2015 New York Wine Experience Trip

New York City, NY

Tasted October 19, 2015 - October 27, 2015 by La Cave d'Argent with 4,046 views

Introduction

After a fantastic experience in Manhattan last year (https://www.cellartracker.com/event.asp?iEvent=26196&searchId=5BC83277&UISource=list), we decided to reprise the trip at the same time this year. While the main focus of the journey was to again attend the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience, we made sure that we allotted enough time before and after the event to include New York's wonderful restaurants and Broadway plays.

Having attended the New York Wine Experience last year, we realized that staying anywhere other than the Marriott Marquis (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/nycmq-new-york-marriott-marquis) is simply a non-option. While there certainly are more luxurious hotels in this grand city, the Marriott Marquis is where the event is held, and the convenience overwhelms any other factor. Our room this year overlooked Times Square, was comfortable and added a great sense of energy based upon its views (as seen below).

Flight 1 - Monday, October 19, 2015 (Dinner at Aldea: Amuse-Bouche) (0 notes)

Long before embarking our trip, we had made reservations to dine on our first evening at Aledea (31 West 17th Street; http://www.aldearestaurant.com/), the Michelin-starred restaurant of George Mendes. We had met Chef Mendes at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic in June, where he was slicing jamón ibérico de bellota (https://www.cellartracker.com/event.asp?iEvent=28684&searchId=5BC83277&UISource=list). Located in Manhattan's Flatiron neighborhood, it is an intimate, long and narrow, two-floored, Iberian-inspired restaurant with a modern flair. We requested and were granted a table where we could view the active kitchen.





We elected to proceed with the four-course, prix fixe menu, which presented five different options for each course. We were able to try two options from each course by virtue of allowing each other to "sample" our dishes. After starting with a cocktail, we requested that Aldea's sommelier, Doreen Winkler (whom we had also met in Aspen) select a Portuguese red wine. She decanted the 2012 Herdade dos Grous Vinho Regional Alentejano Reserva, which developed nicely over the ensuing two hours. It was a particularly good match with the second and third courses.

Prior to the first course, we were presented with an amuse-bouche of white miso financiers and frozen gin & tonic bites. Both were delicious, with the latter being particularly innovative.

Flight 2 - Monday, October 19, 2015 (Dinner at Aldea: Courses 1 & 2) (0 notes)

For the first course, I ordered charred spanish mackerel with sungold tomato, yuzu kosho and dill. While my wife is not a fan of the inherent oiliness of mackerel, I have always loved the fish (particularly raw as sashimi) and found this dish to be as tasty as it was visually appealing.



My wife chose the Bacalhau à Brás, beautifully executed with Alderfer farms egg and salt cod custard, crispy potatoes and black olives. I must admit that her dish was the star of the first course, even more delectable than my mackerel. She did, however, have an unfair advantage...the addition of "first of the season" white truflles (at a substantial upcharge). The first photo below shows the dish as served, while the second shows the velvety custard lurking beneath the top layer.





For course number two, I chose the smoked oysters and razor clams, served with lentil sprouts, quinoa and vinho verde sauce. As is the case with everything that George Mendes creates, it was stunning to the eye as well as to the palate.



My wife ordered the grilled octopus, served with salvitxada, scallion cooked over embers and molho verde. This was perhaps the most colorful dish of the evening. The octopus was perfectly cooked and the plate's flavors provided an explosive gustatory experience.

Flight 3 - Monday, October 19, 2015 (Dinner at Aldea: Courses 3 & 4) (1 note)

The third course included two creative delights, including my selection of ibérico pork collar with yu choy greens, pine nuts and glazed turnips.



My better half ordered the "fat rice," with duck sausage, morcela, manila clams and squid. This was a playful dish which was packed with an interesting combination of flavors.



For dessert, I elected to go with the matcha cake, with sesame coco rocks, dulcey chantilly and hibiscus. The flavors and textures played very well together.



My wife ordered the caramelized bananas, with banana cake, caramelized peanuts and brown butter ice cream. This was an absolute knockout!

Red
2012 Herdade dos Grous Vinho Regional Alentejano Reserva Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
90 points
An unspecified blend of Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Miúda and Touriga Nacional, this inky, opaque crimson wine was consumed with multiple dishes at a renowned New York Portuguese-themed restaurant. Chosen and decanted by our sommelier, it proved itself to be a worthy companion to the delicious dishes. Very floral on the nose, it is quite possible that a blindfolded taster would confuse this for a fine white wine (if only allowed to sniff). White flowers, lavender, black raspberry, coriander and cardamom adorn the nose and palate. Full-bodied, freshly acidic and without noticeable alcohol (14%), it frames the flavors with medium-weight, supple tannins and gains traction in the middle. Closing medium-to-long, this is yet another underrated performer from Portugal. Drink now-2025.

Flight 4 - Monday, October 19, 2015 (Beer at Lupulo) (0 notes)

While at Aldea, we were informed that Chef Mendes was tending the house at his newest project, Lupulo (835 6th Avenue; http://www.lupulonyc.com). A less formal Portuguese spot for seafood, wood-fired dishes & craft beer in a space with a large central bar, it is located a stone's throw from Aldea on 6th Avenue. On our way back to the hotel, we dropped in to check out the scene and enjoy a craft brew. Despite it being a Monday night, the place was packed and loaded with energy. While there were several craft beer selections on tap, the depth and breadth would not rival any average brew house in San Diego (which is arguably the craft brewing capital of the world). We did not order any food, but the diners seemed to be greatly enjoying the creations of Chef Mendes.



Flight 5 - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 (Breakfast at Norma's) (0 notes)

Jet lagged and tired after a very early morning flight from San Diego to New York, we slept rather late into the morning on our second day. Refreshed but hungry and craving a hearty morning meal, we ventured to a restaurant especially known for its breakfast. Norma’s at the Le Parker Meridian (119 West 56th Street; http://www.parkermeridien.com/eat/normas) is all that it is cracked up to be. Stylish and (yes) expensive, it is worth every penny! While the menu is quite eclectic, it also has the “standard” breakfast items that I personally was craving. My custom-ordered egg white omelet with ham, bell peppers (yellow, orange, red and green) and red onions was massive and superb, served with toasted seven-grain bread and the cottage cheese that I had requested as a substitute for potatoes. My wife ordered huevos rancheros, which was visually impressive and given high praise from a gal who lives in a town where the dish is essentially indigenous. The complimentary strawberry and watermelon smoothies were great, but the French press coffee was just what the doctor ordered!



Flight 6 - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 (A Broadway Play...Then Dinner at Sardi's) (1 note)

Broadway plays are an integral part of any trip to New York. We started this year’s shows with A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (http://www.agentlemansguidebroadway.com). Staged at the Walter Kerr theatre, it was a tremendous production, well-worthy of its 2014 Tony Award for best musical.

After the play, we strolled to Sardi’s (234 West 44th Street; http://www.sardis.com), a New York stalwart. A true throwback, with red booths and caricatures of celebrities lining the walls, it was a fun place to dine. It had a similar vibe to some of the older restaurant haunts in Palm Springs.



I began with French onion soup, which was well-done, albeit not distinctive.



My wife started with a salad of roasted marinated red beets, upland cress, orange, goat cheese and red beet vinaigrette. While visually appealing, it was lacking in flavor and fairly pedestrian.



For my main course, I made a good choice. The skewer of marinated chicken breast served with grilled eggplant, tomato, zucchini, vidalia onions and salsa cruda was delicious. The chicken was plentiful, perfectly moist and the accompaniments were equally tasty.



My wife’s choice of sautéed sea scallops with vegetable risotto, micro greens and shimp sauce was somewhat less impressive than my entrée, but there was no denying that the scallops were fresh and beautifully cooked.



Our choice of wine was the 2010 Clos du Pavillon, which was minimally marked up relative to retail. It paired well with both entrées.

Red
2010 Clos Du Pavillon France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Puisseguin-St. Émilion
88 points
Ordered from a restaurant's wine list, this bottle was essentially "popped and poured" (without decanting), then consumed over the ensuing 1-2 hours. It is a perfect example of how lesser-known Bordeaux wines can shine in a stellar vintage. From a Saint Emilion satellite appellation, this 100% Merlot offering is deep crimson and flaunts a classic nose of kirsch, anise, minerals and lavender. Medium-to-full-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic (despite being listed as 15%) and with medium-weight, sweet tannins, it delivers flavors which mirror the nose. The middle palate stays solid and the smooth finish is medium in length. Soft textures, ripe fruit and good pricing make this wine a very desireable restaurant selection. It should be at its best over the next 5-7 years. Drink now-2022.

Flight 7 - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 (Late-Night Snack) (1 note)

We recall that last year, despite re-setting our watches, we never really did adjust to "eastern time." Somehow, our biological clocks will be forever linked to the Golden State, so we decided not to fight it. Hungry in the late New York hours, we ordered room service hummus (with grilled naan bread, carrots and celery) and sea salt potato chips (with parmesan basil dip). Purchased during the day at a local wine shop on Seventh Avenue, Carnegie Spirits, Ltd., the 2012 Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon was better than anything that could be had on the room service menu at the hotel. That said, Carnegie would otherwise be a wine shop to be avoided, as their prices are grossly inflated in relation to any other reasonable wine retailer.

Red
2012 Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley USA, California, Napa Valley
88 points
Deep ruby and packed with fruit, this blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Syrah, 7% Petite Sirah, 4% Zinfandel and 4% Petit Verdot served as a worthy accompaniment to a late-night snack plate in a New York hotel. Medium-bodied, ripe, round and seamlessly alcoholic (14.4%), it delivers a payload of dark bramble fruits, vanilla and pickling spice on both the nose and palate. The tannins are medium in weight but carry some astringent grip. The oak component is likewise not shy in the middle. Medium in length and a bit dry on the finish, this is a wine which will benefit from short-term cellaring. It may merit a higher score in the future. Drink 2017-2022.

Flight 8 - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 (Museum of Modern Art) (0 notes)

After a light breakfast at the hotel, we strolled Times Square and Rockefeller Center on our way to the Museum of Modern Art, also known as "MoMA" (11 West 53rd Street; http://www.moma.org). For those who have never toured this magnificent museum, it should be on your list of things to see when you visit New York! Those who have already toured MoMA know that hours and hours could be spent without even scratching the surface of all there is to see. Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Dali, Warhol, Chagall, Monet...the list goes on and on. I particularly enjoyed Van Gogh's "Starry Night," as well as the sculptures of Matisse and Picasso, with the latter artist's work augmented by an extensive visiting display.



Don't tell me that I look like this Matisse sculpture...I have arms! ;-)

Flight 9 - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 (Dinner at Taboon) (1 note)

Pre-booked well in advance of our trip, we greatly looked forward to our dining experience at Taboon (773 10th Avenue; http://www.taboononline.com). Describing its cuisine as "Middleterranean," (inspired by the vibrant spices and flavors of the Middle East and the Mediterranean), it is a quaint restaurant located on a corner in the "Hell's Kitchen" area of Manhattan. Our high expectations were greatly exceeded! This cuisine is authentic and fresh, with everything made in-house.

Although Taboon has an eclectic wine list which includes some interesting offerings from Israel, Lebanon and Greece, we elected to bring our own bottle of Burgundy (2009 Domaine Roy Freres Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Le Val) which was purchased the same day at a relatively new wine shop on 46th Street, Wine Wisdom (http://wine-wisdom.com). This moderate-sized, physically attractive shop is a bit overpriced but it appears that they are still in the process of adding inventory, shelving, etc.

We began with the "Taboon Trio," which consisted of hummus, tzaziki and taramosalata paired with focaccia. The focaccia, adorned with rosemary, was superb. The trio of dips was beyond superb...we could not decide which was our favorite.



For the next course, I chose the beet and halumi salad, which also included baby kale, red quinoa, fennel, pink grapefruit, haricot vert, honey-roasted pecans, and nigella seeds with a white balsamic vinaigrette. The explosive flavors and textures were a symphony in the mouth. This dish was an "11" on a scale of 10.



My wife ordered zucchini cakes, made with feta, fresh herbs, lemon and sumac yogurt sauce. These were very tasty, but the grilled outer side of the cakes did not provide enough of a crunch to offset the soft texture of the center.



With the beet and halumi salad being a tough act to follow, I expected the Colorado Brandt beef hanger steak to be a letdown. How wrong I was! Perfectly slow-cooked, perfectly seasoned and perfectly sliced, it allowed the diner to fully enjoy the flavor of this great but "difficult" cut of meat. It was prepared with a garlic, marjoram and pistachio oil marinade and served with shishito peppers, bone marrow, Idaho potatoes, labneh, smoked duck breast crumble and smoked sea salt.



My bride ordered the "Chicken Taboon," organic French-cut breast served with house-made chicken sausage, frikeeh risotto, duck confit roasted carrots, cipollini onions and turnips. This was another rousing success, and was the best companion to the Burgundy.

Red
2009 Domaine Roy Freres Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Le Val France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru
92 points
This light-to-medium red/garnet wine opens within the first 30 minutes to show a beautiful, evolved nose. With a core of red cherry and plum fruit, it offers nuances of cocoa, leather, dry earth and apricot. Medium-bodied and with medium acidity, it presents similar flavors in a supple frame. The tannins have largely resolved at this point and the wine's alcohol (listed as 12.5%) is perfectly integrated. Picking up depth in the middle and closing with good length, this fully mature Burgundy is definitely in its "sweet spot." It should be at its best over the next two years. Drink now-2017.

Flight 10 - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 (Dessert at Taboon...Then a Broadway Play) (0 notes)

Although we are, for the most part, not "dessert people," we did share two different dishes, one of which was very good, the other off the charts. The date sponge cake with Meyer's rum sauce, date and pecan compote, double English cream and a fig reduction was a gorgeous presentation and was also quite delectable.



However, the "silan," a dish which included vanilla ice cream, crisp puffed rice, caramelized pistachios, date honey and shredded halva was one that provided the perfect combination of sweet flavors and a creamy/crunchy tug-of-war. This was nothing short of culinary genius!



In summary, Taboon provided a dining experience which will not be forgotten. We had the opportunity to meet Chef Efraim ("Efi") Nahon and found him to be a very modest man who is clearly passionate about his food. His passion is evident in his dishes and Taboon will be a fixture on our dining itinerary every time we return to New York.

Happy and fully satiated, we were then entertained by a visually spectacular Broadway production, An American in Paris at The Palace Theatre (http://www.anamericaninparisbroadway.com). The singing and dancing were phenomenal and the spacious venue was beautiful.

