Penfolds Grange dinner with Stephanie Dutton

The Musket Room in NYC

Tasted April 30, 2019 by MC2 Wines with 138 views


It's a pretty privileged situation to get to do three Grange events in a week. This is by far the most in-depth I've ever gone with the wine and as it's my favorite wine I was loving every second of it.

Also - the choice of the Musket Room was inspired. Each dish was lovingly crafted and just spot on with these wines. Really a great place and somewhere we'll need to come back.

I should note there was also a Chardonnay poured to begin the night but I skipped that one

Flight 1 (4 notes)

Smoked Beef Tartare | White Asparagus | Truffle

2015 Penfolds Shiraz St. Henri Australia, South Australia
This wine has been my surprise of the week. I had never paid too much attention to it although I know it's fairly well available in the US. Does seem like there's real value here. This is all old oak and love the cleanness that creates. A certain crisp and fresh feel to it. Lots of berries which show well. A hint of spice (although that is more secondary to the berries). Well balanced. Nice wine.
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2016 Penfolds Shiraz RWT Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
This for me is that friend that gets along with all of your friends and yet somehow never quite rubs you the right way. And I think it's probably mostly because it's a very young wine with a lot of oak and no time for all of that to have resolved. So whereas most others get lots of flavors here, I get a very dominant mouthful of splinters and only with some concentration can tell that there is fruit and other stuff going on behind it. Would be interested to try one from the 90's to see how these evolve and whether it does integrate in. I suspect so. Somehow also the oak seems to hide the natural acidity I find in most Penfolds wines.
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2016 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 707 Australia, South Australia
Bonus bottle in the line-up! I have really not spend much time with the cabs from Penfolds at all and now we've had the 707 three times in the last week. It's really well done. Very nicely structured, great fruit, great balance, a bit of the floral and more elegant pieces. Overall, a very nice wine.
2014 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
Ah - the main event. Of course the baby brother of most of the evening and it's evident. This is a nice wine and enjoyable now, but with so much exposure to the old ones you do feel quite a bit of infanticide opening it up. There are Grange vintages that are more power than finesse and those that are more finesse than power. The '14 is the later. I don't entirely understand why, but somehow this wine always feels balanced right from the beg (unlike say the RWT). Oak is already fairly integrated. The eucalyptus is right there. The fruit. The major difference is young Grange doesn't quite get to those secondary spices and tertiary meat notes that make the wine so special. But still quite good.

Flight 2 (5 notes)

Veal | Peas | Mustard

1998 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
There's a few of these Granges that are just monsters that I imagine might live almost forever. This is one of those. It is intense and grips you right from the beginning. Lots of eucalyptus and menthol, meat and more savory notes, ripe blackberries, more herbal. With time I get some Indian spices. Every time I tried this wine it was different and interesting and intense. I look forward to seeing it in more of the real drinking window (it's till gotta be 20 years away from maturity). An old friend though and one that showed quite beautifully tonight.
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1996 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
For many this was the wine of the flight. It's certainly a nice balance between the power and finesse. In some of these wines the fruits is so beautiful and ripe and sweet without being overripe. This was one of those cases. Some more violet style floral notes as well. A wine that has a bit of elegance under all of the power. Very nice.
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1995 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
Another great Grange in a line-up of great Grange. It's almost always black or red berries for me with Grange, but this has to be one of the first times that I was getting cherry notes (black cherry to be exact). There's a certain roundness to the wine and nice mouthful. I think a bit closed down to some of it's brethren as it didn't have the twenty different things hitting depending upon where you were in your taste.
1994 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
For some this was the wine of the flight. To me it was prob my least favorite (although still quite good). I think I was reacting to the fact that the oak was a touch less integrated here than the other bottles (even less than the 2014). It's coming across as very young and just a big gangly in style. Suspect it will be fine with some more time. Still a lot of other great flavors. Floral was prob the most dominant for me in this one, but get the fruit and eucalyptus and more spicy style too.
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1992 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
One of the few repeats from the dinner that we had Sunday night. Initially this was much more closed and almost seemed a bit dumb. I think these wines had been opened and poured whereas Sunday's had had a decent decant by the time we got to it. With time in the glass this really improved. Lots more coffee and chocolate in addition to those other fun Grange flavors.

Flight 3 (6 notes)

