Dinner Notes

Notes from a wonderful dinner with friends, the wines served blind.
1995 Drapier Cuvee du Millenaire - this Champagne fooled several of us. It had
some colour, the nose complex and yeasty, in the mouth an initial impression of
softness and perhaps sweetness, followed immediately by the acidity that
allowed it to finish quite dry and crisply. We were thinking it to be a mid to
late 80s wine (85-88) and were surprised to find it such a young puppy. From
magnum. I am glad I have a few of these in my cellar!
Served with miniature tapenade cookies, halibut cheek with basil oil, smoked
salmon on warm, crisp little risotto cakes that were soft in the middle, a
wonderful juxtaposition of soft-crisp with hot-cold, and a seafood stew in
1997 Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Mambourg Vendage Tardives - alas, I have drunk
through all of my stash of this wine. Instantly identifiable as an Alsatian
wine, we had to ponder a bit on the varietal, but I did wind up with Gewurz.
Showing nice colour, the nose fat and oily, and smooth and long in the mouth,
sweet but not excessively so.
Served with asparagus soup with a parmesan custard.
1994 Ch. St. Jean Belle Terre Chardonnay - I should mention that our host has
the practice of serving whites from the fridge and reds at cellar temperature
just to make the guessing harder for us, and to offer the impatient guesser
rope with which to hang himself. This was just such a case, as the wine showed
significantly differently when we first tasted it. The nose was an unusual
lanolin and soap melange that stumped us a bit, but we found that the longer it
warmed the more oak came out, so we were figuring a Chardonnay, perhaps a
Burgundy. There were caramel hints on palate, but the balance seemed to finely
wrought for it to be an American chard, and we didn't go there even when the
oak became positively forward and the slight heat of the 13.5% alcohol began to
Served with Petrale sole with a parsley crust.
1988 Podere Il Palazzino Grosso Sanese - this is a VdT sangiovese cabernet
blend, and this Super Tuscan couldn't hide the acidity that gave it away, nor
the nose of warm rubber and prune that had us thinking it might have been a
recioto style wine. It was hot and raisiny in the mouth with good length and a
bit of tannin but lots of acidity. The bite of the abundant acidity was nicely
countered by:
duck and porcini ragout with penne
1996 Produttori dei Barbaresco Pora - after the sangiovese, this Nebbiolo based
wine didn't scream Piedmont to us, but was again obviously another Italian, and
we sensed a theme developing. The nose took some time to open up, displaying at
first a fairly non-determinate fruit quality, and developing the tar and roses
only with time in the glass. The balance was quite tart with some tannin. A
good wine in a traditional style that should age gracefully.
1990 Produttori dei Barbaresco Pora - we detected the additional age in this
wine, as the colour gave it away at the edges. Less acidity and fuller in the
body, it developed a smoked meat element in the nose with time, and definitely
showed more complexity. It really opened up as it warmed, and for me was the
better wine fro drinking now, but I wonder if the 96 will show even better with
additional maturing.
Served with braised rabbit with fennel and white truffle oil
1976 Martin Ray Cabernet - this was my wine of the night. I could identify it
as American cab readily enough, but stumbled when I thought it was an 84 - 87
example. It could have been thought to be an early 90s wine - you'd have
believed it if you were told it was, the wine was so youthful. Made from Howeel
Mountain fruit, it was balanced and beautiful - probably a tannic impenetrable
beast in earlier days, and while it drinks well now, it will last another 20
years. I do not believe they make any wines like this in California any more,
nor have done so for many years, with a few possible exceptions - Dunn and
such. I think that is a shame, but today's instant gratification seekers would
have no truck with wines like this, or the 1975 Bordeaux.
Served with Parmigiano Reggiano and fruit nut bread.
1988 Ch. d'Arche - I have had this wine 3 times in the last couple of years.
Medium colour, not as much coconut in the nose as the last time, nor was the
Botrytis as evident, but this time there was a pleasant element of oranges.
Sweet on palate with the balancing acidity coming in late, not an overly
complex wine, but a pleasant end to a wonderful dinner, and I believe it is
drinking as well now as it ever will, though it seems to be holding nicely.
Reply to
Bill Spohn
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Concerning the 76 Martin Ray Cabernet, I am not the least surprised that it has lasted well. I have not had the 76, but I still have one bottle of the 68. It was a huge wine and was holding very well a year or two ago. The Martin Ray wines were wildly inconsistent. Some of the best and some of the worst California wines I have tasted came from Martin Ray. Of course Martin Ray has been dead many years now, and it is unlikely that anyone now will go to the extremes he did in making wine.
Reply to
Cwdjrx _
Is a "cookie" what Americans would call a cracker, and therefore a savory? They sound intriguing with a sparkler instead of fino/amontillado, which is what I would normally pair them with.
I have a friend (the sort of person you are deliberately nice to!) who cellared four cases of Heitz Cab 1974 and drags a bottle out on occasion. If you have tried the Heitz, how would you compare it to the '76 Martin Ray? And for the record, my friend is actually very pleasant, and plenty of people are nice to her just on general principles...
Reply to
Here's my note on the 74 Heitz from earlier this month:
"Heitz Martha's Vineyard - Big mint and a bit of tea. Lots of flavour interest here, with excellent concentration and tannins at the end, very well balanced wine."
I think the Martin Ray is a bigger wine that will last longer. As to which offers the most enjoyment, I prefer not to judge as I tasted them 3 weeks apart. Both are excellent.
Reply to
Bill Spohn
I'm pretty sure I've had the 1976 Martin Ray Cab, but I _know_ I went through a couple of cases of the '74 Martha's over the course of years. I'd be curious to know how the Martha's compared recently to the 1973 Martin Ray "La Montaña" Cabernet, which as I recall was better than the 1976.
BTW, according to my reading, 1974 was the last vintage Martin Ray actually produced. The ensuing wines were apparently made by his family - probably under his guidance.
Tom S
Reply to
Tom S

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