Flight 11 - Wednesday, October 21, 2015 (Late-Night Snack) (1 note)

Still having difficulty adjusting to Eastern Time, we again stayed up late, watching TV with snacks and a glass of 2012 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Double Lariat, which we purchased at Wine Wisdom the same time as the Domaine Roy Burgundy. This was a fitting end to a glorious day in the Big Apple.

Red
2012 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Double Lariat USA, California, Napa Valley
90 points
Barrel-fermented and barrel-aged, this opaque crimson Cabernet is ripe and richly flavored. Blackberry, cassis and plum are accented with mocha, cedar, vanilla and graphite. Despite the generous oak exposure in vinification, the wood component is complementary rather than dominating. Full-bodied, round, seamlessly alcoholic (14.5%) and with supple tannins, it retains a velvety mouth texture throughout the solid middle palate and lengthy finish. This is luscious archetypal Napa Cabernet that is already so easy to drink. Enjoy it over the next several years. Drink now-2022.

Flight 12 - Thursday, October 22, 2015 (Lunch at Gabriel Kreuther: First Course) (0 notes)

Well-known from his lengthy stints at Atelier and The Modern, Alsatian-born Gabriel Kreuther opened his eponymous restaurant near the Avenue of the Americas in June (41 West 42nd street; http://www.gknyc.com). The attractive restaurant is spacious, contemporary and very comfortable.



From start to finish, the team of professionals handling our table were outstanding. The presentation of dishes was as though choreographed, which is no small feat when certain dishes come to the table under a smoke-filled dome.

The restaurant's wine list, presented on an I-Pad, is extensive. I enlisted the help of our sommelier, José Miguel Burga, deferring to his expertise in selecting something which would pair nicely with the dishes being ordered. He brought us the 2013 Domaine Berthet Bondet Côtes du Jura Trio, a lighter-styled red with excellent acidity and great versatility. It was a worthy partner to all of the food. Of note is that the restaurant's line of stemware (from Lehmann) is equisite. The stems are chosen based upon the wine type, with ours being the beautiful specimen seen below.



We were greeted with sliced Alsatian kugelhopf, a delicious yeast breast made with scallions, herbs and eggs. It was perfectly paired with whipped fromage blanc that elevated the bread's flavor to an even higher level.



As an amuse-bouche, we were served a crunchy-textured saffron cracker with panna cotta, mint and balsamic vinegar (top) and (bottom) watercress foam with toasted walnuts, quince and apple cider. Very creative...and a perfect entry into the culinary world of Chef Kreuther.



For my first course, I chose the langoustine tartare, served with flying fish roe, salty fingers and a cauliflower-macademia purée. I am not sure of the composition of the crunchy thin layer which crowned the tartare, but it was very flavorful and provided a great textural note to the dish.



My wife ordered the sturgeon and sauerkraut tart, served with American caviar mousseline under a dome of applewood smoke. Stunning to look at and even more stunning to eat!

Flight 13 - Thursday, October 23, 2015 (Lunch at Gabriel Kreuther: Second Course and Dessert) (1 note)

For my second course, I went with the Long Island crescent duck, served with spinach "fleischschnecke" and red cabbage. Additonal bites on the plate included foie gras, whirled onion, pomegranate and marcona almonds. This highlighted the creativity of Chef Kreuther and was a symphony of flavors.



My better half chose the mangalitsa lardo poached Maine lobster, served with squid ink gnocchetti, cockle ragout and jamón emulsion. As with all of Chef Kreuther's dishes, it was visually a masterpiece and incredibly appetizing.



Served alongside our second courses was a black and white French baguette, with the whirled black portion attributable to bamboo charcoal. It was delectable and even more so with the koscher butter that it came with.



For dessert, my wife ordered the "fantasy" chocolate kirsch amarena, served with guanaja chantilly, olive oil sponge cake and kirsch sorbet. This was drizzled with additional chocolate at the table. While I did not think that I had room for dessert, this could not be passed up! Fortunately she shared it with me.



Not missing any detail, we were provided with a "parting note" of colorful chocolates and tiny cakes. The presentation here was so innovative. What a way to end a sublime dining experience!

Red
2013 Domaine Berthet Bondet Côtes du Jura Trio France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
89 points
A blend of 50% Trousseau, 30% Poulsard and 20% Pinot Noir, this light ruby-colored wine flaunts up-front juicy cherry and raspberry. With rose petal, tea and earth accents, it stays fresh from start to finish. The alcohol (listed as 12.5%) is a non-factor and the lightweight tannins are soft in texture. Gaining depth in the middle and finishing with medium length, this easy-to-enjoy red would be a perfect companion to most seafood, fowl or pork dishes. Drink now-2018.

Flight 14 - Thursday, October 22, 2015 (Wine Spectator Critics' Choice Grand Tasting #1) (19 notes)

The Grand Tastings for the Wine Spectator event are what can best be described as semi-controlled chaos. For those with full access, the first hour is relatively stress-free. Thereafter, it becomes much more crowded with wine lovers who have elected to purchase tickets only for the particular Grand Tasting. Despite the crowd, this portion of the event is still fun from start to finish. Winery owners, winemakers and "upper level" representatives pour the wines, all of which have been rated 90 or better by the Wine Spectator. Without exception, those pouring the wines are gracious, knowledgeable and indefatigable.

The Grand Tastings encompass two floors. This being our second year at the event, we have a bit of knowledge about the "flow" of things. As such, on this particular night, we restricted ourselves to the 5th floor, with plans of staying on the 6th floor the next night.



Red
2004 Château Lafite Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
90 points
This particular bottling of Lafite is lacking the charm of its better-vintage siblings. Deep-to-opaque ruby/red and flauntiing a base of plentiful black currant fruit, it also delivers tobacco, graphite and anise on both the nose and palate. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic and with well-integrated alcohol, it has good mid-palate density but simply cannot shun the abrasive nature of its substantial tannins. This wine is austere and not particularly enjoyable at this point. Despite the fact that it is young and in need of time in the bottle, I am concerned that the coarse tannins will outlast the fruit. Hopefully I am incorrect and a higher score will be warranted in the future. Drink 2024-2040.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2003 Château Cos d'Estournel France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
97 points
Despite being twelve years of age, this wine is still a youthful opaque crimson/ruby in color. Packed with ripe black currant fruit and supported by aromas and flavors of anise, truffles, crushed rocks and licorice, it delivers its flavor payload in a full-bodied frame that, especially considering the vintage, has amazingly good acidity. The tannins are ample yet very refined, and the alcohol is beautifully integrated. Building in the middle and very long on the finish, this is nothing short of astonishing to a Bordeaux-lover. It is especially impressive to know that this wine is still on its "ascending slope." Drink 2023-2045.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2005 Château Pontet-Canet France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
96 points
Now ten years old, this wine still has a saturated, opaque crimson/ruby color. Ripe black currant, blackberry, kirsch and crushed rock aromas are followed by a full-bodied palate, with similar black fruit flavors which are flanked by smoke, graphite and allspice. Fresh, seamlessly alcoholic and gushing with sweet tannins, it builds in the middle and closes with a lengthy, albeit tannic finish. This gorgeous wine is nowhere near plateau. Patience will be rewarded here! Drink 2020-2050.
6 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2005 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
93 points
This deep ruby wine (a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot) favors elegance over power. While not as extracted as many other offerings from this vintage, it flaunts an intoxicating floral bouquet which is backed up with black currant fruit, fig, minerals, tobacco and allspice. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with medium-weight, sweet tannins, it stays solid in the middle and closes very long. Do not understimate this wine in the context of the vintage. While more feminine than most other classified growths, this is well structured and should provide pleasure for another 20 years. Drink now-2035.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2005 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
96 points
Youthful and structured, this opaque ruby wine delivers aromas and flavors of cassis, pencil shavings, licorice, cedar, crushed rocks and damp earth. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with substantial ripe tannins, it gains traction in the middle and shows impressive persistence on the finish. Although hard to believe, this is going to get better! Drink 2020-2040.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Château Lynch-Bages France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
96 points
Sporting a youthful, opaque crimson color, this wine is packed with ripe black fruit, minerals, licorice, allspice and graphite. Full-bodied, fresh and seamlessly alcoholic, it wraps its flavors with substantial sweet tannins. Gaining depth in the middle and closing very long, it is nothing less than quintessential Lynch! Be patient, as it will require time in the cellar. Drink 2025-2045.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Château Nenin France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
92 points
A blend of 82% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc, this deep ruby wine is already showing beautifully. Black currants, Bing cherries, lavender, espresso and vanilla adorn both the nose and palate. Medium-to-full-bodied, seamlessly alcoholic and with low-to-medium acidity, it glides on the palate. The tannins are there, but they are very fine-grained. Solid in the middle and closing medium-to-long, this silky-textured wine is a joy to drink! Enjoy it over the next 15 years or so. Drink now-2030.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2009 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
97 points
A blend of 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, this opaque ruby, massively-extracted wine is already approaching its drinking window by virtue of its relatively low acidity and supple (albeit substantial) tannins. Full-bodied, round, seamlessly alcoholic (14%) and packed with black currants, smoke, fig, licorice and dried herbs, it has excellent mid-palate density and finishes very long. While I would recommend a bit more cellaring, those holding bottles of this gem should be happy well into the 2030s. Drink 2018-2035.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon T6 Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
96 points
For those who enjoy a refined version of a "fruit bomb," this opaque crimson, massively-extracted, 100% Cabernet (aged for 20 months in new French oak) is just what the doctor ordered. Black currants, blackberries, dark plum, vanilla and pickling spice reside in a full-bodied, round, seamlessly alcoholic frame. This wine has perhaps the most impressive mid-palate presense of any that I have tasted, and the oak is fully integrated. Long, smooth and fruit-laden on the finish, this is classic-quality Cabernet from the Golden State. It is already drinkable and should be hedonistic for at least another 15 years. Drink now-2030.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
93 points
A blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot, this opaque crimson wine is very impressive, especially considering the vintage. Intense black currant, graphite, espresso and spice box aromas are followed by similar flavors on a full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (13%) frame. The wine's substantial tannins are surprisingly ripe. With traction in the middle and good length on the back end, this is undoutedly one of the overachievers of the 2012 vintage. Drink 2020-2035.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Coliseum Block USA, California, Napa Valley
96 points
Heavily-extracted, opaque crimson and exuding ripe black fruit, this is quintessential hedonistic Napa Cabernet. The fruit is accented with pickling spice, vanilla, dark chocolate, pencil shavings and espresso. Full-bodied yet not overbearing, it supports its ripe flavors with low-to-medium acidity and big sweet tannins. The alcohol (14.8%) is nicely integrated, as is the wine's oak. With impressive mid-palate density and a very long, smooth finish, it can best be described as "delicious." No one will ever confuse this with Bordeaux, but vive la différence! Drink 2017-2032.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
93 points
Floral and blue fruit elements permeate the nose and palate of this deep ruby, full-bodied red. Supported by fresh acidity, seamless alcohol and medium-weight, sweet tannins, the fruit and flowers are accented with melted licorice, coriander and dried herbs. Layered and solid in the middle, it concludes with a lengthy, structured finish. Many great Châteauneuf offerings will drink well for the first 2-3 years of their life, go dormant, then re-emerge after 7-10 years. I suspect that this will be one of them. That said, my drinking window will begin immediately. Drink now-2030.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Domaine Saint Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve Auguste Favier France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
92 points
This deep ruby wine offers ripe blueberry and bramble fruits on both the nose and palate, accented with floral, licorice and mineral components. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic and with medium-weight, silky tannins, it has nicely integrated alcohol and soft oak. The middle palate shows excellent concentration and the finish is medium-to-long. Drinkable now, this Châteauneuf should show nicely for a decade or more. Drink now-2025.
Red
2013 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
91 points
This medium ruby wine (a blend of 65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault) is quite perfumed on the nose, flaunting red bramble fruit, garrigue, tobacco and licorice aromas. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic and with medium-weight tannins, it delivers flavors in line with the aromas and shows no alcoholic heat. The middle is solid and the finish is medium-to-long, albeit with some tannic grip. Short-term cellaring should be beneficial. Drink 2018-2028.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Pio Cesare Barolo Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
93 points
Last tasted a year ago, my independent impressions of this wine are virtually unchanged. Deep ruby in color, it is deftly balanced, offering aromas and flavors of red currants, sandalwood, spice box, earth and pipe tobacco. Vibrant and harmonious on the palate, it supports its flavors with substantial fine-grained tannins and seamless alcohol. Showing excellent mid-palate density, the wine closes with a lengthy, albeit tart finish. As good as it is now, this will get even better with some time in the cellar. Drink 2020-2040.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2006 Château La Mission Haut-Brion France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
91 points
Deep-to-opaque ruby/red, this iteration of La Mission Haut-Brion, at this particular stage, is monolithic and has probably shut down. To be sure, there are aromas and flavors of black fruit, minerals, anise and tobacco, but they are overwhelmed by the wine's massive tannins. Freshly acidic and without alcoholic heat, there is solidity in the middle. The wine closes long but quite astringent. To my palate, this is "austerity" that would make the Grecian people feel lucky. It should substantially improve with time in the cellar, but I wonder if the fruit will be able to outlast the tannins. Drink 2025-2040.
Red
2006 Château Haut-Brion France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
94 points
Deep ruby and packed with black currant fruit, graphite, anise, smoke and tar, this full-bodied wine (a blend of 57% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc) is much more elegant and approachable in this vintage than its nextdoor neighbor, Château La Mission Haut-Brion. Fresh acidity, seamless alcohol and big fine-grained tannins all work in unison to make this wine "sing" in the middle and on the lengthy finish. Although it is still somewhat tight, another 5-7 years of cellaring should lead it into a beautiful plateau. Drink 2020-2040.
1 person found this helpful Comments (1)
Red
2010 Château La Fleur-Pétrus France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
98 points
After the first sniff and sip of this wine, I knew that I was tasting something very special. Deep ruby and highy aromatic, it has an intoxicating nose. Cherry, lavender, red currant, violet, truffle and lead pencil aromas are followed by similar flavors on a full-bodied palate. With medium acidity, unnoticeable alcohol and substantial silky tannins, it offers soft textures and excellent mid-palate density. Very long and smooth on the finish, this is a hedonistic but structured wine. It will indeed get even better if you have the patience! Drink 2020-2040.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2009 Château Giscours France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
93 points
A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, this deep-to-opaque ruby wine serves up aromas and flavors of cassis, dark plums, pipe tobacco, allspice and loamy earth. Full-bodied and seamlessly alcoholic, it delivers flavors which mirror the nose. By virtue of its low acidity and medium-weight, fine-grained tannins, it retains a velvety mouth texture which persists through the middle palate and lengthy finish. Nicely balanced and packed with fruit, this is already drinking well. Enjoy it over the next two decades. Drink now-2035.
6 people found this helpful Comments (1)

Flight 15 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: Introductory Comments) (0 notes)

The Friday morning seminar session began with a short welcoming speech from Marvin Shanken, Wine Spectator Editor and Publisher. He seemed genuinely excited about the program, especially in anticipation of Huey Lewis and the News as the entertainment at the Grand Award Banquet. In fact, he played a passage of "Power of Love" on his I-Phone, which was piped through the room's sound system.





