Good Friends, Good Food and 5 '89 Bordeauxs

When Alan Kerr AKA Canadian Zinfan announced last month that he wanted to pay a visit to Gang Central in Day-twah and do dinner and wine with a few friends, we knew just who to invite. It had been far too long since last we’d gotten together with Joel and Sally Goldberg (below right) of Joel and SallyMoCool fame, and Charter Gangster Scott "the Geek" Tobias is always fun to have around, now that he seems to be able to keep his wine in his glass (though his swirlatude still leaves something to be desired). And so, we convened recently for what was a most enjoyable evening of jazz and conversation, along with some excellent edibles and vino.

We started things off with a couple of the better young Left Coast Sauvignons, if past vintages were any indication.

Mason Sauvignon2001 Mason Napa Sauvignon Blanc, $17.99, 13% alc.: The nose on this pale straw isn’t overly expressive, showing some grapefruit with a hint of banana. The rich flavors follow through and pick it up big time, with zippy acidity, noticeable (but not excessive) oak and a finish that could last a little longer. "Being a Loire freak, I find this terribly lacking in acidity," Joel commented, and indeed, it loses acidity as it opens in the glass, and as it warms, it fattens. Still, not a bad Napa version of the varietal.

2001 Voss Napa Sauvignon Blanc, $19.99, 13% alc.: After a few sips of this pale straw, Joel opined, "Wonderful lemon spritz acidity; nice on the attack, but the mid-palate is just a bit lacking. I’m looking for perfection!" It shows grapefruit and a hint of anise on the nose, with grapefruit, pear and green apple flavors; there’s excellent acidity here, but again, it could finish a bit longer. Definitely leaner than the Mason, but I prefer it, whilst Joel and Alan liked the Mason better. Mr. Goldberg added, "I like the attack of the Voss and the body of the Mason." Though not as good as last year’s model, it still works really well with Kim’s salad of homegrown Frisee greens, purple onion and baby cucumbers with farmer’s market fresh Spy apples, a touch of toasted pecans and crumbled Stilton tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette.

1999 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Alsace, 13% alc.: Scott brought this along to match with Kerr’s spicy prawns and diver scallops nestled on a bed of Orecchiette pasta slightly drenched in a magical makeshift Thai tomato sauce that had been concocted some hours previous, and it performed yeoman’s service in that regard. Medium straw, it has a peachy litchi bouquet, and bright flavors that echo with good acidity and a certain oiliness at the same time. It has good fruit and an impression of some sweetness on entry, but it finishes decidedly dry, with just a hint of bitterness. Solid, if not particularly distinctive Alsatian Gewurz.

Imported by Seagram Chateau and Estate Wines Company, New York, NY

The Wines

2001 Mason Napa Sauvignon Blanc

2001 Voss Napa Sauvignon Blanc

1999 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Alsace

1989 Chateau Peyreau Saint-Emilion Grand Cru

1989 Château Cantemerle Haut-Medoc Grand Cru Classé

1989 Chateau Olivier Pessac-Léognan Grand Cru Classé

1989 Chateau Lafon-Rochet Saint-Estèphe Grand Cru Classé

1989 Chateau Chasse-Spleen Moulis en Médoc

1997 Château d’ Armajan des Ormes Sauternes

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Ch. Peyreau1989 Chateau Peyreau Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, 13% alc.: Kerr contributed this, and like the four to follow, it is a dark garnet that’s just hinting at showing some mature brick in its color. It features lovely cassis, red currant flavors and aromas, with subtle cigar box nuances that come out more with air, and the faintest hints of coffee and chocolate. It’s low in acid, with a velvety mouthfeel, and while unobtrusive tannins rein in the finish just a bit, there’s no denying that this is a tasty little gem, one that elicited the following comments:
"Such a honeyed nose!" – Scott

"Awesome nose; anise on the palate and nose." – Sally
"Silken; you feel the ultra-fine tannins on the back end." – Joel

There’s no reason to think that this has less than at least five years of improvement ahead of it, but it’s so good already.

