Sandy & Michael's, Los Altos, California
Tasted Saturday, May 14, 2011 by Richard Jennings with 1,143 views
This is a fun event, really a wine party with the emphasis on the word "party," that Sandy and Michael have thrown at their home in Los Altos for three years running. The theme is the movie "Bottle Shock." I'm no fan of that extremely Hollywoodized version of the Judgment of Paris tasting, but the party version is an opportunity to compare Cabernet-based wines from California and Bordeaux, enjoy the company of some lovely people, and generally not take things too seriously. This year we tasted through several Bordeaux and Cali Cabs while people gathered on Michael and Sandy's lovely covered patio. The "Judgment of Paris" blindtasting was then set up, with four of us acting as "judges" this year: Christine Tran from Artisan Wine Depot, T-Vine Cellars' Chuck Easley, major collector Eric Nagel, and me. Before we began, a "singing telegram" showed up to advise us on our role as judges. Unfortunately the weather was not fully cooperative, as a cool and cloudy evening suddenly turned even cooler, with gusty winds and light rain, and we were supposed to be doing the judging outside. As the temperature sank, the eight wines we were supposed to rank were showing little nose and were rather hard to grasp on the palate as well, but we got through that portion of the evening with a little help from large umbrella wind breaks and a heat lamp. We then moved inside, to our host's huge living room, where I got to retaste most of the eight wines and confirm my rankings.
The eight wines for the judging portion were all mature or maturing Bordeaux and Cali Cabs--four of each. I found it pretty easy to tell the French from the Californians in this flight. My favorite wine, second for the group, was the 2000 Figeac, which I thought was more likely to be a Graves/Pessac Leognan than a St. Emilion. Still, I'm not surprised I picked a very reliable producer from a truly great year, 2000, as my favorite. My second favorite, and the favorite of the rest of the panel, was the 2005 Léoville Poyferré, another good producer and excellent year (if a little less approachable than the 2000). I liked the Léoville Poyferré very much too, but found the Figeac more approachable, with a significantly longer finish. So, for the judges, the French wines came out on top. The best of the California wines in the blindtasting for me were two from 1997: Diamond Creek's Volcanic Hill and Chateau Montelena. The rest of the contenders in the blindtasting were a '99 Heitz Martha's Vineyard, a '97 Dominus and two Left Bank Bordeaux neighbors from 1989: Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande.
There was a lot of great food, including Sandy's delicious moussaka, and lots more wine poured throughout the evening. The highlights of the other wines for me were the '04 Beringer Private Reserve, a '97 Stag's Leap Fay, and our final wine, a 1970 Fonseca Port poured from magnum. Sandy and Michael definitely know how to throw a memorable party, and it's always great to spend time with their friends. All in all, I rate the party version of the movie very high; the movie, not so much.