Friday, November 26, 2004

Dinner with the Cousins

So my sister and family arrive from Boston for the holidays and 20 people (kids and adults) descend on the house for a pot luck dinner of grilled flank steak on salad with the fixings, bread and many cheeses and many desserts. The kids (ages 10 to 18) were in one room huddled around the large table in the living room and the adults were in the dining room with a fire and great conversation. I look forward to seeing about half this group and a few other families in Park City for our ski trip after Christmas. So onto the wines in order of appearance:

  • Rubia al Colle, Vino da tavola rosso, Olpaio, Red Tuscan, bottled by Muratori 2000 ($30) -- I was introduced to this wine by an acquaintance in Maine last summer and managed to track it down when I arrived home via the internet at Sokolins. I was told that I had bought the last case. (Do they say that to everyone?) The wine is full bodied, fruity pleasant nose with good weight, structure and nice finish. It was well received. Buy It! Oh, That's Right, I Have the Last Case!
  • Tikal, Patriota 2002 ($26) -- Mendoza, Argentina; a Bonarda/Malbec blend (60/40) in perhaps the heaviest wine bottle made. If you are in a bar room brawl, grab the Tikal bottle. This is one of my favorite wines. I decanted it for a good hour before serving at dinner. Large fruit, complex nose with lush flavors and long finish. Heavy weight and tasty. Buy a Case! I bought 4!
  • Penner-Ash, Rubeo 2002 ($23) -- Oregon; an "irreverent" Pinot/Syrah blend from Lynn Penner-Ash, a great winemaker who used to work at Rex Hill before starting her own label. Her husband tends the vines. Her 2002 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is one of the best Pinots I have tasted (and although I have not tasted the high-end Burgundys like DRC, etc, I think the best Pinots are coming out of the West Coast now.) Many of the mid-priced Burgundys I have tasted recently are elegant but thin with too much cherry. The first bottle of Rubeo I tasted didn't impress me (but I had just tasted the 2002 Pinot minutes earlier!), but subsequent bottles have grown on me as a well made wine with wonderful flavors and aromas with weight and finish. You Guessed It, Buy It!
  • Chateau Margaux, Premier Grand Cru Classe 1997 ($260) -- I quietly slipped this on the table while no one was watching and I had not planned on serving this wine that night (which is why off-site wine storage is a great, economical idea). But the dinner was special, and I knew the wine would be very appreciated. Within about 30 seconds, my Dutch brother-in-law, who scavenges the wine periodicals and wine shops of Cambridge for deals and who had just finished a story about a great dinner where Petrus was served, eagle-eyed the bottle. "Oh my, what do we have here?!" I quickly poured small glasses for everyone and we sat back and enjoyed the wine. I am not sure how 1997 stacks up against the other vintages, but I had enjoyed this same wine last summer in Maine where I had found it in a tiny grocery store in Biddeford Pool. When I opened it at the cottage, I called the manager of the store over to taste with me and he arrived in less than 2 minutes. The store business could wait for 30 minutes while he tasted a First Growth! I remember the wine to be one of the most elegant, smoothest, longest finishes I have ever tasted. "So this is what really expensive tastes like!" Back at the dinner, the wine was once again very smooth, very elegant and very long finish. I remember at one point, while the dinner conversation was filled with laughter and loud outbursts about past adventures (after 40+ years together, there are many!), I sat there and admired how this wine rolled all over my tongue and coated it and then hung on for a good 30+ seconds. It did not have the fruit forwards and meat of the other wines, but this is a great wine in my short-lived wine life. As to value, I will leave that up to you. Yet, I will always remember the two times I served this wine. It was a special wine for a special night. But there is more.
  • Alvear, Fino En Rama 2000 ($10 for 500ml) -- Montilla Moriles, Spain; a wine distributor offered these two after-dinner wines for possible use at an upcoming wine tasting. The first, had a flowery (dandelions was suggested) nose with an off-putting woody, nutty taste and little finish. My Dutch brother-in-law snorted some Dutch expression that he said does not translate well to English but I do not think it was complimentary. Sorry Guys, Pass!
  • Alvear, Oloroso Ascuncion NV ($20 for 500ml) -- Montilla Moriles, Spain; this one had much more appealing fragrance with a syrupy but not too sweet flavor and the same woody, nutty flavor, but this time it melted away nicely and was pleasant with a smooth finish as an after dinner-drink should be. I could not stay with it for very long though. I will continue the search for new and different after-dinner wines and have spied some very exotic Australian Tokays and Muscats.
  • Robert Mondavi, Reserve Cabernet 1999 ($60) -- Napa Valley, California; I guess with the upcoming purchase by Constellation brands, the Mondavis are blowing out old inventory as this wine was offered at a very discounted price to the normal price so I snapped up a mixed case of 1998, 1999 and 2000. I pulled this because the party was still on and I was curious. Although it is a fine wine, it needs to sit down for 5 more years (that is just my guess) as the tannins overshadow everything else. Also, I am not a big fan of overly tannic, dry California Cabs. Maybe over time it will smooth out and offer a wonderful taste. There is certainly enough stuff in there to keep for many years. Time Will Tell!


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