Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bordeaux Anchors OTBN 2015

OTBN 2015 - Bordeaux Dominus Dominance

For our annual gathering for OTBN, a Bordeaux theme emerged when Bill brought a Pichon Lalande, and I pulled from the cellar two more vintages for a mini-vertical. Ernie brought a Duhart Milon Rothschild and a Dominus, Lyle brought a Lynch Moussas, Ryan brought a Bahans-Haut Brion, and the flight was on. A couple '97's in the mix also provided a mini-horizontal tasting of that vintage as well.

OTBN - Open That Bottle Night ...

The OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) tradition calls for the event to occur the last Saturday night in February. See our 2011, 20122013 and 2014 OTBN reports.

As written in this blog to explain previous OTBN's, here's the story. Credit (or blame) for this annual wine bachanalia goes to Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal. OTBN - Open That Bottle Night, was conceived for those that have a special bottle of wine or champagne hidden away being saved for a special occasion that for whatever reason hasn't happened.

Every year since 2000, on the last Saturday night in February, Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) has been celebrated - the time to uncork and enjoy that cherished but here-to-for elusive bottle. OTBN was conceived by Gaiter and Brecher to say, what the heck, go for it, Open That Bottle (to)Night. They realized they weren't alone - having that special bottle set aside for an occasion that just never happens. On this night, you don't need an excuse or a reason - just do it! Take advantage of OTBN to open that bottle and enjoy it! Enjoy it by yourself, or better yet, enjoy it with someone special, or even better, with a group of special friends. Have everyone bring such a bottle and let the story telling begin, because amazingly, every OTBN bottle has a story or some meaning, or not. What the heck, Open That Bottle (To) Night!

Aside the Bordeaux varietals, Dan and Bob both brought Barolo's and a Ribeuro Duero which highlighted the middle courses.

Prior to dinner we opened with a white flight - Lanson Champagne to start, then, Kistler Chardonnay to accompany Dan's shrimp scampi entree. A selection of artisan cheeses, olive and cheese plate, artichoke dip, vegetables in dill, olive oil accompanied the starter course. The cheeses included Prime Reserve aged five year old cheddar, Drunken Goat red wine infused semi-soft goat cheese, Bellavitano, and aged Parmesan.

Linda's spectacular dinner featured beef tenderloin, pork loin roast, scalloped potatoes, mixed vegetables and brussel sprouts (shown left). 

Wines are listed in order of the tasting course.

Lanson Champagne Brut Rose NV,  to start, then,  

I pulled this from the cellar buried in a case ... its either the last bottle or second to last bottle of a case acquired a while ago. Records say there is one more left in there somewhere. Another OTBN candidate.

A nice start to the evening ... great starter with the starter courses of shrimp scampi, artisan cheeses, fruits and berries.

RM 89 points.

Kistler Hyde Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay 1996

This bottle was a gift from Paul H at Pti back around the millennium... a classic OTBN bottle... its time! A grand accompaniment to Dr Dan's classic shrimp scampi dish.

Who said a Chardonnay won't last twenty years? At close to 20 it was time to drink, still within its drinking window, but assuredly past its prime.

Straw or butter colored, medium bodied, crisp and clean in the Burgundian style, a layer of citrus is accented by tones of green apple, hints of almond nut, lychee fruit and pear on a nicely balanced mild acidic finish.

RM 89 points.

Nova Wines Marilyn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blonde 2013

A fun wine to serve at such occasions is the Nova Wines Marilyn Monroe collection of artist or photo art inspired series wines featuring artwork of photographs of the famous Hollywood movie starlet adorning every bottle that I wrote about in a recent blogpost - Marilyn Merlot and Norma Jean Wines - A Study in Branding. Bob is not able to drink Reds so we pulled this to get him through the evening... both oogling at the label, and for sipping.

These wines, with their sexy and fun labels have become a collector series with an almost cult like following. The producers have done an extraordinary job with their branding of the Marilyn lines associated with the Marilyn Merlot flagship namesake label, and others. The fun of buying their wines is indicated in this whimsical label Sauvignon Blonde - a play on words of the Sauvignon Blanc varietal, and the Platinum Blonde bombshell that was Marilyn Monroe.

This 2013 release, the sixth in this series of wines based on Sauvignon Blanc, that began in 2008, features a picture of Marilyn, taken by Sam Shaw, while she was spending time with him and his family that the producer says "has an intimacy and realness that is rarely seen in her more posed photographs".