Flight 16 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: France's Burgundy) (4 notes)

The first seminar of the morning was a structured tasting of four red Burgundy offerings from the 2012 vintage. After being introduced by Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator Senior Editor, the domaine owners discussed their wines in the context of the challenging (but overall successful) vintage. Included were Gilles de Courcel (Domaine de Courcel), Nathalie Tollot (Domaine Tollot-Beaut), Etiene Grivot (Domaine Jean Grivot) and Pierre Gelin (Domaine Pierre Gelin). The discussion was engaging and the wines were delicious.

Red
2012 Domaine de Courcel Pommard 1er Cru Grand Clos des Épenots France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard 1er Cru
91 points
This medium ruby-colored wine is highly perfumed, with mandarin orange, lavender, raspberry, green olive and black cherry aromas. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic and with medium-weight, edgy tannins, it delivers flavors mirroring the nose. The oak and alcohol are nicely integrated and the middle palate is solid. Long but slightly astringent on the finish, this beautiful Burgundy is simply in need of more cellar time. It may ultimately merit a higher score. Drink 2018-2025.
Red
2012 Domaine Tollot-Beaut Corton-Bressandes France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton Grand Cru
93 points
Intense aromas of rose petals, raspberry, cherry and cocoa are front and center on this medium ruby-colored wine. Medium-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic and with medium-weight tannins, it delivers flavors mirroring the nose, accented by just the right amount of oak. Gaining traction in the middle, it closes long and with some tannic grip. As elegant and beautiful as this is right now, there is no doubt that patience will be rewarded. Drink 2018-2027.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Domaine Jean Grivot Clos Vougeot France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
95 points
This deep ruby wine is effusive and intoxicating on the nose, with aromas of black cherry, lavender, sandalwood, cola and smoke. Medium-to-full-bodied for a Pinot, it delivers comparable flavors in a frame of fresh acidity, substantial silky tannins, unnoticeable alcohol and nicely integrated oak. Structured and racy, it shows excellent mid-palate density and closes with an expansive finish. This muscular young Burgundy will require some cellar time to fulfill its undeniable potential. Drink 2020-2032.
Red
2012 Domaine Pierre Gelin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
95 points
Rich and lush, this medium-to-deep ruby wine is packed with black and red fruit, accented by cocoa, coriander, clove and candied red apple. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with deceivingly big tannins, it gains depth and complexity in the middle. The finish is long and carries some tannic grip. This sturdy Pinot is of stellar quality, but patience will be necessary. Drink 2020-2032.

Flight 17 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: Wine Star #1; Angelo and Gaia Gaja) (1 note)

Having a daughter of my own, I found this session to be particularly uplifiting. Gaia Gaja is a lovely, competent "woman's woman" and her dad knows it. Angelo spoke about his concerns regarding climate change, while Gaia, providing a fresh and optimistic perspective, talked about the "upside" of warmer temperatures. It was refreshing to hear her speak about the adjustments that can make lemonade out of lemons (as it pertains to global warming). Where Angelo and Gaia are on the same page is their reluctance to embrace communism. Angelo related an interesting story as it pertains to California worms that they import to use in their compost. The communists of the local government don't like the fact that they are importing anything from the great Satan of capitalism (the United States). Angelo assauged the situation by informing them that he had tried to import Russian worms, but they were unavailable. He jokingly added that the communists were also comforted by knowing that the worms from California were "red" in color.

Red
2010 Pieve Santa Restituta (Gaja) Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
97 points
This medium ruby/red wine is effusive of spice-laced plum, pipe tobacco, earth and sage. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with firm tannins, it stays solid in the middle and closes with a long finish that flexes tannic muscle. There is no doubt about the greatness of this young wine, but it will require patience. Drink 2020-2035.
2 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 18 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: Italy's Barolo) (4 notes)

This session, moderated by Bruce Sanderson, involved a presentation and discussion of four 2010 Barolos from four top producers. These included Pietro Ratti (Renato Ratti), Elisa Scavino (Paolo Scavino), Franco Conterno (Aldo Conterno) and Franco Massolino (Massolino). Each gave an informative talk about the soil, climate and vinification techniques which led to these ultimate gorgeous bottlings.

Red
2010 Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
97 points
Deep ruby/red, intensely aromatic and seductive from the get-go, this is classic in quality from start to finish. Tasted alongside three other stellar Barolo offerings from the same vintage, it was the star of the show. Dark bramble fruits, licorice, plum, coriander, tobacco and cocoa reside in a full-bodied, fresh frame with big silky tannins. With beautiful purity of fruit and impressive mid-palate density, it closes with a finish that seems to last forever. Those who are lucky enough to have this gem in the cellar will be surprised how well it is already drinking. While it will likely get even better, I would be remiss if I said that its drinking window has not yet been entered. Drink now-2035.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
96 points
Licorice, chocolate-covered cherries, lavender and leather are front and center on this deep ruby/red wine. Full-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic and with big fine-grained tannins, it stays solid in the middle and has oak which is so beautifully integrated. Building in the middle, it closes long but flexes some tannic grip. There is no denying the greatness of this one, but it will require some additional cellar time to fully strut its stuff. Drink 2020-2035.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
95 points
This plush, deep ruby, extracted wine is packed with red currant and raspberry fruit, accented with dark chocolate, tobacco, coriander and earth. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with firm tannins, it gains depth and complexity in the middle. The oak and alcohol are beautifully integrated and the finish is long, albeit with substantial tannic grip. Additional cellaring will pay dividends with this one. Drink 2020-2040.
Red
2010 Massolino Barolo Margheria Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
96 points
Violets and lavender come front and center on this deep ruby wine’s intense, floral nose. Plum, black cherry and iron fill out the aroma and flavor profile. Freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and firmly tannic, it gains traction in the middle. The finish is long, adding nuances of cinnamon and cocoa. This structured beauty will require time in the cellar in order to fully strut its stuff, but there is no denying its potential. Drink 2020-2040.
2 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 19 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: Wine Star #2; H. William Harlan) (1 note)

For any oenophile, the name "Harlan" conjures up a special image. Known for superb (albeit expensive) wines in his portfolio (Harlan Estate, Bond and Promontory), not much is actually known about the man himself. While the article by Kim Marcus in the November 15, 2015 issue of the Wine Spectator was extremely enlightening, frosting on the cake was to actually hear Bill Harlan speak. Although clearly a private man who does not interact much with the media, he is an excellent speaker and is obviously very intelligent. I particularly enjoyed the description of his relationship with Robert Mondavi, and how Robert shaped his vision in the wine world. Even more special was his discussion of the "succession plan" for Harlan. It is very clear that Bill Harlan is a man who wants his wine legacy to continue with the production of the highest quality wines from a family-owned winery. Bill's children, Will (28) and Amanda (24) are poised to take over the operation when the time comes. They will likely be at the helm with Harlan's next winemaker, Cory Empting, who has worked under Bob Levy and will hopefully have same 30+ year career with Harlan Estate.

Parenthetically, I was able to meet and chat with Will Harlan at the Critics' Choice Grand Tasting (#2), and found him to be an intelligent, articulate young man. He and his sister are a bit older than my son and daughter, but I could clearly relate with Will's dad about the importance of a "succession plan."

Red
2012 Harlan Estate USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
96 points
This opaque crimson, massively extracted wine offers aromas and flavors of ripe black currants, plum, dark chocolate, espresso, anise and vanilla bean. Full-bodied and with low acidity, it has a silky mouth texture despite its substantial fine-grained tannins. The oak and alcohol are beautifully integrated and the mid-palate is dense. Very long and smooth on the finish, there is no doubt about the classic quality of this hedonistic Cabernet. As good as this is now, it should get even better with cellaring. Drink 2020-2035.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 20 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: Spain's Vega Sicilia) (6 notes)

With an introduction from Thomas Matthews, Pablo Álvarez gave an interesting talk about the history of Vega Sicilia, its vineyards, vinification techniques and vintage characteristics. A very humble man, he was clearly uncomfortable with all of the praise heaped upon him. I had the opportunity to meet him later at the Critics’ Choice Grand Tasting (#2), and found him to be a genuinely nice man, quite shy and unassuming.



Red
2012 Bodegas y Viñedos Alión Ribera del Duero Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
91 points
This opaque crimson, full-bodied, muscular wine flaunts gorgeous black fruit, anise, tar, iron and tobacco on both the nose and palate. With fresh acidity, seamless alcohol and substantial fine-grained tannins, it is a seriously structured effort. Showing significant mid-palate density and closing with lengthy tannic grip, it will benefit from some time in the cellar. Drink 2018-2027.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Valbuena 5° Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
92 points
Deep ruby in color, this wine offers intense aromas of black currants, earth-laced plum, licorice and allspice. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with ample sweet tannins, it delivers flavors mirroring the nose, adding a component of cocoa. Picking up weight in the middle and closing long, this is already drinkable despite its substantial structure. Drink now-2025.
5 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
2007 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
96 points
This opaque ruby wine offers an elegant, perfumed expression of black currants, black cherry, minerals, lavender and cocoa. Full-bodied and with good acidity, it wraps similar flavors with big sweet tannins and just the right amount of oak. There is no alcoholic heat and the wine adds depth in the middle. Finishing very long and quite smooth, this is already a joy to drink. It has the structure to remain luscious for another 15 years or more. Drink now-2030.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2002 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
94 points
Now 13 years of age, this opaque red wine retains a youthful character. Red currants, plum, iron, chocolate and coriander aromas are follow by a similar flavor profile. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic, firmly tannic and with nicely integrated oak, it is beautifully layered in the middle and closes with impressive length. This is likely just entering its drinking window and should provide pleasure for many years to come. Drink now-2030.
4 people found this helpful Comments (3)
Red
1996 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
94 points
Showing complex aromas and flavors as a result of its near two-decade life, this deep red/garnet wine flaunts leather, plum, red currants, cigar box, pickling spice and dried herbss on both the nose and palate. Medium-to-full-bodied and with good acidity, it retains a core of medium-weight, sweet tannins. With excellent mid-palate density and a very long finish, this mature wine will easily last another decade or more. Drink now-2025.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
1981 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
92 points
Deep garnet and fully mature, this wine offers a nucleus of earth-laced plum, surrounded by tertiary aromas of leather, pipe tobacco, cardamom and orange zest. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with soft residual tannins, it is layered in the middle and closes with a lengthy, smooth finish. Fully mature and delicious, this should hold up well for another 3-5 years (or more). Drink now-2020.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 21 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Wines of Argentina Luncheon) (7 notes)

Following the morning seminars was a wonderful luncheon which was sponsored by Wines of Argentina. Each table had thirteen different wines. I think that I did well by being able to sample seven of them. I would have loved to have tried them all, but there was simply not enough time. Those that I did taste were quite good, and paired nicely with the three-course meal.

The first course was a plate of shaved young vegetables, with bitter greens, gorgonzola whip, black currants and licorice honey.



The next dish consisted of pan-seared chicken breast, served with sautéed kale, sweet potato purée, peppered bacon and apple-cranberry chutney.



For dessert we were served a fresh fig and espresso fruit "pizza," which was creative and delicious.

Red
2011 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Finca Mirador Argentina, Mendoza
93 points
This dense, opaque crimson wine is packed with dark bramble fruits, smoky chocolate, tobacco and earth-laced plum. Masculine, fresh, and firmly tannic, it is layered in the middle and shows no alcoholic heat. Long and mouth-puckering on the finish, this is a bruiser destined for greatness, but it will require some patience. Drink 2018-2028.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Valentin Bianchi Enzo Bianchi Argentina, Mendoza, San Rafael
91 points
This inky blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, 4% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot was aged for 12 months in new oak (90% French, 10% American). It flaunts aromas and flavors of ripe black plum, blackberries, Asian spices and dried herbs. Full-bodied and fresh, it delivers flavors which mirror the nose, wrapping them with firm tannins. The alcohol (listed as 14.1%) and oak are well-integrated and the wine shows great mid-palate density. Closing with a lengthy chocolate-tinged finish, this is an excellent Bordeaux-style red that will clearly improve with time in the cellar. Drink 2018-2025.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon Argentina, Mendoza
88 points
Red currants, cherries, Asian spices and dried herbs are found on the nose and palate of this deep ruby, medium-bodied wine. With low-to-medium acidity, seamless alcohol (14.0%) and medium sweet tannins, it retains a silky mouth texture throughout the middle palate and closes with medium length. This round, inviting Cabernet is already drinking well and is a typical "crowd-pleaser." Enjoy it over the next 4-5 years. Drink now-2015.
Red
2012 Finca Decero Cabernet Sauvignon Remolinos Vineyard Argentina, Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo, Agrelo
89 points
This opaque crimson wine is redolent of blackberries, black currants, licorice and crushed rocks. Full-bodied, heavily-extracted, freshly acidic and with big sweet tannins, it stays solid in the middle and shows no heat from its reported 14.5% alcohol. The finish is medium in length and carries some tannic grip. Short-term cellaring will likely be beneficial. Drink 2017-2024.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Michel Torino / Bodega El Esteco Chañar Punco Argentina, Salta, Calchaquies
91 points
This limited cuvée is a blend of 84% Cabenet Sauvignon and 16% Malbec from high-altitude vineyards in the Chañar Punco subregion of the Calchaquí Valley. Aged for 18 months in new French oak, it is a full-bodied, inky wine effusive of dark chocolate, cassis, black cherries, graphite and licorice on both the nose and palate. Freshly acidic and with nicely integrated alcohol (listed as 15%), it flashes some creamy oak on the mid-palate, but the oak serves as an accent and is not excessive. Plump in the middle and flexing some tannic muscle, it subsequently closes with good length. This well-made wine will benefit from cellaring. Drink 2018-2028.
Red
2013 Chakana Malbec Ayni Argentina, Mendoza
86 points
This opaque crimson wine is a ripe, round "fruit bomb." Blackberries, black cherries, vanilla bean and espresso are front-and-center on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied and with low acidity, it wraps the fruit with big sweet tannins. Unfortunately, what would otherwise be a likeable, round wine is marred by heat from its reported 15% alcohol, as well as by a touch of volatile acidity (despite an appropriately cool serving temperature). The finish is medium in length but likewise heat-laden. While this wine will have its fans, for me it is over-the-top. Drink now-2020.
Red
2012 Pascual Toso Magdalena Toso Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon Argentina, Mendoza
92 points
The 2012 Magdalena is a limited (32 barrel) selection by Paul Hobbs. A blend of 73% Malbec and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is vinified in an international style. Opaque crimson in color, it offers rich black currant fruit, Asian spices, vanilla bean and dark chocolate on a full-bodied frame. With low-to-medium acidity, complementary oak, nicely integrated alcohol (14%) and big silky tannins, it has excellent mid-palate density and finishes very long. This wine will have many fans by virtue of its beautiful fruit and soft textures...I am one of them! Drink now-2025.

