Saturday, February 27, 2016

D'Yquem, Quintessa, Saxum Highlight OTBN 2016 - Three tastings flights

D'Yquem, Quintessa, Saxum Highlight OTBN 2016  - Three tastings flights in one

OTBN - Open That Bottle Night, 2016 - the annual wine tasting extravaganza was held according to custom, on the last Saturday night in February.

Attending were all the 'Pour Boys', (left) our regular wine tasting group, so named for our work pouring wines at the UGCB tasting events

Based on the breadth and depth of selected wines brought by the participants, this year's tasting ended up being three different wine tastings - a white flight with the pre-dinner starter course, a Bordeaux (blend) flight with the dinner course, and a dessert flight with the final course.

Ernie preparing
bacon wrapped dates
OTBN - Open That Bottle Night, was conceived on the premise that many of us have a special bottle of wine or champagne hidden away being saved for a special occasion that for whatever reason hasn't happened, yet.

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 Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, Wine Columnists for the Wall Street Journal, 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!

Shown left, Lyle decanting the Croft 1991 Vintage Port and John preparing the artisan cheeses.
See our 2011, 20122013, 2014  and 2015 OTBN reports.

According to customary protocol for OTBN, we agreed to not set a theme for the evening, but to adhere to the spirit of bringing select wine (s) for the occasion. Bring a special bottle you're eager to try, and share, and bring along a complimentary side dish or dessert that will showcase the wine selection.

The result was selections that worked out well with complementary or distinguished wines that resulted in the three courses of the evening.

For the starter course, we had a selection of artisan cheeses, shrimp cocktail, a fig pizza, and deviled eggs. The cheese course consisted of two Wisconsin Aged cheeses, a Gouda and an eighteen year aged cheddar, brought by John, and Linda's Baked Brie with toasted almonds and honey drizzle.

To accompany the starter course we had a flight of white wines - listed in tasting order, Grgich Fume Blanc, FogDog Sonoma Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyard Sonoma Chardonnay, Sebastian Riffault Sauletas Sancerre, and of course there is always a place for a sparkling wine, John sourced this Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Blanc Champagne brut (left).

As a transition to the reds, John served a Saumur Loire Valley Sancerre Reserve Cabernet Franc.

Grgich Napa Estate Valley Fume Blanc Sauvignon Blanc 2010

FogDog Sonoma County Chardonnay 2006

Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Estate Sonoma County Chardonnay 2009

Sebastian Riffault Sauletas Sancerre 2010

Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Blanc Champagne Brut

The dinner course consist of beef tenderloin, dry rubbed baby back pork ribs, rosemary escalloped au gratin potatoes, hericot verts, and dinner salad with rosemary butter toasted French Bread. The transition from the white to the red course was Saumur Loire Valley Sancerre Reserve Cabernet Franc 2005.

The wine flight to accompany the dinner course was a series of Bordeaux, kicked off by a Napa Cabernet based Red Blend from Quintessa. Bill brought the 2006 vintage Quintessa that stood alone in its bright vibrant symphony of fruits, almost a meal in itself! This big forward Napa Bordeaux Blend anchored and opened the red flight of Bordeaux's.

Quintessa Napa Valley Rutherford Red Wine 2006

The wine flight to accompany the dinner course was a series of Bordeaux, kicked off by a Napa Cabernet based Red Blend from Quintessa. Quintessa refers to the five hills and five disparate terroir and soil types on the estate vineyards in Napa Valley. Our visit to the magnificent Quintessa Estate vineyards and winery was a highlight of our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2003

Bill brought the 2006 vintage Quintessa that stood alone in its bright vibrant symphony of fruits, almost a meal in itself! This big forward Napa Bordeaux Blend anchored and opened the red flight of Bordeaux's.

Quintessa 2006 - a standout
in the red flight
From Bill's cellar, his tasting notes from Cellartracker - "The best and most expressive of 3 or 4 vintages of this tasted to date. Deep, opaque color. Rich and full on the palate with layers of fruit (blackberry, cassis and a hint of sour cherry), savory notes of dark chocolate with maybe a hint of fig, with a classic earthy, mineral Bordeaux finish and a huge mouthfeel. This was my contribution to Open That Bottle Night. Still have one bottle left and wish I had more however this was at its best early in the evening and began to flatten after about three hours."

This was the most expressive and vibrant Quintessa I've had. Bright full, forward black raspberry notes with tones of spicy oak, cassis and mocha ...

WCC and RM - 93 points.

Then on to the Bordeaux dinner flight ... 

Château Cos Labory St Estephe 2003

Château Lynch Moussas Pauillac 2003

Château Lafon Rochet St Estephe 1996

Château Léoville Las Cases St Julien 1996

 This 1996 initially overshadowed the more subdued 1986 with far more vibrant, fuller and more expressive fruits. Only after a day did the 1986 open up and reveal its true character and potential. 

