The Gang of Pour
OUTCLASSES BERINGER P.R. -- UPDATED
While discussing the what, when, and where of our next informal tasting, three of us were delighted to discover that we had, within our collective possession, three of this year's Top 10 Wines, as rated by The Wine Spectator. This was almost as surprising as the profusion of chardonnays in said list in the first place, as we all tend to prefer reds. Nevertheless, we had our what; the when and where quickly fell into place, and, voila, the scene was set.
The wines were initially tasted blind, rated on a "four cork" scale, and, then, enjoyed with a lovely dinner prepared by The Director. The meal consisted of jumbo shrimp, sautčed in butter, capers, and garlic; rappini, sautčed in olive oil and garlic; fettuccini in a gorgonzola sauce; and French bread. In attendance were the aforementioned Director, The Geek, The Artist, and this taster.
The first selection turned out to be the Chalk Hill; it exhibited a rich complexity, with flavors and aromas of apples and spicy oak, and hints of figs and cream. The Artist noted a resinous quality on the back palate. All agreed that it was a very fine chardonnay. This taster rated it three corks.
The next wine was an eye-opener. Richer, yet softer than the first, it showed good acidity, pear and pineapple in the nose and mouth, and restrained, toasty oak. The Geek described it as tasting like "rotting leaves, but really good rotting leaves(?!)." We all found this to be even better than the first, and, it turned out to be the Beringer Napa P.R. Three and one-half corks.
The third wine was, of course, the Lindemans Padthaway and, it proved to be the almost unanimous favorite, though there was really little to choose between any of these beautiful wines. This taster was immediately struck by its "Burgundian" quality; it was less overt than the others, showing more finesse in its soft, creamy pear flavors. I found it reminiscent of a fine Puligny-Montrachet sampled not long ago. It was clearly the best "food wine" of the three, and, at $13, it came at half the price of the Chalk Hill (which undoubtedly rose after the Dec. 31st edition of The Wine Spectator), and $9 less than the Beringer P.R., making our next chardonnay purchase a no-brainer. Four corks to the winner!
February 15, 1997
I had occasion to retaste this a few weeks after the fact, and, without the "distraction" of great food, great folks, and the other wines, I was able to take more detailed notes.
The bottle was opened straight from the 'fridge, so it was too cold, at first. The excess chill seemed to sharply separate the different elements in the flavor profile; it seemed slightly tart, and there was a hint of asparagus in the nose and mouth. Both characteristics dissipated as the temperature rose (a very instructive lesson with regard to over-chilling wine). It also seemed to benefit from a little air.
As it warmed a bit, the seemingly disparate nuances softened into a very nicely integrated whole. It showed good acidity and complexity, with soft, yet rich flavors of creamy, honeyed pear and melon, and hints of pineapple and figs, all in Lindemans' signature style. If you can still find this wine, buy all you can afford. At $13 per bottle, it's one of the best bargains this taster has seen in quite a while.
1993 Byron Chard. Santa Maria Valley Estate
We turned The Geek on to fine wine about a year ago, and in the process, created a monster. In the last few months, he's visited several times, bringing such delights as a 1990 Chateau Beau Site, a 1990 Chateau Talbot, a 1993 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and recently, this beauty of a chardonnay. We chilled it for an hour, pulled the cork, and poured it. The initial impression on the nose was, as The Director put it so succinctly, "peanut butter and dirty feet,", which dissipated after about five minutes, revealing nice pear and butterscotch aromas. The big, rich flavors echoed, complemented by nuances of cream and honey. It had vibrant acidity, and, should continue to please over the next year or two. It would have been interesting to see how this wine fared against the three described in "The Battle of the '94 Chardonnays", since it was #25 on the same Wine Spectator Top 100 list.
... we had our what; the when and where quickly fell into place, and, voila, the scene was set.
Read about the Cabs we drank to finish off the evening
IN ATTENDANCE 2-7-97