Flight 22 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Afternoon Session: Top Wines of 2014, Part 1) (5 notes)

Friday's afternoon session began with the first five wines in the countdown of Wine Spectator's top ten wines of the the year. Wines #10 through #6 were serially discussed by the winemakers, all of whom were very enthusiastic and engaged. Participants included Pierre Graffeuille (Château Léoville Las Cases), Isabel Guilisasti (Concha y Toro), Greg Brewer (Brewer-Clifton), Vincent Avril (Clos des Papes) and Marco Pallanti (Castello di Ama).

Particularly memorable for me was Isabel Guilisasti emphatically describing the 2010 Don Melchor as being the best that Concha y Toro has ever made (which says a lot about that particular bottling, considering the stellar record of Don Melchor). Also memorable was Greg Brewer's talk about how he rose from a latchkey kid in L.A. to a successful winery owner. Paul Avril appeared to be a little sensitive about criticism that his wines have received regarding their ripeness. However, he showed his sense of humor when he described (with a giggle) the sorting table as being where the "best, not necessarily the ripest" grapes are selected.

Red
2011 Château Léoville Las Cases France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
93 points
A blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc, this opaque ruby wine is built for the long haul. Black currants, graphite, iron, anise and tobacco are supported by fresh acidity, seamless alcohol (13.4%) and substantial fine-grained tannins. With mouth-coating density that builds in the middle, it finishes long and with significant tannic grip. Extended cellaring will be necessary, but there is no denying that this is a standout for the 2011 vintage. Drink 2022-2040.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto
93 points
A deep ruby blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc, the 2010 Don Melchor offers black currant fruit, crushed rocks, dark chocolate, anise and allspice on the nose and palate. Freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (14.6%) and sporting substantial firm tannins, it gains weight in the middle and finishes long. This wine's tannins have become a bit more tame since my last tasting 10/17/2014. Isabel Guilisasti describes the 2010 as "the best Don Melchor ever made." Drink 2018-2035.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
93 points
This medium ruby, elegant Pinot is highly aromatic, with an intoxicating nose of oregano, cherry, cola, cocoa and lavender. Medium-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic (14.5%) and with medium sweet tannins, it delivers flavors which mirror the nose and adds weight in the middle. Long and crisp on the finish, this is a nicely structured wine which should show well for several more years. Drink now-2022.
Red
2012 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
97 points
Per Paul Avril, vintage conditions required that the 2012 Clos des Papes contain a higher percentage of Mourvèdre than usual. This deep ruby blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah (with the balance being made up by other allowed varieties) accordingly shows more earth and graphite than most other iterations. Packed with ripe plum, blackberries, garrigue and Asian spices, it is a full-bodied, freshly acidic, moderately tannic wine which somehow avoids any heat from its 15.7% alcohol. With amazing mid-palate density and a very long finish, it is clearly classic in quality. Drink now-2030.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Lorenzo Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
94 points
This deep ruby/red wine is composed of 80% Sangiovese, with the remainder being made up by Merlot and Malvasia Nera. Bright cherry and earth-laced plum aromas are accented with rose petals, cedar and cocoa. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with medium dry tannins, it gains traction in the middle and ends with a long, albeit slightly astringent finish. A bit of cellaring should help this outstanding wine buff its rough edges. Drink 2017-2025.
3 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 23 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Afternoon Session: Wine Star #3; Jean Engelbrecht) (1 note)

I particularly enjoyed the talk by Jean Engelbrecht of South Africa's Rust en Vrede. An excellent speaker, he exuded humility wrapped in humor. Jean immediately disarmed the crowd by saying "when I saw the list of wines and vintners being presented here, my name was the only one that I had never heard of." After the laughter died down, he proceeded to express his gratitude to the United States government and to the American people for allowing the South African wine industry to penetrate our market following the end of apartheid in 1994. More importantly, he thanked us for giving their industry a "second chance" after some early stumbles. His sincerity and warmth were undeniably genuine.

Maybe I'm just getting old, or maybe I have just seen too many conceited entertainers and athletes in the media. It was refreshing to see Jean Engelbrecht, an undeniable legend (and pioneer) in the world of wine, comport himself in such a manner. It is exactly what I have tried to instill in my two children.

Red
2007 Rust en Vrede 1694 Classification South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
94 points
A blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, this opaque ruby wine offers ripe black cherry, smoked meat, espresso, fig and tobacco aromas. On the palate, it is full-bodied, freshly acidic, has medium sweet tannins and delivers flavors which mirror the nose. Exhibiting excellent mid-palate density and a lengthy smooth finish, this is nothing short of outstanding. Drink now-2025.

Flight 24 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Afternoon Session: Australia's Penfolds) (7 notes)

Introduced by Harvey Steiman, a wine critic for whom I have the greatest respect, was Peter Gago, an equally respected man in his own right. Gago is the chief winemaker for Penfolds, a brand owned by a large conglomerate (Treasury Wine Estates) that can somehow maintain a portfolio of wine properties that do not seem to suffer from "the suits." Gago's voice pitch and accent are intoxicating. After his talk, I told him that he should do Hollywood voiceovers, which gave him a chuckle. I doubt that there is currently a man who knows more about the Penfolds estates.

Red
2010 Penfolds Shiraz St. Henri Australia, South Australia
94 points
With tremendous purity of fruit, this opaque ruby wine offers black currants, citrus, blueberry, anise and earth on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied, freshly acidic and with nicely integrated alcohol, it is round and luscious in the middle. The tannins are substantial but very fine-grained. This wine sees virtually no new oak; it is aged only in multi-year oak foudres. As such, while there is a whiff of oak, the oak has no more influence than the spray of vermouth on a dry martini. Solid and dense in the middle, this delightful Shiraz (which also contains some Cabernet Sauvignon) concludes with a very long, smooth finish. Brilliance here! Enjoy this over the next 15+ years. Drink now-2030.
4 people found this helpful Comments (5)
Red
2004 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Kalimna Block 42 Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
96 points
Opaque red/garnet in color, this is a truly exceptional wine that offers assorted black fruits, smoked meat, pickling spice, sage, leather and pipe tobacco on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied, round, and with nicely integrated alcohol, it has a soft mouth texture as a result of its silky, medium-weight tannins. Aged in 100% new American oak, one cannot deny the eucalyptus component...but it goes so well! Plump in the middle and long in the finish, this is classic in quality and will have substantial longevity. Drink now-2030.
Red
2010 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707 Australia, South Australia
97 points
A blend from old vineyards in Coonawarra and Barossa (including the Kalimna vineyard), this deep ruby bottling carries on the Penfolds 707 "house style." It is a deeply extracted wine which flaunts aromas and flavors of black bramble fruits, boysenberries, espresso, pickling spice and lavender. With fresh acidity, big sweet tannins and nicely integrated alcohol, it sings on the mid-palate and seems to last forever on the iron-laden finish. This is simply stunning Cabernet that will have significant longevity. Drink now-2030.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
1990 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
97 points
This deep red wine (a blend of 95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) is amazingly youthful. Plum, blackberry and blueberry scents are accented by the more evolved aromas of leather, cigar box and citrus peel. Medium-to-full-bodied and crisply acidic, it has soft residual tannins and shows not the slightest hint of alcoholic heat. Solid in the middle and very long on the finish, this is a wine that, if tasted blind, I would have guessed to be 15 years its junior. Absolutely stunning! Drink now-2025.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2008 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
99 points
So close to perfection, this Shiraz (which contains a 2% dollop of Cabernet) is an intriguing mixture of black and red fruit, accented by chocolate-covered cherries, loamy earth, pickling spice, sage and mint. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with big sweet tannins, it has great mid-palate density and seems to linger forever on the back end. This should be ranked with the best wines ever made. Drink now-2040.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
97 points
Youthful and fruit-laden, there is no denying that this opaque crimson iteration of Grange is destined for greatness. A blend of 96% Shiraz and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is lush with black bramble fruits, dark chocolate, charcoal, espresso and lavender. Full-bodied, fresh and with nicely-integrated alcohol, it weaves sweet tannins into the fruit profile and is plump on the mid-palate. Albeit a bit dry, the finish lingers nicely. Gorgeous and potentially warranting an even higher score, this one is simply in need of more time in the cellar. Drink 2020-2040.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red - Fortified
N.V. Penfolds 50 Year Old Rare Tawny Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
100 points
Having the opportunity to taste this extremely low-production wine was exciting in and of itself. I knew that it would be good, but had no idea that it was perfection in a glass! A blend which includes (but is not limited to) Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cabernet from a solera that began in 1915, it is a nectar of the gods! Sweetness balanced with beautiful acidity, it delivers honey, peach, chocolate, spumoni, maple syrup and apricot, all of which linger on and on. Just transcribing this from my handwritten note five days ago conjures up the intoxicating aromas and flavors of this gorgeous wine. This is truly one of the greatest sweet wines ever produced. Drink now-2050.

Flight 25 - Friday, October 23, 2015 (Wine Spectator Critics' Choice Grand Tasting #2) (30 notes)

Adhering to our "game plan," we confined ourselves to the sixth floor on this evening. While each floor offered a beautiful spread of food to enjoy, on the 6th floor it was actually located on the stage area inside the ballroom where the wineries were pouring. As such, it was a bit easier to "nibble" as we went along.

It should be noted that, while all wines poured during seminars are screened by a team of esteemed sommeliers, the wines at the Grand Tastings are only screened by the server. Aeration times can also vary, depending on the activity at the table and how many additional bottles have to be opened during the session itself. The servers can get very busy during this event and, though not common, it is possible for a particular bottle to not show well. I found this to be the case with the 2006 Château Calon-Ségur. Given the track record of the 2006 iteration of Calon-Ségur, I suspected that my sample perhaps came from a bottle that was flawed or simply did not receive enough aeration. As such, I did not feel that it would be fair for me to give it a rating. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to go back to the table for a taste from a different bottle.





Pablo Álvarez (Vega-Sicilia)



Dave Roberts (Red Stitch)



Andrew Vingiello (A.P. Vin)

At last year's event, Andrew Vingiello's wife, Brenda, was pregnant. She delivered their daughter, Genevieve shortly thereafter. Andrew is a now a "seasoned" daddy who (like me as it relates to my daughter) is smitten with his girl. The photos confirmed that Genevieve is indeed a little doll!

