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VINO FINO 2011 Holiday Dinner Wine Marathon

Notes by
Gerald Weisl,
wine merchant


We gathered on an early December Wednesday night at San Francisco's Metropolitan Club (Thanks Dick & Trish!) and found the table set and the room nicely decorated for the holiday season.

As the Vino Fino boys gathered, each brought a bottle of wine to serve with dinner.

The older bottles require decanting, so I took care of double-decanting each of them at the outset, save for the seriously venerable bottles which we decanted at the last moment.


After the initial decanting, I rinse the original bottle and pour the wine back, making it easier to keep track of the numerous bottles at the decanting table.

The "Ah So" cork puller is exceptional for older bottles which often possess rather fragile corks.

Old bottles often have "scuzzy" corks.  This is quite common and it's why we employ a napkin moistened with warm water...

That's the cork of a bottle of 1973 Mouton Rothschild...

((We periodically have customers who are concerned about such a dirty cork, thinking this is an indication of a defective bottle of wine.  It is not such an indicator.))

****************

The evening begins "officially" with the pop of the cork on a magnum of Champagne and a large assortment of freshly shucked oysters.

David Greiner reflects on the impressive array of bottles which have been assembled.


We opened a magnum of Agrapart's splendid "Terroirs" Cuvee of Brut Champagne...and it brought a smile to Jack.

The Jackson Street Boys were the picture of holiday cheer and good health on this lovely evening.


Ernie was lobbying for more oysters and Allan was singing the praises of these Little Skookums!


John McGlothlin dives into the seafood-feeding-frenzy...

Meanwhile, some of the line-up bottles were 'breathing'.


 


The Agrapart was a wine showing great finesse.  It was crisp, quite dry and nicely acidic.

The Ruelle-Pertois was a bit rounder and softer.

At this stage, most of the decanting work was done.


Time to sit down at the table...where I found Tim Zainer listening to his tie...


We then started on our wine marathon, beginning with a bottle of Ridge 1999 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay as the "John Vignau Memorial Wine" this year.

 


Larry didn't have the pleasure of meeting the late John Vignau, but if he had, I'm sure John would have barbed him, too!

The Ridge 1999 was stunningly good, too, by the way...really toasty and smoky, bone dry and showing magnificently.  I thought it was a three star wine (on a three star scale)...


The first course arrived shortly thereafter...


This was a lovely starter...some braised cabbage and a nice hunk of crispy bacon flanked by two seared sea scallops...

The Ridge was very fine and the Marcassin was similarly styled if a bit fatter and less acidic.
Two stars...showy, but outpaced by the Ridge.

Ernie treated us to a bottle of Kosta Browne 2009 Pinot Noir...

Ernie is a big game hunter and was very proud to present The Wine Spectator's Top Wine of 2011.
It is a perfectly nice example of Pinot Noir from Sonoma, showing nice cherry fruit.
Is it a "hall of fame" candidate?  Not for me.
The nose was straightforward and simple and the wine had a nice texture, being fairly 'plush' on the palate.  One star.

It was then time for the next course...


A nice presentation of roasted quail, which was ideal with the Pinot Noir.


We began our Cabernet line-up with Mark's bottle of 2001 Groth Napa Cabernet.  This showed some nicely woodsy notes and a bit of dark fruit with a plummy sort of character.  It was smooth and dry, certainly quite good now.  One star.
 


Tim's bottle of 1995 Dunn "Howell Mountain" displayed the classic  dusty, tobacco-like notes with some dried leaf fragrances.  The wine has red fruit tones and is a wonderfully elegant Cabernet.
Two stars for the wine...one star for Tim's musical tie.


Pat brought a 1995 Lynch Bages and this was a fairly lean, muscular Bordeaux with a lightly herbal tone and some red fruit.  It's still fairly youthful and has a moderate level of tannin.
One star+ at this stage...

Dick then kissed goodbye a bottle of 1994 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow...

The Diamond Creek had a lovely nose, with nicely herbal, woodsy elements.  I found a note of forest floor fragrances, too.  One-and-a-half to two stars.



David's bottle of 1985 Freemark Abbey Cabernet BoschÚ was a pleasant surprise.  The nose was very fine, featuring red currant notes.  It's lean yet bright and still alive & kicking!
One-and-a-half to two stars.

Jack provided a bottle of a very rare wine...1985 Groth Reserve.

If served blind, I'd have pegged this as an Australian red of some sort, probably Shiraz.  It has that fragrance of violets, mint and some peppery spice tones which, while quite pleasant, didn't seem much like Napa Cabernet.  It's certainly distinctive, though, and went well with the lamb.

I think these two fellows then sang "Oh Tannin Bomb"...



Doug let Tim finish a solo and the group threw one dollar bills at M-C Zainer and demanded he not sing any more tunes for the duration of the evening.
I think Mark threw him a fiver...

Tim continued, though, serenading us with the Ten Days of Christmas...

...apparently there have been cutbacks and twelve days is too many.
Tim, being an accountant, was able to get to ten, as you can see...

 


Michael Broadbent, the famed English Bordeaux expert, has a poor review of this wine in his Great Vintage Wine Book, saying he'd never been enthusiastic for the 1979 Ducru Beaucaillou.
From cask to bottle (in 1997) he had noted a corked or cellar issue with this wine.
Tonight's bottle definitely was perplexing, as the nose was not really that of a "corked" bottle, but there was an odd, somewhat musty quality to the nose.
The wine, however, on the palate, was totally different and remarkably fine.  From older fragrances with a corky note on the nose, we found the palate to be that of black fruits and wonderfully balanced and full...a perfect wine with the lamb!

 

1973 MOUTON-ROTHSCHILD
Since the wine is from a lighter vintage and now 38 years of age, we waited until the moment of service to decant it...

Allan Anderson was kind enough to provide this bottle...

 

The final bottle of wine in our run of Cabernets was a wine from the very first tasting of the Vino Fino group....and it was kindly contributed by John McGlothlin, one of the original members of the group...

The 1970 Yverdon Vineyards Napa Valley "Cask 88" won at least a couple of our tastings, outshining wines such as BV's Private Reserve, Robert Mondavi, Louis Martini, Inglenook, Heitz, Pedroncelli and other Cabernets of that era.
On this occasion the wine displayed menthol and mint fragrances...it was medium-bodied and still quite alive!  I recall the wine having a beautiful perfume of the oak, but this has changed and now the more minty notes have taken over...

We asked if anybody has any of the other wines from the 1970s tastings...Mark promised to bring a BV Private Reserve for the 2012 dinner...

 

Dessert featured a chocolate cream of sorts and Doug's bottle of 1994 Dow's Vintage Porto...



I brought a couple of bottles of Massandra Muscats to finish our evening...these come from vineyards in the Ukraine.
The winery has been operating since the late 1800s and produces some highly esteemed sweet wines.

I was curious to taste a couple of these...

The 2007 "Red Stone" White Muscat was a nicely honeyed wine...It's a bit heavy and potent...quite alright, but I wasn't smitten.

We had, next, a 2008 Black Muscat.

I didn't find this one to have the classic rose petal fragrances of some other Black Muscat wines...perfectly nice, but for me it's not a Hall of Fame candidate.

And so we concluded our wonderful holiday celebration with a sip of coffee and a stroll down to the BART station at Powell Street.

Thanks to all the Vino Fino members who brought nice bottles!


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