Sunday, November 18, 2012

Vintage 81-82 Birthyear Bordeaux Highlight Gala Family Dinner

Vintage 81-82 Birthyear Bordeaux Highlight Gala Family Dinner

For a gala family celebration dinner we dug into the cellar for some vintage Bordeaux for #1 son Ryan's and daughter Erin's birth years - Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1981 and Chateau Clerc Milon Pauillac Bordeaux 1982. Our collection of the kid's birthyear wines were the key feature of their weddings which we served from large format bottles and were highlighted in the Collecting section in Wine Spectator when our cellar was the feature back in June of 2001.

For a California comparison we pulled a vintage Bordeaux blend, Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepages 1994. We also opened a more 'recent' Marco Deguilio Hidden Ridge 55 Degree Slope Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (this is currently available at the Cosco in Oak Brook - a great find and great QPR value!). For dinner we had grilled beef tenderloins, twice baked potatoes and steamed veggies. Sans son Alec, whom we briefly included by speaker phone, while he is still recovering out on the Jersey shore from Super Storm Sandy, exacerbated by his car being totaled, the rest of the family was there; L and I were joined by Erin and Johnny with Lucy, Ryan and Michelle, Sean, and friend Ann.We celebrated two birthdays, a new job and a couple other recent family blessings and triumphs.

We started the festivities with Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle "La Cuvée" Brut Champagne which we visited during our Champagne tour a couple years ago.

We aerated and decanted the wines about ninety minutes before serving and this made a noticeable difference as they settled and opened to reveal themselves during that time. They didn't change markedly further into the evening but did the next day. The Clerc Milon was less expressive, more elegant and polished than the slightly more obtuse Ducru upon opening, The Clerc Milon showed better upon opening and throughout the evening but fell off a bit compared to the Ducru which showed bigger and more full the next day. I would rate the Clerc Milon a point higher upon opening and the initial evening and the Ducru a point higher the day after.

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1981

While this wine reached maturity in the nineties and has passed beyond the end of its purported optimal drinking window, it showed only very slight signs of diminution of body, color and flavors. I've continually been pleased and surprised at the longevity of the 1981 Bordeaux, exceeding my expectations considering the lackluster harvest and modest outcomes from that vintage.We still have about two cases of 1981 Bordeaux and while its time to drink, I'm not feeling anxious about having to consume it readily. This cork was moist and dark from saturation but completely intact. This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, very expressive floral notes throughout that linger long beyond tasting; initial slight dark cherry astringency gave way to black berry fruits, hints of cinnamon spice, leather, tea and violets lingering on a soft smooth polished tannin finish.While great with the steak tenderloin, the remains of this were even better the next day with pasta shells stuffed with ricotta cheese and tomato bolanaise sauce.

RM 89 points. 

Chateau Clerc Milon Pauillac Bordeaux 1982

This is the second label of the iconic Chateau Mouton Rothschild. There were no signs of diminution whatsoever in this 30 year old aside the spongy saturated cork that needed care to be removed but came out intact using an Ahso. Dark inky garnet purple colored, medium bodied, smooth and polished, moderate black berry fruits accented by earthy leather, tea and hints of tobacco with silky tannins on the moderate finish.

RM 89 points.

Chateau St Jean Sonoma County Cinq Cepages 1994

Chateau St Jean is one of the crown jewels of the Sonoma Valley - certainly the most elegant and fashionable tasting experience setting that we've experienced there. We enjoyed visiting there numerous times over the years for a comprehensive tasting experience that offers some of their Reserve and Library selections not available in the marketplace, most recently during our Napa Sonoma Wine Experience in 2009.

We've enjoyed the Cinq Cepages label since its release in the late eighties. This was one of the last releases before the 1996 release was annointed #1 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator. We have a vertical of this up to the recent vintages - this was the oldest release in our cellar so we pulled it to compare to the vintage Bordeaux above. Cinq Cepages means 'five flavors' - a blend of five varietals used in Bordeaux wines. While primarily Cabernet Sauvignon (76%) , this also contains 14% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 4% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. 

The resulting blend is dark ruby colored, medium to full bodied, smooth, polished, flavorful and complex - slightly earthy, leathery, anise, black fruit, black cherry, plum and berry with a oaky finish. This still has lots of life in it and compared very favorably with the older Bordeaux - full forward fruit with a firmer backbone and more structure than both yet still softer and more polished and approachable than the initial opening of the Ducru, but not as aromatic or as long on the finish.

RM 90 points.

Hidden Ridge 55 Degree Slope Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

This is a product of winemaker Marco DiGuilio. According to the (rear) label, this vintage selection was blended from two exceptional barrel lots from 3 blocks of the Hidden Ridge Vineyard. Nicknamed, the "Impassable Mountain" because it took ten years to develop due to the 55% slope of the ridgetops. The Hidden Ridge Vineyards consist of 21 blocks of cabernet sauvignon in some of the most isolated areas of the Mayacamas Mountain Range along the Napa-Sonoma County line - located at 38 29'50.95 N, 122 34'09.40 W.

I first discovered this wine at Morton's Steakhouse in Crystal City, Arlington, near Washington DC where it was available by bottle or by the glass. During the ensuing year we enjoyed the 05, 06 and now the '07 vintages there. We also picked up the '05 at BRIX in Napa and tasted at dinner during our Mt Veeder appellation trip in the Napa and Sonoma Mt Veeder area.

Medium to full bodied - dark inky color - flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, and plum with tones of mocha, anise, tea and a hint of tobacco box with spicy chocolate, clove and vanilla on a moderate firm tannin finish. The 2007 follows the 2005 and 06 for three blockbuster releases in a row. They're a bit tight and slightly tart upon opening, this needed an hour to settle and soften and will be even more approachable the second day.  

RM 90 points.