Red
2004 Château Margaux France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
94 points
Much more refined and elegant than the 2004 Lafite, the 2004 Margaux has an enticing nose of black cherry, tobacco leaf, truffle, black tea and ganache. Deep ruby/red, it is a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with ample but very supple tannins, it delivers flavors mirroring the nose and steadily picks up weight on the mid-palate. The mouth texture stays silky until the conclusion of the lengthy finish, at which point the tannins remind the taster of their presence. While drinkable now, it should get better with a few more years of cellaring. Drink 2018-2030.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2005 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
97 points
Still opaque ruby in color, this 10-year-old wine retains its youthful baby fat. Packed with black currants, kirsch, licorice, vanilla and loamy earth on both the nose and palate, it is a full-bodied bruiser with fresh acidity, seamless alcohol and big sweet tannins. Although this vintage of Hillside Select was aged for more than 30 months in new French oak, the oak is nicely integrated and completely harmonious with the wine's other components. There is impressive mid-palate density here, leading to a lengthy, mouth-coating finish. While I would not hesitate to open a bottle now if you have several, I would otherwise give it some additional time in the cellar. It's hard to believe that it can get even better, but I suspect that it will. Drink 2018-2035.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Château Figeac France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
94 points
A deep-to-opaque ruby blend of 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, this youthful wine serves up aromas of cassis, plum, anise, and fig. Full-bodied, freshly acidic and with firm tannins, it delivers a flavor payload which mirrors the nose but also adds a subtle note of green olive. The alcohol and oak are harmonious and the middle palate is solid. The wine's long finish concludes with some tannic grip. Additional time in the cellar will help to buff the edges on this well-made wine. Drink 2020-2035.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2000 Domaine de Chevalier France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
93 points
Tasted ex-château from magnum, this opaque red/garnet wine shows intense dried currant, graphite, truffle, loamy earth and pipe tobacco aromas. The wine's medium acidity, medium silky tannins and seamless alcohol (12.5%) provide a harmonious framework for flavors which mirror the nose. Showing excellent mid-palate density and closing long, this is an elegant Bordeaux which should continue to show well for at least another decade. Drink now-2025.
Red
2005 Château Montrose France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
95 points
A blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 3.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.5% Petit verdot, this 10-year-old wine (sampled from a bottle ex-château) tastes like a newly-released Bordeaux. Opaque crimson and packed with crème de cassis, licorice, graphite, plum, tobacco and earth, it delivers its flavor payload on a full-bodied, freshly acidic, harmoniously alcoholic, firmly tannic frame. Mouth-coating and impressively dense in the middle, it closes with impressive length but also with substantial tannic grip. This will be a long-lived wine that will require another decade or so to reach plateau. Drink 2025-2045.
5 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Promontory Red Wine USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
Owned by Bill and directed by his son, Will, this is the latest Harlan project from vineyard holdings not far from the Harlan Estate property. A saturated, inky crimson in color, it is a heavily-extracted wine with aromas and flavors of black currants, black cherries, anise, vanilla and pickling spice. With low-to-medium acidity and massive sweet tannins, it is mouth-coating and dense in the middle. The finish is lengthy, but concludes with some alcoholic heat. While undoubtedly well-made, this flirts with (but does not cross) the line of being over-the-top in ripeness. Give it some time in the cellar. Drink 2020-2035.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Bond Pluribus USA, California, Napa Valley
91 points
This deep ruby wine serves up aromas and flavors of dark bramble fruits, plum, green olives, loamy earth and vanilla bean. Medium-to-full-bodied, seamlessly alcoholic and with firm tannins, it has a very acidic backbone which borders on being acerbic. The middle palate shows good density and the finish is medium-to-long, albeit astringent. Cellaring is certainly in order here. This is a good showing, considering the vintage. That said, this wine does not show the physiological ripeness that this vineyard can deliver in better years. Drink 2020-2031.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Opus One USA, California, Napa Valley
97 points
This deep-to-opaque ruby wine is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot and 2% Malbec, aged 18 months in 100% new French oak. Gorgeously effusive of cassis, fig, licorice, loamy earth and pencil shavings on the nose, it follows with a full-bodied, fresh palate delivering flavors which mirror the aromas. The alcohol, tannins and oak are harmoniously integrated and the wine is dense in the middle. Long and smooth on the finish, this iteration of Opus One defines elegance. Already quite drinkable, it should provide pleasure for many years to come. Drink now-2032.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Red Rock Terrace USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
95 points
Diamond Creek is lengendary for producing long-lived wines which typically require lengthy cellar time to achieve drinkability. While this offering will certainly benefit from cellaring, its massive tannins are more fine-grained and supple. As such, it will be drinkable at an earlier age than many previous vintages. Opaque crimson and aromatically effusive of bramble fruits, earth-laced plum, Asian spices and dried herbs, it follows with similar flavors. With good acidity and seamless alcohol (14.1%), it gains traction in the middle and closes very long. This is a superb, strutured Cabernet. Drink 2020-2050.
Red
2012 Château Smith Haut Lafitte France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
95 points
A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, this saturated crimson wine flaunts aromas of dark bramble fruits, cassis, licorice, graphite and ganache. Full-bodied and fresh, it delivers comparable flavors which are wrapped with big silky tannins. The wine's alcohol and oak are harmonious and the middle palate is dense. Long and smooth on the finish, this is a stellar effort from Smith Haut Lafitte. As good as it is now, it will get even better with some time in the cellar. Drink 2022-2035.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2005 Château Léoville Barton France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
92 points
Opaque ruby and still very primary, this wine is packed with black currants, anise, graphite, tobacco and earth. Full-bodied, massively extracted, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with big firm tannins, it shows impressive mid-palate density and purity of fruit. The finish is long, but quite astringent as a result of the chewy tannins. Give it some cellar time...then more cellar time. Drink 2025-2050.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Château Cheval Blanc France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
94 points
A deep ruby blend of 52% Cabernet Franc and 48% Merlot, this wine offers a perfumed nose of lavender, dark bramble fruit, plum, incense, bay leaf and licorice. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic and with silky tannins, it delivers flavors mirroring the nose and shows no alcoholic heat. Layered in the middle, it closes with a smooth, long finish. This charming Cheval Blanc will not require extensive cellaring to reach plateau. Drink 2018-2035.
Red
2009 Château Clerc Milon France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
92 points
This medium ruby, medium-bodied wine is already drinking well. A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Carmenère, it offers ripe black currants, fig, tobacco, dark chocolate and earth on both the nose and palate. Medium acidity, seamless alcohol and supple tannins give this wine a soft mouth texture. Solid in the middle and closing medium-to-long, it is should provide pleasure over the next two decades. This is one that I doubt will ever "shut down." Drink now-2035.
Red
2012 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection USA, California, Napa Valley
93 points
Saturated and a bit monolitic, this extracted, opaque crimson bruiser is loaded with black fruit, vanilla, spice and dark chocolate. With low-to-medium acidity, well-integrated alcohol and big ripe tannins, it delivers its hedonistic payload wrapped in massive sweet tannins and creamy, toasted oak. The middle palate is definitely solid and the fruit-filled finish is long. A Webster's Unabridged "fruit bomb," this is a wine where I personally am not complainin'. Drink now-2030.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
This opaque crimson wine is a gorgeous young Cabernet. Full-bodied, freshly acidic and with big sweet tannins, it delivers aromas and flavors of black currants, dark chocolate, blueberries, licorice and loamy earth. Despite the extraction, this ripe wine shows no alcoholic heat and remains balanced throughout. With beautiful purity of fruit and impressive mid-palate density, it closes with with amazing length. An impressively structured offering, it will require some cellaring to achieve its full potential. Drink 2020-2040.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Owen Roe Pinot Noir Anna's Vineyard Chehalem Mountains USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains
93 points
Fresh and vibrant, this medium ruby wine brims with wild berry, lavender, cocoa and orange zest aromas. Medium-bodied and without alcoholic heat, it delivers flavors which mirror the nose and are wrapped with medium-weight, sweet tannins. The middle palate is solid and there is good persistence on the finish, which adds an element of cinnamon. Enjoy this Pinot for its freshness and purity of fruit. It should drink well for at least another seven years or so. Drink now-2022.
White - Sparkling
2006 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne France, Champagne
97 points
Intense aromatics of lemon zest, chalk, toasted bread, white flowers and almonds characterize this medium-bodied, lithe wine. The flavors mirror the nose, adding a stone fruit component. The wine's tiny bead is active, creating a creamy mouth texture that persists from from the attack all the way through the lengthy, crisp finish. This is classic-quality in every respect. A bit of time in the cellar will make it even better. Drink 2018-2030.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Red Stitch Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
92 points
Expressive and distinctive, this crisp-textured wine offers aromas and flavors of Bing cherries, white flowers, cocoa, cola and orange zest. Medium-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic and with light-to-medium sweet tannins, it builds in the middle and concludes with a medium-to-long finish. Already drinking well, this delicious Pinot should be a source of enjoyment for another 5-7 years. Drink now-2022.
Red
2011 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia Sassicaia Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri, Bolgheri Sassicaia
94 points
A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, this deep ruby wine serves up black raspberries, anise, dark chocolate, fig and loamy earth on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied, fresh and with big firm tannins, it has impressive mid-palate density and shows no alcoholic heat. The finish is long, but quite astringent as a result of its tannic backbone. Cellar time is very important here. Drink 2021-2035.
5 people found this helpful Comments (1)
Red
2002 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Masseto Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
93 points
This medium-to-deep red/garnet Merlot offers aromas and flavors of plum cake, baked cherry pie, lavender, pipe tobacco and forest floor. Medium-bodied and with good acidity, it still has substantial tannins but they are silky in texture. The wine's alcohol appropriately lurks in the background and the middle palate is solid. Closing with a very long, smooth finish, this is a hedonistic wine that should be at its best over the next 10-15 years. Drink now-2030.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White - Sweet/Dessert
2012 Alois Kracher Grande Cuvée TBA #6 Nouvelle Vague Austria, Burgenland, Neusiedlersee
96 points
A blend of Welschriesling and Chardonnay, this medium gold wine flaunts an intense nose of honeysuckle, tangerine zest, ripe peaches, apricots, hazelnuts and tropical fruits. The flavors follow suit on the palate, with the wine's substantial sweetness beautifully balanced by its fresh acidity. The middle palate shows amazing depth and leads to a very long, unctuous finish. This is nothing short of bottled hedonism! Drink now-2045.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White - Sweet/Dessert
2009 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance South Africa, Coastal Region, Cape Peninsula, Constantia
95 points
This medium golden/copper sweet Muscat is effusive of peach, ginger, honey, citrus and tropical fruit. The flavors mirror the aromas on the unctuous, mouth-coating palate. The wine's sweetness is impeccably balanced by its racy acidity. Dense in the middle and closing with a long, spice-laden finish, this is a tremendous, classic-quality offering. Although it will likely get better with some time in the cellar, it is already irresitible. Drink now-2035.
Red
2005 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Martha's Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
93 points
This 10-year-old wine has a very youthful opaque ruby robe. On the nose and palate, it struts black currant and dark plum fruit, accented by cocoa, graphite, eucalyptus and mint. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (14.5%) and with substantial fine-grained tannins, it gains traction in the middle and closes medium-to-long. I suspect that this wine has just entered its drinking window. Based upon its fruit and structure, it should last a long time. Drink now-2035.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2005 Château Palmer France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
97 points
A deep ruby blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot, this wine is intoxicating from the get-go. Whatever rough components it may have had in its youth, it has now evolved to being the wine equivalent of a gorgeous woman in an evening gown. Intensely aromatic, it offers a perfumed nose of lavender, ripe bramble fruits, Bing cherries, pipe tobacco, cocoa and loamy earth. Medium-to-full-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic and with medium-weight, silky tannins, it delivers a flavor payload comparable to the nose. Layered, rich and dense in the middle, it closes with a hedonistically long, smooth finish. Those who own bottles of this gem will be delighted to know that, assuming properly cellared, it is very early in its drinking window and should last a long time. Drink now-2035.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 A.P. Vin Pinot Noir Rosella's Vineyard USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
93 points
Deep ruby and flaunting aromas of dark bramble fruits, anise, cocoa and loamy earth, this medium-bodied, freshly acidic wine delivers comparable flavors on the palate. The tannins are medium in weight and silky in texture. The oak is complementary to the fruit and there is no trace of alcoholic heat. Deftly balanced and dense on the mid-palate, it closes with a lengthy finish that unmasks some tannic grip. As was my impression with this wine's 2012 sibling, I suspect that short-term cellaring will be beneficial. Drink 2017-2023.
Red
2006 Château Calon-Ségur France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
flawed
This deep ruby wine had an unclean (albeit not corked) nose, as well as muted flavors. I suspect that it was a flawed bottle or simply was not given enough aeration time.
Red
2006 Vieux Château Certan France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
90 points
Deep red/garnet in color, this wine offers wild berry, loamy earth, tobacco, fig and bay leaf aromas. Full-bodied, freshly acidic and firmly tannic, it delivers flavors mirroring the nose and shows no alcoholic heat. The middle palate stays solid, leading to an astringent, medium-length finish. For me, this wine is a bit angular and in need of more time in the cellar. It may merit a higher score in the future. Drink 2020-2035.
Red
2011 Ernie Els Signature South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
91 points
This deep ruby wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. It has a solid core of plum and black currant fruit, accented by pickling spice, tobacco and iron. Full-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic and with good mid-palate presence, it wraps its flavors with mouth-coating, fine-grained tannins. The finish is medium-to-long and fairly smooth. I suspect that short-term cellaring will be helpful. Thereafter, it should drink well for several more years. Drink 2017-2025.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Château Haut-Bailly France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
90 points
This deep ruby wine (a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot) offers nice aromatics of dark bramble fruits, licorice, dark chocolate, tobacco and Asian spices. On the palate, it is full-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic and has flavors in line with the aromas. The tannins are substantial in weight and somewhat rustic. As such, the wine remains quite astringent throughout the middle palate and medium-length finish. Cellar time will be necessary to polish the tannins. A higher score may be warranted in the future. Drink 2012-2035.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Viña Almaviva S.A. Almaviva Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto
93 points
This opaque crimson wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Carmenere, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Merlot (aged in 100% new French oak). Aromatic, lithe and ripe, it delivers crème de cassis, dark bramble fruits, vanilla, smoke and allspice on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied, extracted and with low-to-medium acidity, it retains a silky mouth texture by virtue of the sweetness of its substantial tannins. The oak is nicely integrated and there is no detectable heat (despite being listed as 15%). Beautifully dense in the middle, this stays packed with fruit all the way through its lengthy finish. Definitely done in a "New World style," this wine will have broad appeal. I doubt that it will ever shut down. Drink now-2030.

Flight 26 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: California's Pinot Noir) (4 notes)

Tom Matthews opened the Saturday morning session by presenting the 2015 Wine Spectator video contest winner, "Legacy of Jackass Hill" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx7mcu_P21g). Produced by Tim Clott and Noel Resnick, it is an entertaining, extremely well-made video which includes the judicious use of a drone camera. I had previously seen the video online, and found it to be very frightening when Lee Martinelli, Sr.'s tractor (pulling a rototiller) becomes unstable on the steep slope and actually destroys several vines. Even though I had seen it before, I again was shaking when I saw the elder Martinelli almost tip his tractor over during this large-screen presentation.



The wine video was followed by a structured tasting of four excellent California Pinot Noirs, each from a different appellation. Moderated by James Laube, the participants included Gary Pisoni (Pisoni), Eva Dehlinger (Dehlinger), Anne-Moller-Racke (Donum Estate) and Scott McCloud (Skywalker). While all four speakers were excellent, it was Gary Pisoni who stole the show. With wild, long curly hair and an equally wild sense of humor, he spoke about the "early days" with his dad (who was a lettuce farmer), then fast-forwarded to where he currently is in his life. Hysterically funny, his commentary repeatedly led to gut-busting laughter from the crowd. The house erupted when he showed a picture of himself in a vineyard, sipping a glass of wine while lying naked (with just his arms and head visible) in a freestanding bathtub. I tried to get a screen shot with my camera, but was not quick enough to capture it.

In addition to Gary Pisoni's humor, I particularly appreciated how highly he spoke of his two sons, who are now involved with him in the business. He stated that his boys have more winemaking talent than he will ever have, and he was obviously beaming with pride. I later had the opportunity to chat with Gary. We both concurred that the greatest thing a father can experience is to see his children become better than him.



Gary Pisoni

Red
2013 Pisoni Pinot Noir Estate USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
93 points
This medium ruby wine offers a rich core of loamy earth and wild berries, accented by allspice and dried herbs. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with some tannic grip, it rounds out in the middle, gaining depth and persistence. An additional year or two in the cellar will likely be beneficial. Drink 2017-2023.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Dehlinger Pinot Noir Altamont USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
96 points
Deep ruby in color, this is a bold and rich Pinot. Smoky black cherry, orange zest, rose petal and pickling spice aromas are followed by a medium-bodied, freshly acidic palate with flavors mirroring the nose. The alcohol and medium-weight tannins are nicely integrated and the wine has great mid-palate density. Closing long and smooth, this is already drinking well, but will likely get even better with a bit of cellaring. Drink 2018-2025.
3 people found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
2013 Donum Pinot Noir West Slope Carneros USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
94 points
Intensely aromatic, this deep ruby wine offers a bouquet of red currants, cherries, allspice, candied apple and loamy earth. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic and with medium-weight, silky tannins, it delivers similar flavors and shows no sign of alcholic heat. Solid and layered in the middle, it concludes with a lengthy, smooth finish. This Pinot is all about elegance. It is already drinking beautifully and should continue to do so for several more years. Drink now-2023.
Red
2013 Skywalker Vineyards Pinot Noir USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Marin County
89 points
Feminine in style, this medium ruby Pinot flaunts white flower, cherry, raspberry and cola aromas. Light-to-medium-bodied, fresh and with light sweet tannins, it delivers cherry, cocoa, spice and earth flavors. The wine's alcohol is nicely integrated, as is its oak. Although it thins a bit in the middle, the resurrected finish is of medium length. There is a lot to like about this delicate Pinot, but the lack of mid-palate density keeps it from achieving outstanding status at this point. A year or two in the cellar may be just what it needs to fill in the middle. As such, it may ultimately merit a higher score. Drink 2017-2022.

