Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wasn't That a Party

It's holiday time so I have been busy away from the blog, but with last night's party out of the way I can catch up on the pile of tasting notes exceeded only by the pile of snow in my driveway.

For the past few years my wife and I have hosted an open house for close friends and neighbours. But rather than simply put a bottle of wine on a table, every year I conduct a mini-tasting. Too chaotic (kids are invited) for anything formal, I simply serve a variety of wines and blind the guests.

Tonight, the wines were "Santa", "Mrs. Claus", "Rudolph" and "Frosty":

Armed with the following riddles our guests were invited to guess which was which, if they so chose:

A - "Viva Italia!" Oops, I mean "Viva Argentina!"
B - Chianti, but not Classico
C - Shiraz, or Syrah?
D - Who added that dash of white to my Aussie red?

This rather simple exercise integrated well into this social event. Some guests tried to solve the riddles, some simply asked me lots of questions, others secretly pondered the wines and listened to the others, and some simply chugged whatever was closest to them. But as evidenced by the army dead soldiers on my dining room table, the forty-five adults in attendance were "enthusiastic".

The winner? Well, that wasn't really a question, as all of these were terrific wines, but Rudolph was hero tonight and I had to work hard to keep that decanter full. Rudolph was the 2005 d'Arenberg "The Laughing Magpie" (1,2). No surprise - in my experience the big fruit of the Aussie wines always seem to win in such a chaotic setting, and this wine had enough complexity to keep the interest of our more experienced guests. A good party choice (but not cheap), but very sludgey wine so decant carefully.

The 2004 Masi Corbec comes from their Tupungato estate in Argentina. Made from Corvina (the grapes used in Amarone) and Malbec, and in the appassimento method used for Amarone, I thought this would be the one to confuse even the best tasters - and it did. A big bruiser, it shows similarities to real Amarone, at a price ($27) much closer to a simple Valpolicella. It probably needs some time.

The 2004 Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina (90% Sangiovese, plus Malvasia nera, Colorino, others) is a JoeFave (1,2), but in this setting this flavourful but very dry wine just didn't work. The same went for another JoeFave, the 2003 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage (1,2) - the Syrah of the group. Crisp and elegant, but with all of the sights, sounds and flavours thrown at our guests it was ignored by all, except my bro-in-law Cam who happily gulped it up.

Some may have noticed other wines. A late arrival was Cosme, the man who started me on this vinous journey. Together we and the remaining seven guests raided the JoeCave for some Montepulciano, the 2001 Don Luigi by Di Majo Norante to be exact, a wine made from 90% Montepulciano and 10% Tintilia. A wine enjoyed in the past, I put it away for a few years after my last bottle. Awkward when first poured (it was still at cellar temp), it opened up to a terrific and complex (leafy tobacco and dark berries, spicy) nose. Flavourful, with crisp acidity and big tannins and nice cherry fruit, I can't believe this is six years old. This wine screamed for a helping of homemade meat lasagna.



Edward said...


Sounds like a great day/night. I love the naming of the wines. I often call my decanters Bruce, Kylie and Wayne. . .

Just in case I don't get a chance to comment in the next week - Merry Christmas!

Joe said...

Hi Edward - yes, it seems like we would require and entire day/evening! Merry Christmas to you as well. Would you like me to send you some snow? I am pretty fed up with it here.

RougeAndBlanc said...

Wow. I counted 14 empty bottles. Your party must be a boat load of fun (and your guests can drink!).
Quick question: Is your Don Luigi a regular bottling or the reserva?
Happy holidays to you and your family.

Joe said...

Thanks Andrew - All the best to you and your family as well. My only excuse is that there were a lot of people. I am pretty sure there is only one bottling of the Don Luigi - are you sure there are two bottlings? The Di Majo Norante site lists only one.

A said...

Looks like a fun party! How did the Masi Corbec go over? I served it at my Easter dinner last year to mixed reviews. I enjoyed it, but also thought it needed more time.

Joe said...

Welcome A. Hard to say - there were no complaints about it, but no raves either. It was probably the second favourite after the d'Arenberg