Producer's winemakers notes - "Aromas are a combination of fresh violets and a typical herbaceous note that is expected with Sauvignon Blanc wines. Flavors of Meyer lemons and pears abound. This wine explains why we say Marilyn Sauvignon Blonde is the wine we drink daily!"

They say that Sauvignon Blanc is the grape varietal that manifests itself most naturally in its wines, succumbing to less adulteration or alteration than other varietals. This contributes to the consistency in Sauvignon Blanc wines across the spectrum including the price range.

Rear label
I find Sauvignon Blanc to be an ideal wine for the less discriminating or less sophisticated wine drinker with its simplicity and easy drinkability for every day as well as special occasion drinking. Notably, open this bottle, enjoy a glass, put it in fridge, and enjoy another glass again, and again, up to a week or even ten days later. Its good with white cheeses, seafoods, berries and other fruits, and salads.
This was a great accompaniment to Dan's scampi and the artisan cheeses and salads.

Nova Wines Marilyn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blonde Sauvignon Blanc 2013

This 2013 release Sauvignon Blonde is light straw colored, light bodied, crisp, clean, and flavorful with lemon citrus tones turning to pear and stone with a tangy lingering finish.

RM 88 points. 


Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito Riserva Vigna la Delizia 1999

Dan brought this Langhe Nebbiolo Barolo from his cellar.

Dark inky colored, full bodied, black raspberry fruit with  flavors of leather, brown spice, truffle/mushroom hints of tar and earth with firm but nicely integrated tannins.

RM 92 points.

Bodegas Arrocal Ribera del Duero Maximo Tempranillo 2005

I am not typically a fan of these wines that reflect their hot climate origins with intense somewhat masculine forward non-fruit flavors. Never-the-less, this was approachable and more polished than many.

Dark inky color, medium-full bodied, black berry fruits accented by notes of tobacco, tar, and a smoky creosote, with bright vibrant acidity and firm tannins.

One reviewer cites tones of 'reduced balsamic vinegar' which I find descriptive and appropriate, but I would not have picked up on. From here on, I can add that to my wine 'vocabulary', as written about in my Wine Tasting 101 blog.

Producer's notes - notably bright, with an abundant acidity one would not expect to find in a wine of such sweetness and density. The aromas and flavours show black cherry and the classic notes of dark berries predominating in tempranillo grown in Ribera del Duero, which gets very hot in summer but which has a very good (although frankly cold) climate most nights. There are a lot of spices and smoked oak among the fruit signatures, and great complexity

RM 90 points.

Grace Family Vineyards Vineyard 29 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

Bill brought this from his cellar. Better than I what remember from earlier tasting, and notes of the 1993 vintage, dark ruby colored, medium-full bodied, concentrated vibrant expressive spicy black berry and black currant fruits, but the '95 tonight has a wonderful tone of nicely balanced, subtle sweet red berry fruit that predominates over a subtle layer of spice, mocha, and anise,with smooth nicely integrated fine-grained tannins on the finish.

RM 93

Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild Pauillac 2000

This wine was included in a mixed case we gave Dr Dan in a rack for his wedding gift back thirty plus years ago. Our shared interest in and joint pursuit of fine wine grew from there. Brought by Ernie from his cellar.

This resembled a Margaux as much a Pauillac with its refined, polished elegance and sophistication. Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, well balanced, full foward aromatics broadcast its full floral and dark berry flavors, accented by tones of anise, cedar, tobacco and soft oak, hints of graphite, earth and tar, turning to smooth polished fine grained tannins on the long lingering finish. This presented well, perhaps at the apex of its drinking window.

RM 93 points.

Château Bahans Haut-Brion 1995

This wine was brought by son Ryan.  This is the second wine of legendary top growth Haut-Brion.

Dark garnet color, medium bodied, the black berry and black cherry fruits were somewhat subdued being overtaken by notes of cedar, cigar box, slight earthiness turning to tones of anise, smoke, graphite and creosote on a modest tannin finish.

RM 89 points.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1997, 1991, 1992

Bill started this Pichon vertical bringing the '97 to our tasting, and I supplemented it with the two other vintage releases, '91 and '92. All three exhibited classic Pichon terroir characteristics - full elegant floral, dark blackberry and raspberry fruits, earthy leather and tobacco / tea leaf notes, while each showed vintage effects from the three disparate vintages.