Flight 27 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: Wine Star #4; Baron Eric de Rothschild) (1 note)

While Eric de Rothschild needs no introduction, Marvin Shanken did a great job by showing a four-minute video clip from a PBS documentary commissioned by the Wine Spectator approximately 30 years ago. Narrated by Robert Foxwood (of "Falcon Crest" fame), it was a documentary that I vividly recall watching when it originally aired. The clip shows a young Eric de Rothschild speaking at the San Francisco Wine Experience, narrating a vertical of Château Lafite Rothschild. Marvin commented that the wines poured at that event were worth approximately $60,000 at the time and would be worth far more than $1,000,000 now. This was a distinct nod to the generousity of Eric de Rothschild, not only for that event but also for the many wines he has since poured at Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience.

Eric de Rothschild's talk was outstanding. Not only did he come off as warm and engaged, he also genuinely expressed his admiration for the American wine consumer. He specifically spoke of Americans' willingness to buy what they like, performing far less "label-chasing" than consumers from other countries. You could see his eyes light up when photos of the Lafite estate were projected on the screens. There is no doubt that he loves the property, and he made it very clear that attendees would be greeted with open arms when they come to visit.

During Eric's talk, Marvin returned to the stage for some playful banter, specifically relating to how nice it would be to have another Lafite vertical (similar to the one in San Francisco 30 years ago). Both laughed and joked about each other, then Marvin "tightened the noose" and got Eric to commit to a Lafite vertical at next year's New York Wine Experience. This brought the crowd to its feet!

Red
2003 Château Lafite Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
98 points
Medium garnet in color and gorgeously perfumed, this Lafite (a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot) epitomizes elegance and has none of the rough edges found on its 2004 sibling. Earth-laced plum, cherry, graphite, cocoa, leather and cigar box aromas are followed by a medium-to-full-bodied, round palate with medium-weight, silky tannins. The flavors are complex and mirror the nose. Despite the ripeness of the vintage, this wine carries only 12.7% alcohol, and there is accordingly not the slightest hint of heat. Maintaining a velvety mouth texture and strutting amazing mid-palate density, it closes with a finish that goes on and on. This superb Lafite will last longer than many have speculated. Drink now-2040.

Flight 28 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: "Core Strength"-Wines from Ancient Vines) (3 notes)

We had the pleasure last year of witnessing the wonderful speaking skills of Matt Kramer (Wine Spectator Contributing Editor), and he did not let us down this year. Matt has such a great stage presence, speaks spontaneously and "connects" with his audience. He began his talk by revealing that he had been advised that the morning program was running behind schedule as a result of Eric de Rothschild's speech. The crowd erupted in laughter when he then said that, as far as he is concerned, anyone offering to provide a vertical of Lafite is welcome to talk as long as he or she wants!

Matt then proceeded to give an excellent talk about the added dimension provided by old vines. Talking about an old vine as though it has human characteristics, he discussed how such vines are less concerned than "youngsters" about climatic changes. In tasting the wines, he stressed that the most notable benefit of old vine fruit is that it ultimately leads to solid mid-palate density, a fact that was nicely demonstrated in the three outstanding wines that were presented.

White
2012 Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Garenne Domaine du Duc de Magenta France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
95 points
Sourced from vines more than 80-years-old, this medium yellow-gold wine offers and intense bouquet of citrus peel, wet stones, honeysuckle, saline and stone fruits. Medium-bodied on the palate, it delivers similar flavors is a freshly acidic frame. The alcohol is nicely integrated, as is the wine's oak. Gaining traction in the middle and adding a butterscotch component on the back end, it closes with impressive length. It is hard to imagine this wine getting any better, but I suspect that it will if allowed some time in the cellar. Drink 2018-2030.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Raul Pérez Bierzo La Vizcaina La Vitoriana Spain, Castilla y León, Bierzo
92 points
Sourced from vines 80-120 years in age, this deep ruby wine flaunts intense aromas of bright red fruit, spice, cocoa and slate. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with big firm tannins, it delivers bramble fruit, spice, dark chocolate and mineral flavors. Gaining weight and complexity in middle, it closes with a long finish that has substantial tannic grip. This is an outstanding, newly-released wine which will require some cellaring. Drink 2020-2040.
Red
2011 Mendel Malbec Finca Remota Argentina, Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo
92 points
Comprised of 100% Malbec and planted in 1947, the Finca Remota vineyard is known for producing some of the most intense, dense wines. The 2011 is an inky crimson in color and delivers black currants, tar, black cherry, iron and pickling spice on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied, massively extracted, freshly acidic, heavily oaked and with big firm tannins, it picks up weight in the middle and shows no alcoholic heat (14.1%). The finish is long, albeit astringent as a result of its formidable tannins. Patience will be required for this wine to fully integrate its oak and tannins. Drink 2020-2035.

Flight 29 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Morning Session: Matching Masters) (8 notes)

As was the case last year, the "Matching Masters" session was a big hit. Three famous chefs and an equally well-known restraunteur created signature dishes which were served to attendees on four small plates. Each of the participants selected a wine to go with one of the other's dish. Tom Matthews also selected a wine to go with each dish. After tasting the dishes and wine pairings, votes were taken as a means of assessing which pairing was best. The participants included Emeril Lagasse (Emeril's, New Orleans), José Andrés (Bazaar, Washington, D.C.), Danny Meyer (Union Square Hospitality Group, New York) and Michael Lomonaco (Porter House, New York).



The photo below shows the dishes that were presented to the attendees. In the upper left is an organic potato salad with smoked Evans Farm sturgeon, Evans Farm caviar and apple vinaigrette. This was prepared by Emeril Lagasse.

In the upper right is the dish prepared by José Andrés, a piquillo confit with crabmeat, topped with trout roe and ajo blanco.

The lower right dish, prepared by Danny Meyer, is a roasted pumpkin custard with hazelnuts and black truffle.

Michael Lomonaco's dish appears in the lower left. It is a "beef duo": Dry-aged New York strip steak with Italian salsa verde and braised short rib, polenta cake, crumble Maytag blue cheese and pickled mushroom.



To pair with Emeril's dish, José chose the Belondrade y Lurton Rueda, while Tom chose the Cloudy Bay Chardonnay. The "judge" was Michael, who preferred the Cloudy Bay. Emeril also preferred the Cloudy Bay, while a poll of the crowd produced a draw.

Michael chose the Arianna Occhipinti Frappato to go with José's dish, while Tom selected the Delas Condrieu. The Condrieu was the clear winner here ("judge" Danny, José and the crowd).

For Danny's roasted pumpkin dish, Emeril chose the Kistler Chardonnay, while Tom picked the Gosset Champagne. The verdict from "judge" José , Danny and the crowd was in favor of the Gosset.

Michal's beef duo was paired with the Fontodi Chianti Classico (chosen by Danny) and the Álvaro Palacios Priorat (chosen by Tom). The "judge" was Emeril, who called it a draw. Michael and the crowd concurred that there was no clear winner here, as both wines paired beautifully with the dish.

White
2013 Belondrade y Lurton Rueda Spain, Castilla y León, Rueda
87 points
Fermented and matured in barrels, this light yellow wine (100% Verdejo) serves up grapefruit, apple and rose petal aromas. Light-to-medium-bodied, seamlessly alcoholic and with low-to-medium acidity, it delivers citrus and tropical fruit flavors which stay solid in the middle. The round finish is medium in length. While good, this white could benefit from a bit more acidity. Drink now-2018.
White
2012 Cloudy Bay Chardonnay New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
89 points
Citrus and floral notes are in the forefront on this light yellow wine. Medium-bodied, seamlessly alcoholic and with excellent acidity, it delivers stone fruit, citrus and mineral flavors, accented by a dollop of oak. Solid in the middle and medium in length on the finish, this is a very credible effort. Drink now-2019.
Red
2013 Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato Italy, Sicily, Terre Siciliane
88 points
Bright red fruit and mouthwatering acidity are the highlights of this light-to-medium ruby-colored wine. Accented by Asian spices and loamy earth, it has a crisp mouth texture, shows no alcoholic heat, is softly tannic and stays solid in the middle. The finish is tart and medium in length. This light-bodied red is enjoyable, but its acidity screams for food and it would best be avoided as an apéritif. Drink now-2020.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2013 Delas Frères Condrieu Clos Boucher France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Condrieu
94 points
The Viognier fruit for this bottling comes primarily from vines 50+ years old. Intensely perfumed, it offers a bouquet of white flowers, citrus, gala apples and lavender. Light-bodied, crisply acidic and with excellent weight in the middle, it delivers flavors mirroring the nose and closes very long. This is a lovely wine which, based upon its track record, should age well. Drink now-2023.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2013 Kistler Chardonnay Les Noisetiers USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
92 points
Despite being Kistler's "village-level" Chardonnay in wide distribution, this is a very solid offering. Light yellow in color, it is rich yet very balanced with respect to its crisp acidity, seamless alcohol and well-integrated oak. Stone fruits, citrus, wet pebbles and white flowers adorn the nose and palate, with the latter showing nice density and a lengthy finish. Enjoy this beautiful Chardonnay over the next 7-8 years. Drink now-2023.
White - Sparkling
2004 Gosset Champagne Brut Grand Millésime France, Champagne
90 points
A light yellow blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, this is an 11-year-old Champagne that still retains a brisk tiny bead. On the nose and palate, it is laden with bread dough, marzipan, citrus peel and stone fruits. Freshly acidic and with a creamy texture from its fine bubbles, it stays solid in the middle and closes with a long, crisp finish. Drink now-2024.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2008 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
91 points
From a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine has depth and structure that is more than would be expected from most Chianti offerings. Deep red/garnet in color, it delivers red currants, loamy earth, dried herbs and dark plum aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic and with medium sweet tannis, it stays solid in the middle and closes impressively long. Drink now-2022.
Red
2013 Alvaro Palacios Priorat Finca Dofí Spain, Catalunya, Priorat
92 points
A blend of 95% Grenache and 5% Carignan, this deep ruby wine is packed with black and red currants, anise, minerals and smoky earth. Full-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic and with big sweet tannins, it gains depth in the middle and closes long. This is yet another another stellar offering from Álvaro Palacios. Give it some time in the cellar. Drink 2020-2035.

Flight 30 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Washington State Luncheon) (8 notes)

With a son who lives in eastern Washington, we have long been aware of the quality of Washington State wines. Accordingly, we were looking forward to this luncheon, which was sponsored by Washington State Wine. As was the case with the Argentina wine luncheon on the previous day, each table had thirteen different wines to be enjoyed with the lunch. Time constraints prevented me from trying them all, but I was able to sample eight. My notes reflect the overall high quality of what I tasted.

The lunch began with a chicken pot pie, served with fava beans, onion, dill, pomegranate and dill salad. It was a delicious dish which paired well with the reds.



The main course was roasted salmon, served with red quinoa, sweet corn salad and herb oils. The fish was fresh and perfectly cooked. The quinoa was a great accompaniment. Although one would think that a white wine would be preferred with this dish, I did not have the time to sample the whites. Nevertheless, the reds paired fairly well.



The dessert course was a Washington State apple and caramel brûlée tart, which was visually beautiful and equally tasty.

Red
2012 Baer Winery Ursa USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
93 points
A blend of 40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Malbec, this deep ruby wine is elegance in a glass. Wild berry, dark chocolate, mint and lavender aromas are matched by similar flavors on a full-bodied palate. With low-to-medium acidity, seamless alcohol (14.5%) and ample sweet tannins, it has beautiful purity of fruit and is dense in the middle. Closing long and smooth, this Bordeaux-style blend is already drinkable. Enjoy it over the next 8-10 years. Drink now-2025.
Red
2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Artist Series Red Wine USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
92 points
This opaque crimson wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. Polished and focused, it is packed with cassis, dark chocolate, pomegranate and savory herbs. Full-bodied, round and with substantial silky tannins, it has good mid-palate weight, shows no alcoholic heat (14.5%) and finishes long. Soft textures and ripe fruit make this wine quite drinkable now, but it should last for another decade or more. Drink now-2025.
Red
2012 DeLille Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Four Flags USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
93 points
Firm tannins underlie this opaque crimson wine's ripe black currant, blackberry, graphite, anise, and sage. Full-bodied, freshly acidic and with nicely integrated alcohol (14.0%), it is layered and dense in the middle. The lengthy finish carries some tannic grip. Although cellaring will be required to allow the tannins to soften, there is no denying that this structured Cabernet is outstanding in quality. Drink 2020-2032.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Market Vineyards Merlot Alpha USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Red Mountain
92 points
Supple and expressive, this deep ruby wine offers cherry, cocoa, Asian spice and lavender on the nose, following with a medium-bodied palate of similar flavors. With fresh acidity, seamless alcohol (despite being listed as 14.9%), medium supple tannins and good purity of fruit, it stays solid on the mid-palate and closes with a lengthy, smooth finish. Delicious now, this wine has enough fruit and structure to last for at least another 7-8 years. Drink now-2023.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Milbrandt Vineyards Merlot The Estates Wahluke Slope USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Wahluke Slope
90 points
This elegant, focused wine is a blend of 75% Merlot, 13% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. Deep ruby, medium-to-full-bodied and freshly acidic, it delivers aromas and flavors of dark bramble fruits, earth-laced plum, cocoa and anise. The flavors are wrapped with medium-weight, fine-grained tannins. Solid in the middle and showing no heat from its (reported) 14.5% alcohol, it lingers nicely on the finish. This is already drinking well, and should be enjoyable for several more years. Drink now-2021.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah In the Hills USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
92 points
A deep-to-opaque ruby, Côte-Rôtie styled blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier, this wine flaunts a floral nose of violets and lavender, backed up by dark bramble fruits, smoked meat, savory herbs and black olives. Full-bodied, fresh and with unnoticeable alcohol, it delivers flavors which mirror the nose, wrapping them with medium-weight, fine-grained tannins. Pure, rich and dense in the middle, it closes with impressive length. Although this wine is already drinking beautifully, it should have substantial longevity. Drink now-2030.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Owen Roe Cabernet Franc The Pearl Union Gap Vineyard USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
91 points
This opaque crimson, 100% Cabernet Franc offering is loaded with black currant and blackberry fruit, accented by tobacco, lavender and a hint of green olive. Full-bodied, heavily-extracted, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (13%) and with big sweet tannins, it shows excellent density on the mid-palate and finishes very long. A year or two in the cellar is in order here; thereafter, it should drink nicely for another decade or more. Drink 2017-2027.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Tenet Wines Syrah The Pundit Columbia Valley USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
92 points
Opaque crimson and intensely aromatic, this wine (a blend of 94% Syrah, 3% Grenache, 2% Mourvedre and 1% Viognier) serves up boysenberries, violets, dark plums and smoke on the nose, followed by similar flavors on the palate. Full-bodied, fresh and without alcoholic heat (14.3%), it has firm tannins and good mid-palate density. The finish is medium-to-long and a touch astringent at this point. A bit of cellar time is warranted. Drink 2018-2025.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 31 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Afternoon Session: Top Wines of 2014, Part 2) (5 notes)

This session concluded the countdown from #5 to #1, all of which were discussed by winemakers and winery owners. As was the case with the countdown of wines #10 to #6, the participants were enthusiastic and engaged. Included in this session were Simone Horgan-Furlong (Leeuwin Estate), Francisco Olazabal (Quinta do Vale Meão), Charles Symington (Prats & Symington), Sparky Marquis (Mollydooker) and Rupert Symington (Dow).

