When I worked for the Chronicle, some of the Metro Desk employees would from time to time get together after their shifts for drinks. I’m reasonably sure almost every work environment fosters a need to once in a while throw a few back and commiserate with one’s peers, so I doubt this comes as a shock to any of you.
And knowing what I now do for a living, I’m sure you’ll be equally nonplused to find out that people in my current profession do the exact same thing.
Well, somewhat similar, anyway.
Saturday, some of the associates got together for a wine dinner. We were told to each bring our “best” bottle; I brought a big gun from our last trip to Napa.
Altamura Nebbiolo 2005
The first rule of Altamura Nebbiolo is you do not talk about Altamura Nebbiolo. This wine isn’t commercially available. When my wife and I went to the winery in February, we tasted through most of the line with one of the reps. I saw a bottle of the Nebbiolo (which he hadn’t tried) and I asked our guide about it. Apparently Altamura produces less than 100 cases of its Nebbiolo – so little that it’s only sold to customers who are on the mailing list. I asked if we could buy a bottle and she said no. We were allowed to, however, take a bottle for free, so there’s that.
When I got to the house, I immediately made for the kitchen and gazed upon the instruments of my impending demise. Here’s the lineup:
1.) Markus Molitor Auslese 2007
2.) Kistler Kistler Vineyard Pinot Noir 1997
“The 1997 Pinot Noir Kistler Vineyard (500 cases) is made from the Dijon clone 777, and two California clones, Pommard and Calera. It boasts a dense, saturated dark ruby/purple color, as well as an exceptionally sweet nose of roasted herbs and black cherry jam intermixed with raspberries, truffles, and toasty oak. Sweet and expansive, this full-bodied wine possesses fabulous concentration and purity, a grand cru-like level of potential complexity, and a 30+-second finish. It must be tasted to be believed. Look for this wine to be drinkable upon release, and last for at least a decade.
“This wine is among of the most spectacular Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted.” 94-96 points. –Robert Parker, Wine Advocate
3.) Henri Boillot Beaune 1er Cru Clos du Roi 1998
4.) Denis Bachelet Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 1989
5.) Remirez de Ganuza Reserva 2004
“The 2004 Reserva, according to Remirez is ‘A great vintage, a lot of nerve, like 1994, that needed a long aging period.’ Opaque purple in color, it offers up a splendid bouquet of sandalwood, incense, Asian spices, balsamic, and black cherry. Layered, opulent, and impeccably balanced, it is a monumental effort. 97 points.” –Jay Miller, Wine Advocate
6.) Chateau Vieux Guinot 2001
7.) Chateau Clerc Milon 1995
“Gorgeous aromas of black licorice, currant and blackberry. Full-bodied, with silky tannins and a long, caressing finish. Very tight, yet with air it comes around wonderfully. Give it time. This was always one of the buys of the vintage. 94 points.” –James Suckling, Wine Spectator
… and 8.) Chateau Cos d’Estournel 1982
Remember what Christmas morning felt like when you were young? Walking into a living room packed to the gills with presents Santa had brought the night before? Well this was better, because I didn’t have to do any unwrapping.
Once the steaks had been grilled, we sat down to
We started with the Riesling and made our way through the Pinots before going through Spain, Bordeaux and Napa. Everything was superb; the Kistler was incredible, the Remirez was a champ and the Altamura nearly put everyone on their butts.
But the Cos was a different story. All the wines were great, but the Cos was GREAT. It simply operated on another plane of existence. This was my first experience with one of the great 1982 Bordeauxs, and it did not disappoint. Tasting something that has not only held up for more than 30 years but is actually in its prime puts a lot of things vis-à-vis wine into perspective.
After we finished eating, my coworker who brought the Cos (who happened to be the only one of us with any good sense) left us for the evening. The rest of us continued vociferously attacking the bottles, carefully trying to avoid wasting a single, precious drop.
And then we were finished. As we discussed favorites and lamented the night having to come to a close, one of my friends chimed in.
“You know, I’ve got two more bottles I brought if anyone wants to open them.”
Like a domino player throwing down a block, he pulled out two Cabs and slammed them on the table: a ‘99 Cakebread Benchland Select and a ‘97 Frog’s Leap. “I wasn’t sure if these would still be drinking well,” he informed us, in a (seemingly) challenging manner.
You son-of-a-bitch. Let’s find out.
I’d had both Cakebread and Frog’s Leap before on several occasions and was never truly impressed by either. Of course, the bottles I had been exposed to were much younger, had come from different respective vineyards and had been created by different winemakers. These two behemoths now before us were another story altogether. These were remnants of a very different time for each winery.
They were outstanding.
The Cakebread was sheer raw power, while the Frog’s Leap was a bit more finesse. Both were very fruit-forward, but still had amazing amounts of tannin and acid. Had I tasted them blind, there is no way I would ever have guessed they were made when I was still in high school.
As we finished the last of the wine, nobody wanted the experience to be over. Some of our number had departed to lay down on the couch and bed for brief respites, but we were all ready to go a few more rounds. Alas, all great things must come to an end, and so too did the evening. But next time – and there will be a next time – each of us will be ready to answer the call and do it all over again.