A very casual dinner happened this past Friday, which started with an invitation from the Otises for Mrs Grossie and me to join him and Mrs Otis with some mutual friends. Since the Grossies had never been to the new Otis family lakeside estate, how were we to refuse?
By text message Otis and I cooked up an Insignia mini-vertical to enjoy for the evening. I brought a 97 (penultimate bottle of mine) and an 02 (1st of my 3). He brought the 99. Otis also furnished the foil bottle, a 2000 Leoville Barton. For giggles he brought out a bottle of 01 Neal Napa, a famous bottle from these boards. I can't remember how long it was decanted for.
Without discussing with each other we each stood up some 01 Sauternes. I brought out a Rieussec and a Suduiraut. Otis had a Lafaurie Peyraguey ready to roll. (all half bottles)
The Insignias were all pop & pour. Here are my brief notes.
1997- The magic here is that this is exactly the same wine I've been drinking since it's release. Fantastic flamboyant sweet fruit, great complexity, not a hard edge to be found, and a finish that lasts and lasts. This is wonderful and has barely changed over the last 16 years. How is that possible? I suppose if one is a real old world fan there are some holes here- nothing earthy, nothing animal, just pure sweet Napa fruit. As with the last 10 bottles over the last 10+ years this bottle seemed at peak. Tannin is gone, but somehow I think it's still got 5-10 years left. 97pts
1999- A different breed. Some of that sweet Napa character, but also a slightly spicy oak to it. Some bite, but the wine is long. I think this wine reflects the 99 vintage- ripe, but a little hard. Still a joy to drink, if anyone wants to bring a bottle over for dinner you can be my new friend! Drink now, or hold another few years. 93 pts
2002- shares a lot of the 97 characteristics, but since it's my first of these I don't know about how it will evolve. It started the night a little tannic, had some of the spice of 99 but a lot of the purity and sweetness/voluptuous character of the 97. After some time in the glass the tannin faded and one would recognize it as the close sibling of the 97 (the Birdungy to my Grossie). Right now I like this a lot, I think I'll like it more in about 5 years. 96 points.
2000 Leoville Barton- Drank alongside the Insignias as the foil. A wine of higher class and character than the Napa wines. Charred oak, sweet fruit, and that really rich cranberry note I find in 2000s. (I don't know how else to explain it, and rich cranberry is a bit of an oxymoron, but it's how I think of 2000). Great finish. Could use 5-10 more years to really rock, but it's in a fantastic place right now. 96 points.
2001 Neal Napa- Still has its racing stripes. Rich, jazzy, spicy, but just lacks the same class as all the others. The first few sips are great then there's something about this wine that starts to bug me- it's an oak mouth burn I get from it, I'm not sure why. Would I turn this down? No, it's quite the flashy beast, but it lacks the refinement of true fine wine IMO. 90 points.
To the sweeties. These were drunk alongside a blueberry peach strawberry pie a la mode (which was fantastic in its own right).
01 Rieussec- WS WOTY in 2004. I paid $32 for this half bottle, seemed expensive at the time. This is a serious Sauternes. Honey, waxy, a bit of almond, and some weight to this wine. Sweet, but nothing out of balance, terrific acidity. The waxy and almond side can weigh a bit. Lingers in the mouth. I prefer slightly lighter Sauternes. 95 points. Drink now or in the next 40 years.
01 Suduiraut- light color. So light in the mouth, not quite as serious as the Rieussec, but still profound. It dances across the tongue, with honey , orange peel, and marshmallow notes. The high acidity kept it so light that I'm not even sure the wine ever touched my tongue. Finishes for about 2 weeks. Gorgeous, maybe my favorite Sauternes ever. 98 points.
01 Lafaurie Peyraguay- The darkest of the three. A little nutty flavor profile, a little heavy overall while still having great acidity. Not clumsy on its own but compared to the other 2 it seemed a bit that way. Very enjoyable, very refined, long finish. 93 points.
Well, this little impromptu gathering turned out to be quite the wine evening for me. As usual Otis cooked up some great food, including a well thought-out beef tenderloin accompanied with a simply baked potato and a corn-peach-fennel blend. Nights like this make me remember exactly why I put away wine for a long time- the payoff can be amazing, and the shared memories with good friends are what make this hobby worthwhile.