Quail | Blackberry | Bread Sauce | Roasted Onion

1990 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
This is another one of those super powerful Granges that just jumps out of the glass. It also is just much too young to really be drinking now. I found it a bit over the top almost. Very fruit forward. A bit more alcoholic. It started to calm down with some time, but very hard to tell that this is a 29 year old wine. It's young young young.
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1989 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
Red berry liquor. A bit more of the cranberry and a nice blend of the sweetness of the fruit with a natural tartness as well. Comes across as quite young as well although a bit less intense than the '90 right before it. Still a lovely wine.
1988 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
First of the wines where I got just a hint of greenness to it. But not in a bad way. In fact, I am someone who doesn't mind and kindof likes a touch of that in their wine. Similar to the '89 there's also a nice tartness here. A bit less sweet. Very well balanced. It's a tasty wine.
1987 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
Of course the eucalyptus. This has a nice beginning with some fruit that jumps out of the glass. A bit more of a drying tannin than some of the others. Some herbal and spice notes. It's good. Got overshadowed a bit by the '86 which was just brilliant.
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1986 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
One of my straight up favorites of the evening (I think it will give the '71 a run for its money with more years). This is beautiful. Unlike some of the other power vintages that lead with fruit, this leads more with the floral side of things (although there is of course good fruit as well). A bit of a softness and almost a 'melts in your mouth' sensation. Like a very good chocolate. And there is a bit of chocolate here. And cinnamon. Really awesome.
1990 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
Bonus bottle at a Grange tasting and very kind of AJ to share it. This is maybe the most quintessential Chave I've ever had. It's all animal and feral and iron and blood. It almost feels like you are drinking the fur. A special and interesting wine. As it was served at a Grange tasting, I will say I still prefer Grange although I believe that's more personal preference than a difference in quality. For me Chave is always like Finger Painting and more like the five year old version where stuff is just coming everywhere and that central structure just isn't quite there. It's all of the flavors I love and nothing that quite pulls them together. And so for me it is always a very good wine, but seems to struggle to get to great. Grange does have that structure. The acid, the tannin, the backbone that aligns the wine. Personally I like that and look for that in a 'great' wine. So while this was super fun to try and very enjoyable, in a head to head I thought the Grange had it (although if very specific to the 90 vintage, this was drinking much better right now - that was much too young).

Flight 4 (4 notes)

New Zealand Red Deer | Flavors of Gin

1985 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
First sip of this reminds me of some of the young and intense wines in the flight, but hiding behind that there's a feeling that this will blow off more quickly than say the '90 or '76. A bit more spice dominated than some of the other wines. With that time in the glass it did indeed get into more of a groove. All of the lovely parts of a Grange. I still think too young for my tastes, but enjoyable.
1983 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
Very classic Grange which is interesting because apparently this was the year of all of the weather craziness in Aus. Huge bushfires and lots of rains. And a wine that feels just so quintessentially itself somehow through that. It's got the eucalyptus and a bit of the menthol and lovely black fruits and really a nice oomph that makes it leap out of the glass a bit. A beautiful wine.
1982 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
Another great bottle of this wine (from the same source as Sunday) and again one of the more vibrant versions of this. It started perhaps a touch more closed. Had been poured into the glass earlier in the night and I thought that might have served as a decant of sorts but this was still a bit tightly wound. Came across as very young. Very intense. A wine with a long life ahead.
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1981 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
Grange is the best birth year wine that I have ever had. I don't think this is the top vintage of Grange by any means, but I appreciate that in a year when most wine around the world is just ok this can make you take notice. It is also somewhat the argument against a Grange vertical since it can get a bit overshadowed with the broader group, but that does happen. I also find it's a vintage that maybe even more than some of the others really appreciates that long (think multi hour) decant. The first pour is always a bit more muted. More tannin and maybe a hint of oak. It's time that gets it to soften in the glass and show all those amazing Grange flavors.
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Flight 5 (3 notes)

60 Day Aged Beef | Morels | Pearl Onion

1976 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
This is just a beast of a wine. If tasted blind I'd be hard pressed to get anywhere near the right decade. It's a bit more full bodied, more intense, more fruit, more spice, more eucalyptus... just more. To be honest, on the edge of too much, but you can imagine with more time in the bottle to calm down it's going to be so impressive. This is a wine that might outlive me. Really fun to have twice in a week.
1975 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
Off which was a bummer. We had a few of these a few years ago. One was ok but died early (I think for sure flawed). Other started a bit musty and then opened up into something really beautiful. This was not completely appalling, but nor was it tasty and as the other Granges in the line-up show Grange is meant to be tasty.
1971 Penfolds Grange Australia, South Australia
I don't usually do a WOTN with Grange since all are lovely and beautiful and most any of them could be a WOTN if they were on the own. This however really stood out. I think perhaps because the '76 is just a monster and so this was the wine that maybe perhaps is starting to approach drinking window. It's still quite young and vibrant and I hesitate to say really ready, but certainly more than the others we drank. Also funny because of all the wines we tried this resembled the Chave the most to me (at least the nose) although still held a great structure and while it had all the meat and pan drippings and all of that it also had the dark fruits and purple petals and eucalyptus and more asian spices.
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Some takeaways (from this and the earlier events):

Grange absolutely changes depending upon the year, but it is amazing how basically all of those incantations are great. Even years that aren't meant to be 'wow' are really good. Sometimes it feels like splitting hairs.

Grange 100% benefits from age and serious age. This can sortof be helped by very long decants and swirls in the glass, but the reality is these bottles were built to go for 50+ years and as long as there's no flaw they all easily do that. And when you are drinking 40+ year old Grange next to 25 year old Grange you do see the difference and that patience is rewarded. In both evenings I would say the oldest wine was WOTN.

The 707 cab is really good. I'm sure overshadowed because well Grange, but the ones we had I always enjoyed. It is a restrained with new world fruit style that I think works really well.

And the St Henri was perhaps my surprise of the week. It's a fun wine with an interesting history (being the other project of a Penfolds winemaker at the same time as Grange). I would be intrigued to try more old ones of those.

Also - I must say that Steph is just a delightful presenter and dinner companion. Her knowledge of the wines and not just the wines themselves but the history and the stories that go in is wonderful. Looking forward to having her back in NY in the future!

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