I just knew I had to start hydrating fast when at 3pm on a Friday, still clawing out of last-minute emails to vendors and clients, I was handed a taste of something red courtesy of member Matt J. This one was meaty and savory on the nose with a twist of smoky plums and cedar. On the palate this was medium-bodied with resolved, velvety and sweet tannins. Good length. As the wine opened in the glass, it showed a more pronounced graphite and charcoal-like smokiness along with leather notes. AJ called this a Latour from the early ‘80s while I thought this was not substantial enough to be a Latour. In my opinion, this was more elegant, silken in texture and lighter in structure leading me to an ’81 from somewhere in Margaux… Palmer? Simon thought this was classic Pauillac, perhaps a Pichon Lalande? This turned out to be a 1982 Gruaud-Larose. Fully mature and in prime drinking window.
When Shane T walked in by 4pm, his 2007 Sine Qua Non The Labels Syrah was open for business. I decanted it two hours before and this wine was brimming with black pepper spice, dried flowers, blackberry, toasty vanilla, clove, and smoky espresso beans that also enveloped the palate. This was unabashedly rich and opulent with just enough tannins to give it some grip and focus on the palate. Persistent, succulent finish marked by blackberry/blueberry jam. What impresses me with SQN is how balanced these wines typically are given their monstrosity and with such structure, Manfred Krankl seems to coax velvety tannins from his wines wrapping them with intensely ripe fruitiness.
As everyone swirled and enjoyed SQN The Labels’ intense aromatics, Shane opened a bottle of a nutty, lime blossom and mineral-tinged, 2010 Domaine d’Ardhuy Puligny-Montrachet Sous le Puits . This wine is really pretty: fresh with a great minerality and aromatic purity. In the mouth, the stone fruits are layered with citrus, flowers, and minerality before finishing with roasted nuts.
As I was enjoying this pretty white Burgundy, I got a call from a client who was in the mood for Dom Perignon. I fished out a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon Brut from the cellar and this showed its flamboyance and power on the palate. This was full, plush and expansive with pronounced toasty brioche, lemon curd notes, and stone fruit notes in the background. Given this vintage’s reputation, in my opinion, this was still a very well-made DP that did not exactly lack in verve and grip.
John J next handed me a taste of another red that had bold and fragrant with notes of black pepper, black cherry jam, plums, tar, clove, dried herbs, and smoked meat notes. Full bodied and broadly structured on the palate; balanced and harmonious; amazing complexity. The spice and meaty notes anchored the long finish. What a wine! I called it a Cote Rotie and it turned out to be a 1996 Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Cote Rotie. I’ve had this wine multiple times in the last year and it never disappoints!
Next in the line-up was the 2008 Tortuga Cabernet Sauvignon which was so charming and approachable with its subtle tannins and rounded mouthfeel. Expressive and aromatic with blackberry, cassis and black raspberry notes laced with toasty vanilla undertones. The wine’s softer tannins belied its full-bodied structure. We brought in this wine awhile back after we tasted with proprietor and winemaker Gary Midyette. Gary has been associated with the Robert Mondavi Winery as Director of Winemaking Operations and as such he has a first-hand understanding of the best sites in the Valley. So with Tortuga Vineyards, he has sought fruit from exceptional family-owned vineyards sites including the Long Estate in the Pritchard Hill region.
With my last sip of the DP on hand, I sauntered over to the bar to uncover more buried treasures and AJ handed me a sip of another red. This wine seemed to sparkle in the glass. This was beautifully aromatic with wild berries, bright cherry notes and floral hints. Fresh and clean on the palate; vibrant, medium-bodied, silky but slightly lacking in flavor depth and complexity. I particularly loved the nose on this wine. The palate was good but with such an opulent personality on the nose, I expected the palate to follow suit. This turned out to be a 2000 Groffier Bonnes Mares. Drink now.
As we mingle around the bar, I see member Bill S walking around with a bottle of wine. Next thing I know he’s pouring two generous glasses of 2003 Penfolds Grange for our group to try. Dramatic and flamboyant on the nose showing eucalyptus, cedar, blackberries, roasted plums, black cherries, graphite and baking spices. The palate was more firmly structured with more grip and not as voluptuous as the SQN. Although delicious to drink now, I think this is still a baby and can easily age another decade or two. That elegant, complex, red-fruited 1962 Penfolds Grange we had a few weeks back comes to mind….
My next sip was the 1993 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Napa which was showing well. Bright cherry, some herbaceous notes, cedar, loam, and dried tobacco leaves. Smooth and soft tannins. Fully mature and is drinking in prime window now. From a Magnum.
What a way to start a weekend! And yes, hydrating was all I did for the next two days.