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StrEat Restaurant, Austin, Texas

Tasted June 11, 2011 by austinwinesalon with 762 views


This was the first "wine review" salon in 2011 for our group. Earlier in the year we had a definitive wine and cheese pairing salon, hosted by Asti Trattoria and Antonelli's cheese shop; followed in a couple of months by "How the Cubists (different sommeliers and reviewers) Taste Wine," a multi-faceted look at tasting new wines, grocery store wines, and some old magnums of burgundy, hermitage, barolo, calcab, and bordeaux. So in June we got back, to reviewing wines in small groups and to American wines, which we had not focused upon in two years.

The year-old Streat restaurant hosted a Sunday afternoon of dirty rice, salads, charcuterie, and cheeses to accompany six flights of California, Oregon, and Washington wines from the 1970's to some recent vintages. This was not a definitive tasting, but a look at some interesting elements, or topics, in American wine: how well some classic zinfandels, pinot noir, cabernet, and petite sirah age; how Oregon pinot ages over a few years; the credibility of Parker's scores on Cal Cabs this decade; a look at 20 years of Dominus, beginning with the first vintage in 1983. And more.

This salon had six groups of 5-6 tasters each. Tasters are wine and food professionals and afficionadoes, many of which have earned various sommelier certifications. Since we had many older vintages, wines were generally opened at the tables and poured to all tasters at the same time (young wines were decanted an hour or more before pouring). Each wine was tasted by three separate groups. Prepared food was available during and between flights.

Lastly, much gratitude is extended to wine and food professionals Lauren Holbrook, Tom King, Paula Rester, and James Kennedy for compiling and editing these tasting notes.

Flight 1 - America's Burgundy (6 notes)

A taste of 30+ year old California pinot noir and two vintages of two top Oregon wineries.

1978 Chalone Vineyard Pinot Noir USA, California, Central Coast, Chalone
Had a light ruby core with a browning red-brick rim, showing orange reflections, medium bodied and dry with a sweet red fruit profile, dried and stewed fruits – cherry being the most obvious, followed by strawberries and raspberries, dried red and purple flowers. This wine was well-balanced with surprisingly bright acidity and herbal-earthy tones. On the debating table was the question of whether or not this wine had any life ahead of it: a few said yes, and a few felt the wine was beginning its inevitable decline – all seemed to agree that is was indeed enjoyable and at the moment still together. At 33 years old and the original cost of a Bourgogne village rouge.
1979 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Had a light garnet core with an orange-brown, tawny colored rim, red fruit profile-reminiscent of sweet stewed and dried red fruits and pronounced earth . While half of our tasters found this wine showed well-integrated flavors and a nice balance between fruit, acidity, tannin and alcohol, and described the wine as being graceful, the other half of the group found this wine to be tight, sharp, and slightly volatile as the wine leaned towards having too much acidity. But impressive for its age and went well with food.
1998 Archery Summit Pinot Noir Premier Cuvée USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
Showed ruby red color with reflections of purple – the concentration of color is moderate plus and youthful, not showing 13 years of age,. Had a red and black fruit profile of plums and jammy blackberries, secondary aromas and flavors which were reticent and hard to identify – perhaps not present. The wine did not show any age on the palate, but a high alcohol level was noticeable, giving the wine a hot characteristic. Rather unimpressive wine that we assume will not evolve.
2005 Archery Summit Pinot Noir Premier Cuvée USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
All ten tasters agreed the wine was flawed – some argued it was corked while others agreed that it was not corked but indeed a faulty wine
1998 Chehalem Pinot Noir Reserve USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
Tasters noted a ruby core with red-brick rim although not showing much age. The color variation between this 1998 and an accompanying 2005 Chehalem was very slim. A smokey nose dominated the wine. The palate had a burnt red fruit profile, and the wine was rather one dimensional and not showing any evolution.
2005 Chehalem Pinot Noir Reserve USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
The favorite in a flight of various American pinot, it offered a ruby red core with a light red-ish purple rim and a vibrant red fruit profile of sweet red cherries and ripe red currants, rhubarb and ripe sweet strawberries. Secondary aromas included a touch of tomato leaf, basil and other fresh herbs, with notes of cedar and tobacco, and fresh rose petals. A well-balanced and complex wine, enjoyed by a dozen tasters here.

