High Desert Wine Free-for-all on June 24
Board members Stemor and Pinot Envy traveled to Highdesertwines home town of Victorville, California to have at 25 bottles of fine wine that we assembled. In order to maintain a state of semi-consciousness, 15 other High Desert Wine Explorers joined in to sop up all of the excess vino. The event was ably hosted by Jan and James Chien of the Chateau Chang restaurant.
Many of the bigger reds were opened 2 hours prior to tasting, decanted for a few minutes, then returned to their respective bottles.
Below are the fuzzy recollections of Highdesertwine 24 hours after the debauchery.
1997 J Sparkling wine, Sonoma
Creamy, with toast, lemon, and apple. Nice length and balance.
2000 Tablas Creek Clos Blanc, Paso Robles
Interesting blend of Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc. Distinctly perfumed and flowery. Apple blossom, orange zest, and allspice. Fat; low in acid.
1999 Staglin Chardonnay, Napa
Done without malo-lactic, this still-young wine wraps smoky, toasty oak around perfumed, rip tropical fruit, fig, and crème brulee.
1996 Ch. Carbonnieux, Graves White
Beautifully aromatic, with sweet, honey-tinged gooseberry, fig, and citrus.
1999 Kistler Chardonnay, McCrea Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain
Richly extracted, over-the-top style. Lots of toasty, smoky oak fights it out with ultra-ripe pineapple syrup and gobs of vanilla cream. If it is given a chance to sit in th glass, additional complexities emerge. It didnt get that chance on this occasion. The perfect foil for an appetizer of steamed Alaskan King Crab legs with drawn butter.
1999 Cambria Chardonnay, Clone 4
This is an experimental bottling, not released to the public. A Pommard clone. Deeply colored, extracted, with butter, ripe tropical fruit, lemon, and a spice note that I described as sage, while others said wintergreen or eucalyptus. Very interesting, but I think it is best suited for blending and adding complexity, rather than standing on its own.
1999 Dom. Schlumberger Gewurztraminer, Grand Cru, Kessler, Alsace
Nicely unctuous. Showing a flowery, perfumed nose of rosewater, honey (touch of Botrytis?), some litchi fruit. The honey stays on the afterflavor for minutes.
2000 Carpe Diem Pinot Noir, Firepeak Vineyard, Edna Valley
A new project from talented winemaker Christian Roguenant, this is a great value Pinot Noir. Burgundian in style, yet showing the fleshier fruit of California, I get lots of red cherry and berry fruit and a few small whiffs of France (if you know what I mean, and I think you do-do). Ready to drink now. It is in some big company here, and I thought that it held its own.
1999 Broadley Pinot Noir, Claudias Choice, Willamette Valley
Some green stemminess took away from the pretty spiced cherry and buttery fatness. Smooth on the palate, but finished a bit short.
1999 Panther Creek Pinot Noir, Knights Gambit, Willamette Valley
Almost black in color, with a massive concentration of blackberry, black cherry, and cola fruit. Lush, yet shows a great sense of balance. I expect this to age quite well.
1998 Dom. Drouhin Pinot Noir, Laurene
Maybe my favorite Oregon winery. Their reserve bottling defines power + elegance in the glass. Lots of dark berry and cherry fruits, raspberry tartness, vanilla, and spice. Mouth-filling yet smooth, with a long, long finish. Still the best Oregon Pinot Noir I have had. Thanks, Pinot Envy, for bringing it!
1999 Hartford Court Pinot Noir, Arrendell Vineyard, Russian River
This is the flip side of Pinot Noir in America. Oregon is about seamlessness and elegance; California is about fleshy extraction. This one has it in spades. A hugely extracted wine, with spiced black cherry and cranberry fruit that seems to crawl right up the sides of the glass. Parker gave this 92; Spectator never rates Hartford or Hartford Court.
