle wasn’t as good as others we’d tried. Some of the complexity is missing, but still, an excellent bottle all around.

Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1995
My other offering, this was an immense sticky dessert, with the bruised apple Chenin Blanc thing on top of good acid (unlike the flabby 1997’s) and a massive finish. Incredible stuff, and fortunately I’ve still got some in the fridge!

Whitwham’s 1853 Millenium Port
That’s right, 1853. Rare Wine Company in Sonoma did an offering awhile back of a rare 1853 colheita port which had been forgotten in barrel until 2001 and then bottled. This seemed a dead ringer on the nose for fine — seriously fine — Madeira, but on the palate it was Madeira crossed with tawny port, and was incredibly yummy. The gentleman who brought the wine was incredibly generous in sharing it with the likes of us….


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