Flight 2 - California vs. Washington (6 notes)

A comparison of merlot, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon from a top California and a top Washington producer of each.

1994 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon R USA, Washington
Opaque brick in color with rust-tinged rim variation, this was a wine definitely showing it's age. The bouquet was muted with aromas of plums, cherry, expected black fruits, tobacco and cedar. A sweeter and softer Cab, tasters experienced ripe blackberries and cassis on the palate with sour cherry, rosemary, nutmeg, and clove nuances. Structure was mellow and integrated with a medium finish and while some tasters felt this wine was still alive and kickin' , the majority felt it was still graceful, but a little past it's prime. Drink this faded beauty now.
1996 Peter Michael Les Pavots USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
Purple/Ruby color with a clear pink rim. Fruit on the nose was soft and stewed with plum, tomato, bell pepper and green peppercorn aromas falling right in line with the Peter Michael's mid-90's style. The palate, however, proved to be a little disappointing with a structure lacking in acidity, giving the wine a one-dimensional feel. Tasters ferreted out flavours of black currant, black cherry, powdered cinammon and a green stemminess. Finish was short and fell flat. As the wine began to develop, a faint, funky, cardboard scent began to emerge leaving some tasters to wonder if a flaw was at work and feeling this wine definitely deserved a re-visit.
1997 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot Three Palms Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
Deep Purple/ Ruby in color with moderate staining of the tears. Aromas of black currant, cassis and candied cherry, dark chocolate and vanillin. This wine had a rich and lactic mouth-feel with notes of black fruits, cola and tons of chocolate with a little leather thrown into the mix. Tannins were velvety making for easy-drinking. Some tasters felt it was a little tired and past ready to be drunk, seriously lacking in acidity and some felt it was a "guilty-pleasure-dessert-in-a-glass" producing my favorite quote of the salon, "I think I'm not supposed to like this, but it's delicious!"
1997 Quilceda Creek Merlot USA, Washington
Garnet with a black core and clear, pink rim. Dusty and masculine on the nose with cherry, plum, and fragrant tea notes with a slight pop of brett. Palate was concentrated with red and black fruits and great (if a little alcoholic) acidity with a long, grippy tobacco and sandlewood finish. Drinking well now and in the future. The favorite in this flight for most tasters.
2002 Neyers Syrah Cuvée d'Honneur USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
The controversial wine of the day for this American salon. Deep purple and black ink color with an aggressive nose reminiscent of Rhone wines. Black olive, roasted earth, blue/black fruits, Dr. Pepper and smoke on the nose with powerful flavors of blueberry and prune, balsamic reduction, black pepper, meaty teriyaki and herbs. Powerfully structured with a viscous mouth-feel and long, savoury finish. Some tasters found the wine intriguing and delicious, a perfect pairing for an Asian-inspired wagyu beef dish and others felt it was just TOO much and found the flavours off-putting. All enjoyed the heated conversation about this one!
2002 L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah Estate Seven Hills Vineyard USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
The least favorite in the flight, this wine was purple in color with a muted, slightly herbal/ green nose of sour black cherry, raisin, blueberry, and burnt coffee. While the palate showed blueberry, sour red fruits,orange zest and some toasted oak, the "burnt week-old coffee" note was persistent and unpleasant for all. Wine was out of balance--the fruit separating from the alcohol made the structure seem sour and acidic with a short, underwhelming finish. Way past it's prime.

Flight 3 - America's Grapes (6 notes)

A taste of some older zinfandel and petite sirah, with a Turley thrown in for perspective.

