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High Desert Wine Free-for-all on June 24

Board members Stemor and Pinot Envy traveled to Highdesertwine’s 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.
90 points

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.
88 points

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.
91 points

1996 Ch. Carbonnieux, Graves White
Beautifully aromatic, with sweet, honey-tinged gooseberry, fig, and citrus.
90 points

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 didn’t get that chance on this occasion. The perfect foil for an appetizer of steamed Alaskan King Crab legs with drawn butter.
94 points

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.
89 points

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.
92 points

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.
90 points

1999 Broadley Pinot Noir, Claudia’s 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.
86 points

1999 Panther Creek Pinot Noir, Knight’s 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.
93 points

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!
94 points

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.
93 points

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.
94 points

1999 d’Arenberg 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 you’ve sucked down the glass.
94 points

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!
95 points

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.
89 points

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.
87 points

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.
90 points

1999 Titus Cabernet Franc, Napa
One of the best Cab Francs I’ve 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!
92 points

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.
91 points

1988 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa (out of magnum)
Surprisingly, one of the better 1988 Napa Cabs I’ve 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.
86 points

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.
90 points

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.
91 points

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.
95 points

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.
96 points

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!
93 points
Original Post

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One word "WOW"...what an evening!!
Great notes HDW, I agree on the Verite; shocked to see WS practically dismiss this wine. Also, very pleased w/the CMR, I don't know why but it shows differently every time. It was a first for me on the Clos Blanc, kind of sensed a mandarin oranginess (resembled the juice in a can of mandarin oranges). Not a Chard-girl but the Kistler was admittedly...fabulous [Smile]
WOTN: '99 Insignia / '99 Verite, La Joie
And...what a great ensemble of Pinot we had! I definitely will add the Panther's Creek to my repetoire.

I am ready to do it again! Keep me ...'posted' [Smile]
Pinot Envy:
Whenever you next want to come up, we'll seriously hit the other high-end Oregon Pinots I have.

King of Hearts:
Actually, I think the Beringer PR Cab has a dollop of other Bordeaux varietals in the mix. And I have a bottle of the 1999 Titus Cab Franc for you if you ever make it out this way...
Also, I have just come into possession of a 3 liter of the 1992 Beringer PR -- it is just waiting for a good reason to open it!!

[ 06-26-2002, 07:36 PM: Message edited by: highdesertwine ]
Ya' Know KYBO, here's the funny thing about So took me 1.75 hours to get to the high desert, leaving my house at 5p.m. ( [Frown] 2 brush fires over Cajon Pass), and it took me 35 minutes to get home....( I had a curfew [Big Grin] )

first of all, I can do the back-stroke in Insignia and be a very happy woman [Big Grin]
that said....The Beringer '92 comes across as very dense and deeply layered (not a foo-foo wine), the '99 Insignia has a "lightness of being", an intrinsic fruit quality that is complex and delicious.
In forum-lemming-speak, if I had $1000 to spend on only one wine for the next 6 months; Insignia, Insignia...go forth KOH..and purchase [Wink] .
I pretty much agree on the Ramos Pinto, have had a few of them over the last 5 years or so; but if I had to rate it, would a little bit lower. My first impression was some surprise at how grapey it was, then anise. It's been a good value for as little as $35.

Nice to hear about the OR Pinots, which I'm getting to know. I'll be in Rickreal this weekend, then a week on the coast, so will be trying a bit of it. [Big Grin]
Bring it! If you're contemplating a Midwestern sojourn in 2003 I'd suggest Derby time. That means you too, Stemor! Next time we'll hook up B4 the festivities begin!!

I know what you mean about the fires. When we lived in the foothills above Northridge so many moons ago we were on several occasions 'severed' from the valley by fire(s) jumping Tampa and Reseda Blvd.'s. Quite traumatic for us school-agers (and everyone else, to boot!).
OK... Sounds like we have A Happening shaping up, to occur in Victorville in February, 2003. Keeping in mind that the Chateau Chang restaurant is next door to my wineshop, and only seats 60 or so without a private area for us to debauch in, a Sunday or Monday evening would work best. Actually, if we do it on a Sunday, we would have the whole place to ourselves! They are normally closed that day. For a group of 20+, they would open up for us. I would probably do it as a 5 course, set meal. About $65, plus tax and tip, and it would include 2 spieglau glasses for each participant to keep! If we generate enough interest, it's a go! Just let me know if a Sunday can work for everybody...

[ 06-28-2002, 01:01 AM: Message edited by: highdesertwine ]
UPDATE from five weeks later:

Drinking one of the bottles that I wrestled home from Victorville back in June ... the '99 Titus Cab Franc.

WOW! I didn't fully appreciate it back on June 24th (somehow, it got lost in the shuffle with the other two dozen wines [Roll Eyes] ), but this is a delicious wine!

There's a good full nose of violets and ripe, dark fruit without really hinting at its 14.5% alcohol content. Lighly colored long legs and a wine is a consistent and perfectly clear ruby red. It tastes like it smells, which a very good thing, while it stays full bodied all the way down. The finish is long and completely enjoyable, caressing the back of your throat for a good long time.

I only bought three of these due to carrying capacity limitations. Now, I'm going in search of more. This one is a definite buy at ~$24, with an "A" QPR and 93 stemor points.

[ 08-01-2002, 12:02 AM: Message edited by: stemor ]

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