For those who have previously heard him speak, it was no surprise that Sparky Marquis was a bundle of laughs. Projecting scientific-like graphs with nonscientific terms (such as "flavor" and "fruit weight") kept the crowd giggling. His tongue-in-cheek approach was highly entertaining.

Also memorable for me was Simone Horgan-Furlong discussing just how age-worthy Leeuwin's Chardonnay can be. Based on personal experience, I would agree wholeheartedly.

Last but not least was a comment made by Charles Symington, when Kim Marcus pointed out that three of the top five wines are from Portugal, something that was unprecedented. He replied that Portuguese vintners will strive to someday have five out of five.

Simone Horgan-Furlong



Sparky Marquis



Rupert Symington

White
2011 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay Art Series Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Margaret River
97 points
This light yellow/gold wine is heavily perfumed, with white flower, stone fruit, orange zest, saline and ginger. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic and without alcoholic heat, it delivers flavors which mirror the nose. Focused and layered in the middle, it restrains its oak to a complimentary role. The lengthy finish culminates with a nice wet stone element. Deftly balanced and wonderfully complex, this is a world-class Chardonnay that should drink well over the next decade. Drink now-2025.
Red
2011 Quinta do Vale Meão Douro Portugal, Douro
95 points
A year has come and gone since I last tasted this wine. Not much has changed. It remains opaque crimson, intensely aromatic and packed with bramble fruits, cocoa, anise, graphite and allspice on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied and muscular, it has well-integrated alcohol and oak. Despite its substantial flesh and firm tannins, it somehow maintains a silky texture. Layered and mouth-coating in the middle, it closes smooth and with good persistence. Classic in quality, this one has the structure to last a long time. Drink now-2040.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Prats and Symington Douro Chryseia Portugal, Douro
88 points
Approximately one year after my last tasting, this wine has substantially improved, which makes me think that it could ultimately become something special. An inky blend of 65% Touriga Nacional and 35% Touriga Franca, it retains an intense nose of menthol, blackberry, black olive and crushed rocks. Full bodied and heavily extracted, it has tart acidity and big rustic tannins. The wine's alcohol (listed as 14.0%) is nicely integrated. While the tannins remains substantial, they are a little more forgiving than a year ago. The medium-length finish is a bit less tart and astringent. While still somewhat overwhelming to my palate at this point, I think that this wine quite possibly could merit a significantly higher score. Patience will be a virtue. Drink 2020-2040.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Mollydooker Shiraz Carnival of Love Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
93 points
While I must disclose that I am not a fan of this style of Shiraz, I have to give credit where credit is due. This opaque crimson bruiser has excellent purity of fruit, with huge ripe blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, licorice and ganache on both the nose and palate. Full-bodied, massively-extracted and with low-to-medium acidity, it coats the mouth with ripe fruit and big sweet tannins. Somehow the alcohol lurks quietly in the background. Showing good mid-palate density and a long finish, it pushes the envelope but does not go over-the-top. Drink now-2025.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red - Fortified
2011 Dow Porto Vintage Portugal, Douro, Porto
97 points
This opaque, inky black wine explodes with blackberry, boysenberry, mineral, fig, tar, anise and maraschino cherry aromas and flavors. Full-bodied, sinewy, quite sweet and with massive mouth-coating tannins, it stays youthfully delicious from start to lengthy finish. What a delight to taste a wine such as this, which is good now but nowhere near its future greatness. Cellar this one for your kids. Drink 2035-2065.
9 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 32 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Afternoon Session: Wine Star #5; Ken Wright) (1 note)

Ken Wright is indeed a "wine star" as a result of his history as a Pinot producer in Oregon. Intelligent, articulate and possessing a good voice, he gave a somewhat clinical discussion of soil and geological formations as they relate to vine development. I personaly would have enjoyed it if he had also chatted about what was in our glass. That said, it was an informative talk from a legend in the wine business.

Red
2008 Ken Wright Pinot Noir Savoya USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
90 points
Fresh and lively, this medium ruby wine serves up strawberry, raspberry, cola, pickling spice and cocoa aromas. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, crisp, has nicely integrated alcohol and soft tannins. The middle palate stays solid and the finish is lengthy. Very youthful for a 7-year-old wine, this is one that should close out the decade with continued verve. Drink now-2020.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 33 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Afternoon Session: France's Mouton Rothschild) (6 notes)

It is hard to believe that an event can have a "trump card" that is pulled in the final seminar session, but that is exactly what happened this year when, after so many amazing seminars, the Wine Spectator treated us to a six-vintage vertical of first-growth Château Mouton Rothschild. Introduced by James Molesworth were Philippe Sereys de Rothschild (Mouton co-owner) and Philippe Dhalluin (Mouton general director and winemaker).

The son of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild has, upon the death of his mom, been thrust into ownership of the estate. At the age of 52, he seems like a kid to me, but is definitely no "spring chicken." He appeared a little bit nervous on the stage, but also seemed very sincere. I have no doubt that he will pick up where his mom left off and, in fact, guide the estate to an even higher quality level (if that's possible).

Mouton's general director and winemaker is Philippe Dhalluin, who is experienced, polished and a very good speaker. He talked eloquently about each Mouton vintage, knowing the wines as though they were his children.

After Phillipe Dhalluin spoke, Marvin Shanken, coming from the audience, took the stage and, with heartfelt sincerity, spoke about his affection and admiration for the Baroness. Having recently lost my mother, I recall her friends speaking in a similar fashion, and how impactful it was for me to hear. Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, standing at the podium with Marvin, became emotional in the same way that I was. The photo below speaks volumes.

Regarding the wines, they were superlative. As both "Philippes" said, "Mouton never changes." Bravo!!!





Red
2012 Château Mouton Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
96 points
Before describing the wine itself, I must first comment about the label on this vintage's bottles. Designed by Miquel Barceló, it is a stunning painting of two rams butting heads. In my humble opinion, it a close second to the 1982 label of John Huston. Now to the wine...A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc, it is intensely aromatic. Cassis, anise, walnuts, pencil shavings, smoke and vanilla are the entry to a full-bodied, freshly acidic palate with flavors mirroring the nose. The tannins are fomidable, but very fine-grained, and the 13.2% alcohol throws no heat. With good mid-palate density and outstanding purity of fruit, it finishes very long but with some firm tannic grip. Cellaring is in order, but there is already no doubt that this is one of the top wines of the vintage. Drink 2025-2050.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Château Mouton Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
99 points
This monumental Mouton is an even better work of art than its label (designed by American artist Jeff Koons). An opaque crimson blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Merlot, it delivers rich black currant and bramble fruit, accented by aromas and flavors of licorice, kirsch, violets and graphite. Full bodied, fresh and with massive sweet tannins, it stays rich on the mid-palate and has a never-ending finish. This is stellar Bordeaux that will, unfortunately, outlive me. Drink 2030-2060.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2009 Château Mouton Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
99 points
A blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot, this opaque crimson Mouton is more fruit-forward than its 2010 brethren. Black currants, tarry black cherry, earth-laced plum, lead pencil and truffle aromas are followed by similar flavors on the palate. Full-bodied, fresh and with big sweet tannins, it stays plump in the middle and finishes very long. I really can't say if I like this more or less than the 2010 Mouton. While this will be approachable at an earlier age, both are in it for the long haul. Drink 2025-2060.
Red
2005 Château Mouton Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
98 points
An opaque ruby/red blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc, this 10-year-old Mouton is starting to shed some of its baby fat. Ripe plum, violets, iron, orange zest and tobacco adorn both the nose and palate. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and still hoarding substantial sweet tannins, it closes very long. This is the definition of an "iron fist in a velvet glove." It would be infanticide to drink it within the next five years, but those showing patience should be rewarded with three decades of hedonism. Drink 2020-2050.
Red
1995 Château Mouton Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
97 points
This youthful wine (a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc) has a deep-to-opaque red/garnet robe and flashes an alluring nose of plum, cassis, pipe tobacco, graphite and saddle leather. It is full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (12.4%) and sports substantial firm tannins. Perhaps more than any other Mouton tasted, this wine has an impressive mid-palate presence and closes with the lengthiest, albeit tannic finish. This is a wine in need of more time in the cellar. That said, it could turn out to be one of the best Moutons ever. This is because, unlike many other 1995 offerings, it retains enough fruit to go toe-to-toe with the tannins over decades. Drink 2025-2065.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
1989 Château Mouton Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
99 points
Back when this wine was released, there were some critics who got it right, and some who were embarrassingly wrong. Now hitting its stride, the '89 Mouton (a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 8% Merlot) is an evolved, complex wine laden with plum, leather, cigar box, sage, pickling spice, truffle and cocoa. Full-bodied and with surprisingly good acidity (considering the vintage), it has seamless alcohol and still has a fair amount of sweet tannins. The mid-palate presence is impressive and the finish is very long. Stunning stuff, this is one which should drink well over the next 2-3 decades. Drink now-2040.

Flight 34 - Saturday, October 24, 2015 (Wine Spectator Grand Award Banquet) (3 notes)

We were looking forward to the Grand Award Banquet, which was a lot of fun last year. This year's event was even better! It began with a Champagne reception in the 5th floor ballroom, where easels with large photos of each Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning restaurant flanked the perimeter and delicious hors d'oeuvres were being passed by roving servers.

Wines being poured were as follows:
Bollinger Brut Champagne Special Cuvée NV
Charles Heidsieck Brut Champagne Réserve NV
Henriot Brut Champagne Souverain NV
Piper-Hiedsieck Brut Champagne NV
Louis Roederer Brut Champagne Premier NV (from magnum)
Salon Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Le Mesnil 2002
Taittinger Brut Rosé Champagne Prestige NV (from magnum)

While I did sample several of these fine offerings, I focused primarily on the Salon, which is nothing short of stunning. Despite the general scarcity and expense of this wine, it was free-flowing (a fact that was recognized and greatly appreciated by attendees).





The party then transitioned to the Grand Ballroom on the 6th floor, which was beautifully decorated. After brief opening remarks by Marvin Shanken (who was giddy about the prospect of seeing Huey Lewis and the News), dinner proceeded. Each table was provided with free-flowing Sterling Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve 2012 and Harlan's "The Maiden" Napa Valley 2012.



The first course was an heirloom tomato and burrata salad with arugula, citrus oil and Maldon sea salt, with which the Sterling Chardonnay paired nicely.



For the main course we were served a petite filet mignon (with truffle butter) and fig-braised beef short rib with bone marrow hedgehog mushroom pudding, sweet potato purée and fall harvest vegetables. The meat was perfectly cooked and the dish worked beautifully with The Maiden.



The dessert course consisted of a caramel and vanilla chocolate bar with brown bread ice cream...scrumptious!



Toward the end of the meal, Marvin Shanken presented the 2015 Wine Spectator Restaurant Grand Award Winners, followed by the Wine Spectator 2014 Wine of the Year Award (Dow Vintage Port 2011) and the Wine Spectator Distinguished Service Award (Bill Harlan). After that, it was all Huey Lewis and the News[/i]! They were absolutely fantastic and the dance floor was packed from their first note to their last. The photos can hardly capture the energy and pure fun of this portion of the evening.









White - Sparkling
2002 Salon Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut France, Champagne
96 points
Fresh and focused, this straw-colored sparkler delivers intense aromatics and a brisk, tiny bead. Slate, citrus, toasted brioche, apricot and almond are found on the nose as well as on the racy palate. Despite its finesse and elegance, this wine has substantial richness and a creamy mouth texture from its effervescence. Very long and crisp on the finish, this is a classic-quality blanc de blancs which will have substantial longevity. Drink now-2032.
4 people found this helpful Comments (3)
White
2012 Sterling Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve USA, California, Napa Valley
90 points
This Napa Chardonnay is vinified in a style that is very desirable to many New World Chardonnay fans. It is light-to-medium yellow in color and highly aromatic. Ripe citrus, peach, vanilla and tropical fruit aromas are accented with floral and spice elements. Full-bodied, rich and very round, it delivers flavors which mirror the nose. Listed as 14.9%, the alcohol is surprisingly a non-factor. There is no lack of oak, which persists throughout the middle palate as well as through the lenthy finish. While this style of Chardonnay is not my favorite, there is no denying that, for a sizeable number of oenophiles and non-oenophiles, this will be the "cats meow." Drink now-2020.
Red
2012 Harlan Estate The Maiden USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
This is nothing short of a gorgeous Cabernet. Opaque crimson, rich and layered, it delivers aromas and flavors of black bramble fruits, espresso, dried herbs, licorice, dark chocolate and allspice. Full-bodied and with low-to-medium acidity, it supports its flavors with substantial silky-textured tannins. The alcohol (listed as 14.5%) is beautifully integrated, as is the wine's oak. Showing impressive mid-palate density, it finishes very long. Impressive to think that this is a "second wine," although one must also consider its sticker price (which says anything other than "second"). Drink 2020-2032.
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Flight 35 - Sunday, October 25, 2015 (Lunch at Per Se: Amuse-Bouche and Course 1) (1 note)

Having previously dined at The French Laundry (https://www.cellartracker.com/event.asp?iEvent=10706&searchId=5BC83277&UISource=list), we had high expectations for our long-planned Sunday lunch at Per Se (4, 10 Columbus Circle; http://www.thomaskeller.com/per-se). In a nutshell, these expectations were exceeded in every respect. Located in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, Per Se is a comfortable, contemporary setting that is beautiful in its simplicity. Without music, the restaurant has very little distracting noise, which makes it easy to concentrate on each of the numerous dishes that are presented. The dining experience is just that...an "experience." For food and wine enthusiasts, it is a fantasyland!