Ch. Cantemerle1989 Château Cantemerle Haut-Medoc Grand Cru Classé, $23.99, 12.7% alc.: The Goldbergs’ contribution, this shows a little funky must when first poured, but opens to give pleasant cassis and tobacco flavors and aromas, with soft tannins, decent acidity and a nice finish. Though not as substantive or complex as the Saint-Emilion, it’s nice enough on its own terms. Joel observed "It tastes much older than the Peyreau," adding "I love the sweet fruit in this."

Imported by Seagram Chateau and Estate Wines Company, New York, NY

Ch. Olivier1989 Chateau Olivier Pessac-Léognan Grand Cru Classé, $19.95, 12.5% alc.: This got big numbers when it was first rated in the Wine Spectator (a "classic" 95), and while I’ve heard that it only got a rating in the high 70’s from Robert Parker, I can’t confirm that in his Tasting Note Archives. Whatever the case, it’s somewhere in between those two marks, with its tight earthy cassis and tobacco flavors and aromas, and harsh, stemmy, astringent tannins that overpower what seems to be a nice core of sweet fruit underneath. Sally observed that "the tannins are centered on the palate, rather than down the sides," and Alan called them "tree skin tannnins," adding impressions of bell pepper, lead pencil, cedar shavings and vanilla oak." No one disagreed with Joel when he stated, "This is a wine that’s truly too young to be drinking." As for his comment that "there’s the risk that the tannins may outlive the fruit," I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Because of its backward nature it was the only one of the Bordeauxs that didn’t match all that well with the Mmmm, good! delicious roasted aged whole beef tenderloin cradled on a bed of Kerr’s hand-rolled pumpkin gnocchi and sautéed baby zucchini, all smartly bathed with a sinful sauce of morels and fresh-picked chanterelles. A final seduction of generous shavings of end-of-season black truffle (which Kerr picked up that morning having just been flown in from Piedmont) was the piece d'resistance.

Imported by Demorest Enterprises Int., St. Clair – Shores, Michigan

Chateau Lafon-Rochet1989 Chateau Lafon-Rochet Saint-Estèphe Grand Cru Classé, $16, 12.5% alc.: Of this lovely claret, Joel observed, "Unlike the Olivier, this has the balance to develop gorgeously." A bit of the barnyard blows off quickly to reveal a bouquet of cassis, plum, and some subtle cigar box; Kim added notes of fennel pollen, while Kerr mentioned beets. The silky flavors echo beautifully, causing everyone to go, "mmm, mmm, mmm." It was generally agreed that this was "the premier of the four" so far, as Alan put it, and I’ll probably not open another for at least three years.

Imported by The Stacole Co. Inc., Boca Raton

Chateau Chasse-Spleen1989 Chateau Chasse-Spleen Moulis en Médoc, 12.5% alc.: Because a duplicate Lafon-Rochet was contributed to the festivities, I put it away and pulled this from the cellar from hell in its stead. And while it doesn’t have the density or complexity of the preceding selection, it’s still lovely claret that opens dramatically in the glass, with flavors and aromas of cassis, plum, lead pencil and shoe polish. Sally gave impressions of "tons of fruit, really smoky," while Kim mentioned a note of "bacon." Joel added "coffee ground and dark chocolate." It still has some good tannins that are somewhat drying on the long finish, and good acidity. It’s another one that is in no danger of fading anytime soon; on the contrary, it’s still on the way up. (Many thanks to Steve Kirsch for gifting this to us.)

Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co., Washington D.C.

1997 Château d’ Armajan des Ormes Sauternes, 14.5% alc.: This golden colored elixir shows slightly hot flavors and aromas of honey and apricots, but while it showed well enough and matched nicely with Kim’s apple and dried, yet plump, Michigan cherries galette, it really needs several years in the cellar yet to be at its best. Kim also mentioned that the galette really needed crème fresh instead of the rich, vanilla ice cream served.

It was a wonderful evening, and good time was had by all. After bidding Joel and Sally adieu, Alan and I lit up a couple of El Rey Del Mundo Oscuro Robusto cigars that had Kim grumbling about the lingering stink for the following few days.

They were good though… 

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November 2002

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