 Château Léoville Las Cases St Julien 1986

I was expecting the duo of the twenty and thirty year old Leoville Las Cases to be a highlight of the tasting. Remarkably, the 1986 was initially a bit lean and austere, lacking the big firm backbone structure that was so notable from the vintage, and was actually overshadowed by the bigger, more complete '96.

After thirty years, this needed decanting and settling time, witnessed by the fact, the next evening it had opened and stabilized and was more balanced and polished.

In any event, the tasting profile of the classic 'super second' Estate was apparent in the the mini-horizontal of the two vintage flight.

At thirty years of age, I actually wonder if we drank the 1986 too soon!  Initially closed and a bit flabby, it needed decanting and a minimum of a couple hours to open and settle, it was better the next day, and even better the day after that!

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, beautiful floral bouquet, black berry and black cherry fruits with layers of cassis, bark, spice and earthy, leathery oak, subtle bell pepper with slight tangy bitterness turning to firm lingering tannins with a long long bright floral finish.

RM 93 points.

Robert Parker gave this wine 100 points.

Wine Spectator rated it 97. Perhaps they foretold its aging when they said this in their review .. "Amazingly focused, complex and deep, packed with currant, plum and berry flavors and notes of cedar and chocolate. The structure is tightly reined in and needs considerable cellaring to show what it can do."

The dessert flight ... 

After dinner we retreated to the dining room where we feasted on a dessert wine course, sweet sticky's, port and a big red wine flight that showcased the selection of desserts - Ernie's bacon wrapped figs, a selection of fresh berries - blackberry, red raspberry, and strawberry, fresh pineapple, dried apricots, two cakes - Terry's decadent mandarin orange and Linda's key lime cake - culminating in a selection of sweets including Linda's dark chocolate bark with cherries and pistachios, and chocolate covered pomegranate berries.

The showcase highlight wine for the dessert course was Chateau d'Yquem Sauterne Bordeaux 1986 from Ernie's cellar.

Chateau d'Yquem Sauterne Bordeaux 1986
This is a Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend. The d'Yquem vineyardists make as many as two dozen passes through the vineyard selecting only the perfect grapes at the right picking time in each pass. The ultra selection of the rich ultra ripe grapes results in but one glass of wine per vine in a typical vintage.

Honey golden amber color, full bodied, rich thick, unctuous, concentrated, complex, elegant, smooth, silky polished nectar in a glass. Passion fruit, apricot and honey notes, sweet vanilla and candied fruit tones are accented by a layer of smoky almond nut tones.

This wine is a chameleon - its amazing complexity reflects the many dimensions of the myriad of  fruit, chocolate and fig bacon flavors tasted in concert. The many dimensions of this wine were highlighted by the disparate dessert selections. The triad of blackberry, bacon wrapped figs and the chocolate bark each revealed a different lens into the nuances of the complex Sauterne.

RM 93 points. 

We followed this with a super sweet Kracher Scheurube Trockenbereen Auslese #12 1998.

The chocolate courses provided a transitional pivot from the sticky sweet wines to the vintage port and big red wines. Lyle brought a Croft Vintage Port 1991 and John provided a Saxum Broken Stones Red Blend 2006 from Paso Robles. With its monstrous 16.5% alcohol, it was fitting for the dessert course more than the dinner course and was a suitable finisher at the rear of the tasting.

Alois Kracher Scheurebe TBA #12 Zwischen den Seen 1998

From a half bottle. Brownish orange tea colored, full bodied, thick chewy, rich unctuous, concentrated sweet honey, smoky almonds, lychee, sweet ripe caramel apple, apricot, pear and balanced citrus acidity, the lychee, vanilla, orange blossom finish goes on and on. At 356 g/L of residual sugar, this has over three times the sweetness level of Coca-Cola but its fruit nectar essence makes for sensuous pleasant sipping.

RM 93 points.

Croft Vintage Port 1991

A saturated cork cast wonder at how this would be. Dark  blackish ruby color, full bodied, smooth, rich, concentrated, complex sweet black berry, black cherry, ripe black plum fruits with tobacco leaf and dark mocha tones and hints of cognac ... it tasted young and vibrant ... Lyle was concerned that this has lost is lusture but all concurred it is drinking fine and has decades of life left in the bottle.

RM 92 points.

Saxum Vineyards Broken Stones Red Blend 2006

In the style of a classic GSM, this was a blend of 63% Syrah, 24% Grenache, and 13% Mouvedre but sported a monstrous 16.5% alcohol level.

Dark blackish garnet color, full bodied, forward bold complex, concentrated black and blue berry fruits accented by a layer of spices, grilled meats, toast, tones of smoky tar, camphor, bell pepper and graphite with firm lingering tannins on the full finish.

This wine begs for the darkest mocha chocolate - a perfect accompaniment to the dark chocolate bark with cherries and pistachios.

RM 93

Robert Parker gave this wine 97 points.

We finishing with a transitional return to Bordeaux with a 2003 Cos Labory St Estephe.

More to follow ...

Linda preparing dry rubbed baby backed ribs