Monday, January 7, 2008

Terrific Wines at the Holiday Party!

On a dark, stormy night we kicked off the year with our Vineyard Gate Holiday Party last Friday. Survivors from the worst storm to hit the Bay Area in years bravely showed up, but I’m saddened to say that some did not make it. Yet, the show must go on!

Grill Akafuji in Millbrae, a tiny Japanese-owned joint, provided cozy, warm hospitality and delicious bento dishes to accompany the eclectic wine selections carried in by each of the guests. I forgot my camera, so unfortunately no pix to accompany this blog. There were several wines brought in that I never got to, or never remembered drinking, which happens all too frequently, but here are the few that spring from memory.

I poured a couple of wines of my own. First off, a magnum of Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Pierre Moncuit NV that was nearly bone dry, intensely vibrant with a delicious core of fruit, and mouthwatering enough to get our appetites going.

Then I drank what was to me a surprise hit and one of my favorite wines of the night: Robert’s 2007 Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer “En Premier” Lazy Creek (I’m guessing what they really want to say is “Future” which is “en primeur”). This has a good touch of fruity sweetness that almost seemed textured; but what's brilliant about it was its stupendous freshness. It gave me the feeling of a newborn baby. I noticed the bottle was enclosed with a crown cap with a red wax top, how cool is that?! I made a mental note to buy a case of this stuff.

Andrew’s Champagne was a beautiful Blanc de Blancs A.R. Lenoble NV that was soft and nutty with a gorgeous creaminess in the mouth.

Ken brought some of the most eclectic bottles, including a Sicilian Pinot Noir that unfortunately I never got to try. But he also opened a 1999 Piemonte Chardonnay Tenaglia that was rich, nutty, and oxidative, almost reminiscent of an aged Meursault for that oxidative character. It was beautiful in its own way, and I noticed later the oxidative flavors were giving way to a more complex fruity sweetness. I wish I had more time to ponder it, but more bottles had to be tasted and drunk this night.

Steve walked in with arms stuffed with wines and Riedel glasses. He uncorked a most unique wine a 1988 Piemonte Asti Spumante (I’m blanking out on the producer). I was surprised how bone dry it was like a Vouvray Brut; minerally with a slight taste of bitter hops. Like Champagne, this was spectacular with the mix of grilled meats and panko-coated deep-fried vegetables.

Another wine I brought was Rochioli’s 2000 Russian River Pinot Noir, which was drinking mightily. I was asked what would be the closest equivalent to Burgundy, and I replied maybe a Chambolle-Musigny for its seductivess and charm, and perhaps a Gevrey-Chambertin for its assertive fruit. I really enjoyed this wine, too, and it’s drinking much fresher than I expected. The abrupt finish, though, betrayed its origins.

So on to more reds. There was a 1972 Latricieres-Chambertin Louis Remy, the venerable domaine in Morey. I’ve never had any 1972 red Burgundy before so this was a great treat and an adventure. Even after 35 years this is well evolved but stubbornly refusing to fade away. Delicious pure flavors, and still tight; sadly the night was not long enough to allow it to fully stretch out. We pounded it, nevertheless.

A couple of first growths—both undecanted and straight from bottle—graced the occasion, courtesy of none other than the big K. The 1976 Mouton-Rothschild had one of the most beautiful bouquets of any Bordeaux that I’ve ever had, plus the intensity of it was unbelievable. A priceless perfume in the glass! In the mouth it was all about finesse and elegance with just a thin layer of fruit to dab the palate. Not from a great vintage to begin with, but this wine has valiantly held on to everything good about it.

A contrasting bottle was the 1976 Lafite-Rothschild, which started off almost shut down and musty, though one can tell from the palate the lovely concentration of this wine, its rich fleshiness and density. Unquestionably, an outstanding Lafite, with bags of life ahead. Oh my, it will take all night to wait for this wine to unfold! Gosh, what to do, but to keep on drinking it.

The party was breaking up now, but Jim H just remembered to fetch his Riesling that had been on ice. Meanwhile, Andrew opened his last bottle, a 2004 Muscat Fronholz André Ostertag. Ah, so pristine. Jasmine, minerals, and exotic fruits. Bone dry and so refreshing at the end.

Finally, Jim’s 2003 Urziger-Würzgarten Kabinett J.J. Christoffel Erben. This is close to Auslese level in this vintage, sweet and very minerally, the spice and slate are prominent, deliciously layering the mouthful of fruit, vibrant and so palate-cleansing. Terrific!


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