Bill's tasting note posting on Cellartracker - "This was one of my offerings for OTBN 2015. Our host provided a '91 and '92 Comtesse for a fascinating vertical comparison of one of our favorite Bordeaux. Given the poor reputation of the '97 vintage, I was pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of this wine. Color was a slightly opaque garnet. Nose was floral but with some savory herbal notes. There was ample fruit on the palate in addition to some tea and cola. The '97 is certainly not as complex as offerings from better vintages. It is more one dimensional but compared very favorably to the '91 and '92 which while bigger and a tad more complex were showing some age."

WCC 92 points.

I too thought the '97 showed less structure, fewer tannins and less complexity than the others releases. I sense it is at its peak and won't improve any further. Pichon's tend to be long lived and hang on much longer than one would expect, ala my experience with the 1981 vintage, and subsequent release notes, so don't rush to clear this out just yet.

RM 90 points.

Consistent with earlier tasting five years ago, the '91 vintage initially showed greater complexity, bigger floral, more concentrated fruit, and the most sophistication and balance of the three vintages. The next day, the '92 and '91 seemed to trade places, overtaking the 91 with greater concentration, structure and backbone, however the '91 retained the most polish and greatest balance.

RM 91 and 92 points.

Lynch Moussas 2003

Dominus Estate Napa Valley Proprietary Red 1997

After tasting five different premier Bordeaux, this stands tall as the standard bearer of what they are all striving to achieve. This was the class of the evening, perhaps the best Dominus I've ever had, due in part perhaps to the fact it might be at the peak of its drinking window.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied but with no sensation of weight - complex and concentrated yet nicely balanced and polished, a symphony of flavors, huge aromatics project the flavors of floral and berry fruits accented by sensuous oak, spice, cassis, and touch of dusty rose earthiness and tobacco, but so nicely balanced and polished that no flavors stand out to detract or take away from the harmonious whole.

RM 96 points.

Ninety Plus Cellars Columbia Valley Lot 101 Syrah 2009

Like earlier tastings, I opened this Shiraz to show a contrast in styles and regions, and age, of the same varietal. I've raved about this wine several times in this blog, and tonight, like before, it didn't disappoint, standing up to the other Big Reds. I've stated that this may be one of our favorite drinking wines in our cellar right now, certainly at this price point! Amidst the flight of Bordeaux's Linda begged for this flavorful fruit forward easy drinking favorite. It was a huge hit with the ladies who drank two!

Dark inky garnet colored, medium to full bodied, this full throttle Syrah reveals layers of blackberry and black currants fruits with tones of sweet vanilla, caramel and spice with hints of black pepper on a lingering smooth silky tannin finish.

RM 92 points.

For the transition and desert course I served two whites, - remarkable Didier Dagueneau Jurançon Les Jardins de Babylone which served as a transition to the sweet desert course wine, Kracher Welschreisling TBA #8. We love this wine and consider it a standard bearer for sweet desert wines, akin to a quality ice wine or top ranked Sauterne in a good year. Our continued persistence in serving such a wine at dinners has made it a regular expectation that the group looks forward to.

Desert featured Linda's decadent chocolate mousse with homemade profiteroles, Gloria's creme brulee, and Marlene's lemon pound bundt cake, with fresh berries, assorted chocolate truffles, and chocolate caramels with sea salt.

Didier Dagueneau Jurançon Les Jardins de Babylone 2009 

If you can imagine a transition wine course as a palette cleanser ala a lemon sorbet, this was it.

Straw colored, medium bodied, polished, stunning, refreshing, crisp, clean, spirited acidity, a symphony of balanced flavors with touch of sweetness, tones of lemon accented by hints of peach, orange peel, pineapple and lychee fruits and wet stones.

RM 94 points.

Kracher Zwischen Den Seen Welschreisling Trockenberen Auslese (TBA) #8 2001

Classic Kracher nectar-of-the-gods mouth full of sweet fruit flavors. Its fun and interesting to watch these wines darken over time. Starting as straw or butter colored, they then turn to a rust color, then weak tea, then darker tea colored, even to coffee colored if left long enough. Not all are sufficiently long lived.

Deep orange/amber almost rust color, full bodied, thick unctuous nectar of ripe apricot, mango, lychee fruits with tones of peach, citrus, honey and hints of smoke on the tongue coating lingering finish.

RM 95 points.