1975 Edmeades Winery Zinfandel Mendocino County USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
Orange-red brick core with a tawny-colored rim , this 36 year old zinfandel was slightly oxidized with hues of brown. All three tasting groups agreed that on the nose the wine smelt of a tawny port, on the palate the wine showed macerated fruits, orange liquor, cherry liquor, caramel, candied nuts, and toffee. Although the nose was port-like, the wine did not taste like a port and amidst a large array of descriptors used for this wine, everyone agreed that the flavors were more than subtle and that the wine was tired. Nonetheless, it was interesting and enjoyable.
1977 Mastantuono Zinfandel USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Orange-red brick color core with an orange-tawny colored rim. The wine had a funky nose almost to the point of being unpleasant, port-like upon first sniff and quickly moving on to a barnyard, muddy water, funkiness. Unfortunately, tasters generally agreed that the wine showed very little on the palate – tired and declining. Oh well.
1979 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel Sonoma County USA, California, Sonoma County
Had a light garnet core fading into a tawny colored rim with oranges hues. Fdruit aromas and flavors included dried cherries, black and red currants, plums and a touch of citrus; secondary aromas and flavors included baking spices, brown sugar, dried herbs, touch of old leather. This wine had bright acidity and a fresh character, was enjoyable however the finish was shorter than expected and appeared to be declining.
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1975 Stonegate Petite Sirah Maryroy Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
Had a deep purple-black, opaque core with next to no rim variation. This wine is not showing its age whatsoever via its appearance. On the nose and the palate the wine showed notes of ripe blackberry, cocoa, dried herbs, a touch of spice in the form of nutmeg and black pepper, touch of leathe. The wine was rather one-dimensional, appeared to not have evolved over its lifetime and perhaps never will. But still quite drinkable and enjoyable, the wine definitely needs the accompaniment of food, maybe a big steak!
1997 Ridge Petite Sirah York Creek USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Had a dark purple core leading into a ruby red rim, was not showing any signs of age. Its fruit aromas and flavors include rich and jammy blackberries, black cherries, ripe blueberries, and black raspberries, a touch of dried herbs and kalamata olive, dark chocolate, purple flowers, tobacco, and vanilla. The wine wine was slightly tight and really not showing any evolution, but it was full-bodied, well-balanced, and had lots of structure. This wine was the favorite in a flight of older zinfandels and petite sirahs.
2005 Turley Petite Syrah Hayne Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
This wine was extremely dark in color – purple opaque core with hues of dark ruby red,. Tasters agreed that this wine's nose and palate showed intense fruit, was big, jammy and fruity. Tasting notes included chocolate covered cherries, black jammed currants, black plum, some leather and coca cola, cigar box and a touch of cedar and vanilla, with spiciness. This big wine that was deemed the “best fruit bomb ever tried”, and a wine that needs food! A big steak! Texas-sized.

Flight 4 - What did Parker Smoke? (actually our title was a bit raunchier) (5 notes)

Robert Parker and Jay Miller have enthused about and scored highly big fruit bombs, from California, Australia, Spain, et al. We wanted to look at some of the better of the Californian big guns to see if the wines merit such high scores. Unfortunately one of our participant donors had an emergency so this lacked a couple of wines (which he was disgusted with) to "flesh this out." Tasters liked the wines we had!!

2002 Vérité La Joie USA, California, Sonoma County
An opaque, mellow, fleshy, dark garnet colored wine. Medium tannins, very little earth. Black fruits, cherry, rose, menthol, old leather and eucalyptus notes were widely noted. Acidic brightness, heat and shortness of finish as well. One taster said: “structure [is] there, but not talking”; another said s/he wouldn’t have picked it out as a Cabernet Sauvignon. “Short for flavors,” said another. This wine and the 2002 “Le Desir” were runners-up for two of our three tasting groups.
2002 Vérité Le Désir USA, California, Sonoma County
More earth and tart red fruit here. Aromas of cedar/eucalyptus, baking spice, red and purple flowers. “Bloody in a good way” said one somme. The fruit is concentrated, the mouthfeel is creamy, but the shortness of finish stood out, just as with the 2002 “La Joie.” Some rim variation noted.
2003 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
Inky in color and candy-like in expression with soft, round tannins. Gushing flavors of plum and ripe, dark fruits, aromas of dill, stewed black fruits and “black jack cake mix.” The division of opinion among the tasters was dramatic. From “Perfect! “ to “gloppy, round and palate coating.” Drew comparisons to Kool Aid and Coca-Cola, but also compliments for balance, finish and yumminess. This wine also sparked a conversation about age-worthiness and alcohol content -- whether high alcohol wines (above 14 degrees) can be expected to age well. The host of the tasting thought the 2003 Paul Hobbs To Kalon had already peaked. Tops in one group, but otherwise not very well liked on this day.
2002 Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
Aromatic, intense, complex. Shows an opaque robe of dark purple. Caramel, tobacco, black fruit, sweet cherries, vanilla, nougat, “raw batter,” dried green herbs/green vegetables/green beans and anise/mint/eucalyptus, with creaminess on the mid-palate and notable sweetness on the finish. Flight favorite of one group, but low rated in two other groups.
2001 Château Montrose France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Clear winner of the flight: tops in one group, second in another. A rich and lively dark red wine with whiffs of the barnyard and the pencil box, dried rose, baking spice and dill/green fern. Austere cassis and dark cherry notes with bright acidity, medium tannins and a tea like finish. A few tasters found it unimpressive for a Ch. Montrose, but others liked it immensely and noted it was out of place with the California fruit-driven cabs. This wine was included in the flight because it sold new for less than the California wines, and seemed (and indeed is) a better value, and had a low Parker score compared to the flight's highly rated Cal cabs.
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Flight 5 - Well-preserved Mummies- Some Older California Cabernets (5 notes)

