An orgy of decadent wines! How else to describe this evening, a knee-jerk reaction to our successful C$35 Smackdown? Our "Extreme" tasting had one rule - your bottle had to cost you more than C$100. Recognizing that these were some of the world's greatest wines, we also decided that the evening would not be 'competitive' - the wines were not blinded, and we tasted them in series rather than head to head. We also went out to dinner for this tasting, a celebration of the three years our tasting group has developed!
I was the only geek taking notes. Note that I will not provide scores or relative rankings, as that would be a disservice to the quality of these wines (ok, send me a nice bottle of something and I'll cough up the scores/rankings). This was a truly stunning collection of wine and any preferences would be based on style, not quality.
Seven collectors raided their cellars, and came up with the following wines (in the order that we tasted them) for this evening's twelve tasters:
1997 Beringer Howell Mountain Bancroft Ranch Merlot (Napa)
2000 Chateau de la Gardine "Cuvee des Generations" (Chateauneuf du Pape)
1999 Ornellaia (Tuscany, Bolgheri)
1990 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa)
1989 Conterno Fantino Barolo Vigna del Gris (Piedmont)
1990 Chateau Clinet (Bordeaux, Pomerol)
1999 Gaja Darmagi Cabernet Sauvignon (Piedmont)
We decanted these wines upon arrival at the restaurant and started with an Austrian white (see below), to pair with the appetizers and give the heavies some air. The ordering was meant to move from the lighter wines to heavier wines, but it was more haphazard and probably not the best ordering.
For example, the first wine - Pramod's Beringer Merlot Bancroft Ranch - was one of the biggest, most powerful, merlots I have ever had! This wine needed some more time in the cellar, or at least a longer rest in the decanter before drinking. Anyway, this had a beautiful aromatic nose that developed and changed over time - rose, blueberry, mint, pepper/cloves, tar, minerals and some vegetal scents. Powerful and a bit awkward on the palate, this a medium-bodied red with light fruit and blockbuster tannins. Needs some time. WS-93, RP-92. Cost US$125.
Cam's Gardine Cuvee des Generations was another wine that may have been out of order. While CdeP is usually a more elegant wine, this young wine would have benefited from further aging. The nose on the Gardine is very-subtle at first, hiding its secrets of awesome meaty/leathery/nutty/vanilla scents. Extremely elegant and well balanced, with rich, jammy cherry fruit and heavy tannins, this wine will get better. Deceptively elegant in its youth, keep it for a few years. Rated a 94 by Parker, but a very odd 86 in Wine Spectator - did they taste the same wine? Go with Parker - this was a stunning wine. Cost of C$124.
While still young, I thought my Ornellaia would show very well after a good decant. Very complex on the nose - violet, deep cherry, mint, cedar, leather, and meat with stunning earthy aromas. Near perfection! Harmonius, medium to full bodied, with nice fruit and big velvety tannins. Eerily reminiscent of Opus One (there is a Mondavi thread in the history of both wineries), but much better. Ready now, this wine should continue to improve. Overall, one of the best-balanced wines I have ever had, developing beautifully. RP-94, WS-94. Cost of C$175.
Next up was Lloyd's Cabernet Sauvignon from the legendary Chateau Montelena. This wine was a highlight of the evening for me. Despite its age, this wine smelled like it was made and bottled last year! It even looked young, showing very little of the trademark brick red of an older wine (maybe Lloyd brought the legendary 1997 and scratched out the number to fool us?). A beautiful, fresh, cabernet nose - violet and white flowers, strawberry, musk, pepper, earth and smoke, with continued development over the evening. This harmonius, medium-bodied cab boasted nice fruit and velvety tannins. A veeery long finish, it may improve but it is certainly ready now. Amazing. RP-93, WS-94. He claims this wine cost him C$140 in a barter trade.
Ash's Conterno Fantino Vigna del Gris was the oldest of the evening, and perhaps the best value. A lovely nose, this wine showed some of the pruney, stewed-fruit scents of an aged wine, as well as meaty, leathery smells. Extremely well balanced, it still showed the power and intensity of Barolo with nice velvety tannins an a good finish. An excellent example of what a Barolo should taste like as it hits its prime. RP-91, WS-88. Cost US$90.
Cosme's Chateau Clinet is a legendary Pomerol. The same age as the Motelena, it was showing the brick red colour of an aged wine at the edges, and had that pruney cooked fruit smell of an aged wine. Perhaps the most memorable nose of the evening, it had enchanting scents of cherry/raspberry, earth, oak, leather, spice (cinnamon, cloves), and coffee. Very well balanced, elegant, meaty, and rich, it had a loooong finish that went on and on. Overall, I felt the tannins were nice, but the fruit was fading. Drink now. RP-95, WS-92. Easily the most expensive, it costs C$425 at the local shop.
We all expected Chris/M-L's Gaja Darmagi to be a bruiser, so we left it for last. We were correct - this wine was Rambo crashing a Bond flick! Deep red, almost purple, this wine had nice, classic cabernet scents of violet and pepper, with hints of leather, mint, vanilla, and coffee/cocoa. On the palate this was a monstrously big, tannic brute, with rich chocolatey fruit. It needs some time to mature. A beautiful Piemontese take on Cabernet, it will get better. RP-91, WS-88. Cost C$210.
While preceding wines were the feature wines, those were not all, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the others.
Our out of town guests came by my place before we went out for the evening, and I served a bottle of the 2001 Quinta de la Quietud a favourite Spanish wine of mine (RP-92, cost C$30). This is a beautiful tempranillo from the region of Toro - big, full bodied, with a tannic bite and a long finish, it softened up over the evening. Perfect for a steak off the grill, it also went nicely with a cheese plate. A great value for a wine of this quality.
To kick off the tasting above (and to pair with the appetizers), we started with a very nice Austrian Riesling. The 2003 Pichler Riesling Smaragd Loibnerberg had a classic Riesling nose, with floral (honeysuckle, white flowers), pear, and litchee scents with some earthy undertones. Fresh, rich, and light bodied, it was very drinkable, but the low acidity might make it difficult to pair with food. Worth seeking out, but I don't know the price.
We had to finish with dessert, didn't we? The 1986 Farnito Vinsanto del Chianti had scents of flowers, pears, and almonds. It was very rich and well balanced, and not too sweet. Nicely done, worth seeking out.
Lastly, we finished a bottle of Sauternes, the 1998 Chateau d'Armajan. A very nice Sauternes, my notes are short, as you might expect after tasting all of the wines above. Seemed like a good value for a Sauternes.
Restaurant Bistro l'Entrepont
While the evening was a celebration of wine, the splendid Bistro l'Entrepont should also be celebrated. The food was splendid. I started with a creamy vegetable soup - beautiful texture, balanced flavours, and served at the perfect temperature. A plate of wild mushrooms was well prepared and matched our wines beautifully. For the main course I had the deer, and it was the nicest I have ever had! I am not a big dessert guy, but the Creme Brulee - spectacular. And the service was equally impressive. Despite the size of our group (which nearly occupied the entire restaurant) and a tableful of bottles, glasses and decanters, the service was unflappable. Thank you for a great evening - I recommend this resto to anyone. I will be back.