1999 Flowers Pinot Noir, Camp Meeting Ridge
One of my favorite producers of Pinot Noir in California. Extracted, almost candied, dark berry and cherry fruit with a hint of raspberry petulance. Sweetens up and spreads out in the mouth, leading to a delightful, fruit-driven finish.
1999 dArenberg Shiraz, The Dead Arm, Australia
Dang, I love Aussie Shiraz! This one is perfectly balanced, with forward blackberry fruit and sweet molasses notes. The wine coats the palate, leaving a sweet black fruit impression long after youve sucked down the glass.
1998 Chateau Reynella Shiraz, Basket Pressed, Australia
The 1998 vintage in Australia is one of the finest ever, and this wine shows why. Concentrated blackberry syrup, woodspice this wine just oozes sweet lush black berry fruits. All I can say is Yummy!
2000 James Creek Zinfandel, Napa
A touted wine at Wine Exchange in Orange, California. Typical high-extract, raisiny fruit with woodspice notes and cracked pepper. A tad hot. Sweet finish. This may be the herd style Zin, but I prefer the more balanced efforts without the raisins.
2000 Turley Zinfandel, Juvenile Vines, California
A Wine Spectator 86. Ripe, smooth fruit. Moderately rich berry aromas and flavor. Noticeable heat. I was not enchanted by this wine.
1999 Turley Zinfandel, Old Vines, California
There was greater depth to this wine than the Juvenile Vines bottling. You are also dealing with the superior 1999 vintage. Drinking well now.
1999 Titus Cabernet Franc, Napa
One of the best Cab Francs Ive had. The aromatic nose shows violets, black currant, ripe plum, and woodspices. Smooth and polished in the mouth, leading to a long, plush finish. Rates very high on the hedonism scale!
1998 Chateau La Grange, St. Julien
Parker gave this a pretty high score. Complex, brooding nose of roast coffee, mocha, black currant, and terroir. Excellent balance. Ready to drink now, but should hold for a decade or more.
1988 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa (out of magnum)
Surprisingly, one of the better 1988 Napa Cabs Ive had. As you might expect, there was a lot of camphor and cedar wood notes, but there was just enough cranberry fruit to hold it together. Not a blockbuster of a wine, but a good effort considering how many 1988s were tannic, drying monsters with little fruit.
1994 Quail Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa
Starting to come together now. Smooth, almost shellacked, black currant and cherry fruits. Sweet and mellow in the mouth. The tannins are starting to resolve.
1997 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa
The nose seemed a bit older than I expected. A very nice wine now but, judging from this bottle, I worry about aging this wine for a significant period. It could also be a function of having been carried around the country for a couple of days just prior to opening it for this tasting. I enjoyed the cassis, cranberry, and fleshy plum fruit, some French oak smoke, and a dollop of terroir. It reminded me a lot of the 1997 Spring Mountain regular Cab bottling.
1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia, Napa
A great, extracted, Meritage red, showing layers of complexity. Extracted cassis, blackberry, plum, black licorice, cedar, and oak shadings. Continues to build in the glass. How are they able to make such a consistently high-end Cab blend at nearly 20,000 cases a vintage?? Yum.
1999 Verite, La Joie, Sonoma
A Jess Jackson winery, this wine will emerge in a few years as an extraordinary bargain at $90 retail. Parker 94-96. Wine Spectator 88. Somebody made a boo-boo on this wine. It was my favorite wine of the evening. Dense and opulent, the nose takes brooding to a whole new level. Thick, extracted berry fruit. Throw in layers of licorice and black olive to flesh it out. Add smoky French oak. Balance perfectly. Voila! True to its Sonoma heritage, the concentrated berry fruits have a red profile to them. Some compared this to the B. R. Cohn Reserve. I think this has more power and balance for aging.
1983 Ramos-Pinto Vintage Port
Just brought into this country from Portugal. Drinking at its peak now. Throwing a moderate amount of sediment. Great sense of velvety smoothness in the mouth. Aromas and flavors of spiced raisins, black licorice, and toffee. A great way to end the tasting!