The older, the better.

1974 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
Brick red/garnet in color with a pale brown rim, odors of mint, old ashtray, leather and grease. Bright acidity, soft tannins. Sweet fruit, balanced flavors, espresso-like intensity. Many tasters thought this wine was “going downhill” but for one tasting group it was the top wine in this flight.
1974 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve USA, California, Napa Valley
Stemmy at first, but opened up nicely. Bracing acidity, tart red fruit with grippy tannins and a soft, slightly floral finish. Aromas of tobacco leaf, dried fruits, pepper and “old service station” . Salon scorecard: Top wine of the flight in one group, second in another.
1978 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate USA, California, Napa Valley
Still vibrant and well-integrated, with some harsh tannins on the finish. Fruit seemed faded to tasters who’ve had this vintage before.... Aromas of dust, dried herbs, milk chocolate and leather. Tops in one tasting group, second in another.
1984 Johnson Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
Nutmeg and cinnamon, graphite, black pepper, dried rosemary, basil and wet diaper. Savory, smoky, slightly gamy mid-palate. Least favorite wine in the flight by a mile.
1986 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Sonoma Mountain USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
A medium bodied, blood red wine with floral (rose, jasmine, lavender),dried spice (nutmeg, basil, rosemary and chives) and cedar notes, a bit of barnyard, firm red fruit (cherry, cranberry, dried strawberry) and a harmonious finish. Second favorite wine of one tasting group for this flight.

Flight 6 - Dominus, Every Four Years (6 notes)

If only elected office was this good.

1983 Dominus Estate USA, California, Napa Valley
A great favorite of several tasters, others thought it had lost some fruit and tannins. Showing medium color intensity with moderate rim variation, this inaugural Dominus still offered a complex noise of current,cherry, cedar, vanilla, wet cement and roses. The palate offered both red and dark berries with pie spice and some noted leather with cedar. Drink now.
1987 Dominus Estate USA, California, Napa Valley
The favorite of the flight, this wine showed dark garnet core fading to a tawny rim. Balanced with ample tannins the bouquet offered green notes of cilantro and light bell pepper with loads of dark and red fruit. Flavors included current, rose petals, violet, cedar, sour cherry, chocolate, and spice. The 1987 is showing very well and may even continue to improve.
1991 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
One taster noted "maybe corked" several others voiced green vegetative nose with ample smoke and bacon. The majority found this wine to be their least favorite and may not have been a perfect example. Since we have had this wine many times and it's one of our favorites, it was likely a flawed bottle.
1995 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
While not the most intensely aromatic of the grouping of Dominus, this dark ruby wine did offer cherry liqueur, baking spice, and anise on the noise. The blend scored high in the flight and tasted of stewed black and red fruit, and chocolate. The abundant tannins and acid remained in balance indicating great potential for longevity.
2000 Dominus Estate USA, California, Napa Valley
The most modern and "Cali" in style, this dark ruby to purple wine nose reveled ripe and rich fruit ,chocolate, baking spice, green pepper, and bright cherry. On the palate tasters note jammy blackberry and cherry pie filling, with licorice and chocolate. Well structured and tannic, showing considerable oak it finished with medium plus length. Note that this was supposed to be a 1999 to keep an every four year theme, but the 99 disappeared so we went to the next millenium here.
2003 Dominus Estate USA, California, Napa Valley
The youngest of the flight scored high for "potential" with some tasters. Showing minimal rim variation this dark ruby wine offered a bouquet of violets, raspberry, cherry, fatty meat, plum, herbs, and chocolate. Tasting of fresh red and black fruit, spice, not much oak treatment was evident. This fairly tight wine possessed firm tannins and medium acidity, but the finish at this time is short.
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