Per Se is a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner for a reason. Their wine list (presented to diners on an I-Pad) is extensive, with more than 2,300 selections. Although I had fun perusing the list, I made the smart decision of enlisting the help of our sommelier, Sean Crenny. From the get-go, he brought us a half-bottle of the Pierre Moncuit Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Pierre Moncuit-Delos Blanc de Blancs Brut, which paired nicely with several of the dishes (as noted below). He additionally immediately decanted a bottle of the 2007 Castello di Neive Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano, which opened up beautifully and paired nicely with the dishes served later in the meal. For my wife's foie gras course, she was brought a glass of 2008 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, which was a match made in heaven! All wines at Per Se were served with Riedel Sommelier series stemware, which added yet another degree of elegance.

We both elected to go with the "Chef's Tasting Menu," although the restaurant also offers a multi-course vegetarian option.

As an amuse-bouche, we were brought mini gruyère gougères and salmon tartare cornets with sweet red onion crème fraîche. These were a great way to get things going.





For our first course, we each chose the "oysters and pearls," which is Thomas Keller's clever name for his signature dish (the only item on the menu that never changes). It is a sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and sterling white sturgeon caviar. We had previously enjoyed this dish at the French Laundry several years ago. What a treat it was to reprise the experience and what a great match the dish was with the Champagne.

White - Sparkling
N.V. Pierre Moncuit Champagne Grand Cru Cuvée Pierre Moncuit-Delos Blanc de Blancs Brut France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
91 points
From a half-bottle which was disgorged in February of 2014, this pale yellow blanc de blancs sports a brisk tiny bead. Citrus peel, gala apple, saline, bread dough and honeysuckle reside on a light-bodied, crisply acidic frame. There is good persistence in the middle and the medium-to-long finish is mouthwatering. Drink now-2017.

Flight 36 - Sunday, October 25, 2015 (Lunch at Per Se: Courses 2, 3 & 4) (1 note)

Artisan breads, hand-churned butters and a wide variety of sea salts were brought to the table, followed by our second courses. I chose the "charred egglplant barbajuan," served with a red pepper crêpe, Hawaiian hearts of peach palm, cerignola olives, marcona almonds and Tuscan kale. This was likewise a great partner with the Champagne.



It was a no-brainer for my wife to go with the slow poached Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras, served with butternut squash, Pearson Farm’s pecans, red endive,
Swiss chard leaves, quince purée and toasted brioche. This was an "upcharge" that was well worth it. The Klein Constantia Vin de Constance was a perfect match!



We each had the same third course, a pavé of Atlantic halibut, served with fork-crushed fingerling potatoes, heirloom radishes, romaine lettuce and Italian caper cream. This feminine, attractive dish tasted as good as it looked. The Champagne was again a star partner.



Nova Scotia lobster "mitts" followed, with Matsutake mushrooms, Hakurei turnip, chestnut purée and meyer lemon "condiment." This dish was flavor-packed. The fat in the sauce was so well-balanced by the acidity of the Champagne.

White - Sweet/Dessert
2008 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance South Africa, Coastal Region, Cape Peninsula, Constantia
95 points
This copper-colored sweet Muscat is intensely aromatic. Peaches, ginger, honey, pineapple and citrus are matched by similar flavors on a medium-bodied frame. Unctuous and mouth-coating on the palate, it balances its substantial sweetness with excellent acidity. Gaining depth in the middle and closing very long, it is nothing short of classic in quality. Drink now-2035.
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Flight 37 - Sunday, October 25, 2015 (Lunch at Per Se: Course 5) (0 notes)

For my fifth course, I stuck with one of the standard menu options, which was anything other than "standard." I chose the Wolfe Ranch bobwhite quail with applewood smoked bacon, carmelized sunchokes, Brussels sprouts, pickled pearl onions and sour ale gastrique. This dish was where the Barbaresco really began to strut its stuff as a food companion.



A major "supplement" added to the meal's price was the dish ordered by my wife..."carnaroli risotto biologico," with shaved white truffles from Alba, Castelmagno "mousseline" and "beurre noisette." The photos speak for themselves. The aromas and flavors were intoxicating. Our server came to the table when the dish was half consumed, and he generously shaved more truffles onto the plate. For those visiting Per Se, I strongly recommend biting the bullet and "upgrading." The Barbaresco was a fantastic match with this dish.







Flight 38 - Sunday, October 25, 2015 (Lunch at Per Se: Courses 6 & 7) (1 note)

For our sixth course, we each had the ribeye of Elysian Fields Farm's lamb (with smoked yogurt, cocktail artichokes, braised pine nuts, Persian cucumbers and sauce gremolata). It was a knockout and the Barbaresco was a wonderful accompaniment.



We were very happy at this point. In fact, we felt like we had died and gone to heaven.



We could have nursed the Barbaresco and gone back to our hotel happy; however, Thomas Keller would simply not allow it. We were to be subsequently treated by courses of treats that would leave us even happier! The first of these was "Mrs. Quicke's cheddar," with honeycrisp apples, Pearson Farm's pecans, ruby beets and celery branch. This was so good with the Barbaresco that it would have won any wine and food pairing contest.

Red
2007 Castello di Neive Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
92 points
This deep garnet Nebbiolo has evolved beautifully, with aromas and flavors of earth-laced plum, smoky raspberry, leather and spice. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic and with soft residual tannins, it is a joy to drink. With good density in the middle and a lengthy finish, it is clearly in its "sweet spot" and will likely be at its best over the next 3-4 years. Drink now-2019.

Flight 39 - Sunday, October 25, 2015 (Lunch at Per Se: Courses 8, 9 & 10) (0 notes)

Has anyone reading this ever had a pear and ginger float for a Sunday lunch dessert? I certainly had not, until I was indulged with this delicious yet amazingly light dish. It had a cold, crystal-like consistency which was very refined (not to mention a visually stunning appearance). The photo below does not do this dish justice, but please understand that I am a mere amateur photographer.



Our next dish was "the bottom of your childhood cereal bowl" (poppyseed cakes, raspberry crisps and reduced milk ice cream). It did indeed make one reminisce about the sweet bottom of a Trix-laden cereal bowl.



The next dish was nothing more than chocolate decadence. The photo says it all, as you can see the chocolate and berry marriage, which was harmonious on the palate.

Flight 40 - Sunday, October 25, 2015 (Lunch at Per Se: Courses 11 & 12...Then Another Broadway Play...Then a Late-Night Snack) (1 note)

Chocolate decadence was followed by more chocolate decadence. Our server had the composition of each of the 24 chocolate truffles embedded in her brain. She described each and every one, and told us to choose as many as we wanted. I chose three, as did my wife. They were all amazing. My personal favorite was the shiny green rosemary-infused truffle, while my wife's was the classic PB&J.





Our final dish was "coffee and doughnuts" (cappuccino semifreddo with cinnamon and sugar-dusted doughnuts). I hated every bite...until it was all gone. ;-)



In summary, Per Se is simply at the uppermost echelon of dining establishments. It is something to be experienced, something to be celebrated, something to be savored and, most importantly...something to be remembered[/i].

After strolling Times Square and relaxing in our hotel room, we then saw another Broadway play, The Book of Mormon at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre (http://bookofmormonbroadway.com). Irreverant but hysterically funny, it is a top-notch production.

Virtually every night that we spent in New York, we stayed up very late. As mentioned earlier, our "biological clocks" never really transitioned from Pacific Time. On this particular evening, we procured pizza slices at "Patzeria Perfect Pizza, Pasta & Grill" located immediately adjacent to the hotel at 233 West 46th Street. The pepperoni/sausage was delicious but my favorite was the chicken cutlet and onion. We sipped the 2012 Greg Norman Australia Estates Shiraz (ordered from the hotel) with our pizza into the wee hours of the morning and the pair made beautiful music together.

Red
2012 Greg Norman Australia Estates Shiraz Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast
89 points
Opaque crimson in color, this wine is surpisingly approachable despite its substantial extraction. Dark bramble fruits, minerals, black cherry, rosemary and violets are softly presented with low acidity, medium sweet tannins and nicely integrated alcohol (listed as 14.5%). Solid in the middle and closing with a round, medium-length finish, this is an underpriced wine which should be on the radar of those who enjoy Aussie Shiraz. It should drink nicely over the next 5-7 years. Drink now-2022.

Flight 41 - Monday, October 26, 2015 (Sightseeing and Shopping) (0 notes)

Few places can provide the variety of sightseeing that is offered by New York, specifically Manhattan. It is so culturally diverse that, if you keep your ears open, you will hear several different languages in the span of walking one city block. On this day, we strolled Canal Street, Little Italy, the Financial District, Rockefeller Center and (my favorite) Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Thereafter, I tagged along with my wife while she shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, etc. On our way back to the hotel, I enjoyed getting "photobombed" by the Times Square New Year's Ball.







Flight 42 - Monday, October 26, 2015 (Dinner at Orso) (2 notes)

For dinner, we had pre-planned Orso, an Italian restaurant which was highly recommended by our good friends (322 West 46th Street; http://www.orsorestaurant.com/). Located not far from our hotel, it was an easy walk. We had perused the Orso wine list online and had determined that we would like to have a bit more diversity from which to make our wine selection. We accordingly thought that it would be a good idea to buy a bottle at a wine shop and bring it to dinner. Not far from Orso we found a shop, Ninth Avenue Vintner (669 Ninth Avenue; http://www.ninthavenuevintner.com/), which was better than the two previous purveyors mentioned. The Ninth Avenue Vintner selection was decent and the prices were fairly reasonable. It was there that we purchased the 2010 Fattoria dei Barbi (Colombini) Brunello di Montalcino (for dinner) and the 2011 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape (for consumption with late-night room service snacks).

Orso is a quaint, below-street-level restaurant which is long and narrow. The décor can best be described as "simple elegance." While modern in some ways, it is rustic in others. The double-tablecloths and muted colors are soothing and, in my opinion, very tasteful. Our server was experienced and friendly, making us feel welcomed and comfortable from the get-go.





For my first course, I ordered the yellowfin tuna tartare, with onion, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, watercress vinaigrette, radish and sesame seeds. This was an outstanding dish. At this point in the meal, I was still nursing a gin martini, which (believe it or not) was a nice match.



My bride ordered the fried calamari, served with lemon-anchovy aioli and fra-diavolo sauce. Battered, crisp and tender, it was a very generous portion.



Certain dishes on the Orso menu are offered in two different portion sizes. For my second course, I ordered the smaller version of fusilli, with asparagus, roasted bell peppers, thyme, tomatoes and Parmesan. It was actually a good-size portion and was very enjoyable. The Fattoria dei Barbi was an excellent match.



My wife ordered the "small" version of the orrecchiette, served with sweet Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, cannelini beans and pecorino Romano. A plentiful and delicious dish, it likewise paired well with the Fattoria dei Barbi.



For my third course, I chose the "pollo," pan-roasted free-range chicken with cauliflower. The chicken was moist and tender, and was complemented nicely by the Fattori dei Barbi.



For my wife's third course, she chose the "small" version of rigatoni, with meat sauce and Parmesan. It was a sizable portion and paired well with the Fattoria dei Barbi.



As a side dish with our third courses, we shared the "cima di rape" (sautéed broccoli rabe, hot pepper and garlic). We were also provided with a complementary basket of crisp, thin cheese bread with rosemary. Both of these were great partners to the dishes.





Overall, we were quite pleased with our experience at Orso. I think that the restaurant would benefit by expanding their selection of wines. As of this point, I would recommend bringing your own wine. I cannot specifically recall what Orso's corkage fee was, but I do not remember it as being unreasonable.

As was the case with every other evening, we became hungry in the late-night hours and ordered room service. On this particular night, we greatly enjoyed the 2011 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape while watching a movie.

Red
2010 Fattoria dei Barbi (Colombini) Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
92 points
This medium ruby/red wine offers aromas and flavors of earth-laced plum, cherry, fennel, clove and nutmeg. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic and with nicely integrated alcohol (listed as 14.5%), it wraps its flavors with medium-weight, silky tannins and gains substantial depth on the mid-palate. Closing medium-to-long, this is a 2010 Brunello that is already drinking well, yet has the structure to provide pleasure for at least another 15 years. Drink now-2030.
Red
2011 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
90 points
Based upon its vineyard plantings, this wine is approximately 67% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre and 6% of all of the remaining 10 varieties allowed in the appellation. Deep-to-opaque ruby and nicely aromatic, this well-stuffed Châteauneuf is replete with ripe plum, cherry, licorice, bay leaf and violets. There is a hint of brett that is (at worst) tolerable or even desirable to some. Medium-to-full-bodied and with seamless alcohol (listed as 14.5%), it is very round in the mouth. This silky mouth texture is aided by its low acidity and velvety, medium-weight tannins. Showing good mid-palate density and a smooth, medium-length finish, this is a wine that clearly flys under the radar. Delicious now, it should continue to show well for another five years, possibly more. Drink now-2020.
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Closing

As was the case last year, I attempted to write about our trip contemporaneously, although many tape-recorded wine tasting notes from the Grand Tastings needed to be transcribed and added later. As such, I again found it helpful to have in-flight WiFi on our way home, where I could access the CellarTracker web site. As I type, I am viewing the "Big Apple" from our plane.



Our 2014 trip to New York, which included the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience, was amazing. To be perfectly honest, we did not anticipate it being "topped" by this year's trip, but that's exactly what happened. Somehow the 2015 event was even better, as was our trip overall. New Yorkers were (again) very friendly and treated us courteously. We will savor our memories and be counting the days until next year's trip!

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