Just to keep going with what I started the other day (or what we finished the other night, depending on how you want to look at it), here are the red wines—and two rosés—from the wine dinner Bruce Schoenfeld hosted on the Tuesday before the 2008 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. (Photo again by Jeremy Parzen.)
1997 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé General agreement could be found around the table that this wasn't the most impressive version of LdH's rosé around; I was part of that gang. Nice enough, with a kind of old book-dried strawberry scent, watermelon-strawberry fruit and a creamy texture, but it didn't have the depth some other vintages have had.
2007 S. C. Pannell McLaren Vale Grenache Rosé All ebullient ripe raspberry fruit and not much else. I wrote at the time, "crisp, juicy and a bit idiotic."
2004 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir Crunchy ripe raspberry and other berry notes wrapped with sweet spicy tannins. Very ripe Central Coast wine, but with a nice spice element to it. Sea Smoke's gotten a lot of culty praise; I thought this wine was very tasty, but not complex enough to justify raves.
2007 Emilio Bulfon Piculit Neri ($26) I completely rained on Jeremy Parzen's plan to mystify the whatsis out of me by having actually had this wine before—it's obscure as all get-out, but Henry Bishop (who used to run the wine program at Spiaggia in Chicago) once gave me a bottle, oddly enough. I liked it then, and I like it now. The aroma is floral and twiggy and reminiscent of a really good Dolcetto; the flavor is darker and sweeter than most Dolcettos, though, with lovely wild berry and plum notes, ripe but graceful. It's on wine-searcher.com, but strangely only available in Illinois. Go figure.
2005 Le Vieux Pin Apogee ($60ish, I was told) Merlot from the Okanagan Valley, and pricey Merlot from there to boot. This was much more Bordelais than new world, especially in its green tobacco/smoky aroma. Big wine, plump with ripe cherry fruit, lifted by light peppery notes and a kind of resinous quality at the end. I wouldn't pay the going price for it, but I did like the wine.
1998 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon OK, this was just terrific. Another blow against the forces of darkness who claim 1998 in Napa Valley was a bad year, and some esthetic vindication for Tim Mondavi, who got beaten up for so many years for making "lean" wines. Complex aromas of smoke, currant, and a line of green (appealing green) Cabernet character, velvety texture—resolved tannins, not ripeness—and sweet cherry fruit with a touch of dried cherry emerging. Peppery end. One of the stars of the evening, actually.
1997 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Dense cassis on the nose and in the mouth, and a touch of black cherry, but not a lot of complexity. Not going to go much of anywhere, I'd say. I'd be interested to try the '98 in comparison...
2005 Domaine Cros de Romet Cairanne ($20ish) This modest red stood up to some very exalted company, impressing me completely. White pepper, sweet cherry-berry fruit (but not too) and a light earthy note—just what you want in village Rhône wine. Better than several wines we tasted that cost a lot more. Alain Junguenet imports it, apparently.
2005 Januik Petite Verdot Red Mountain Resinous berry and oak notes on the nose, and hugely sweet, jammy plum fruit in the mouth. Not my kinda thing. And I usually like Mike Januik's wines.
2001 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro (Magnum—around $90) Some berry notes, but honestly, this wine didn't do a thing for me.
2001 Ruffino Romitorio de Santedame (also out of Magnum—about $150) Made from Colorino and Merlot, this big ol' monster of an Italian wine was a lot more interesting than its sibling above—lots of leather, plum, dark berries, and espresso. Not new world in style, but not really old world either. Sort of like a large black bear, sitting in a cave, looking at you.
1999 Solaia Tea leaf and dark fruit scents rising from the glass, then black and inky fruit. I seem to have written "an expensive but dull wine." Evidently I was getting harsher as the night went on. But I did expect to find more here than was the case.
1999 Montevetrano More like it. One of the sought-after wines of Italy, and I can see why (though there was hardly mutual agreement about this at the table). In any case, it's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Aglianico, and I loved its wiry strength, notes of green tobacco and minerals, peppercorns, and sweet black currant. Very savory, in a way that suggests rugged forested hillsides. And doing just fine in terms of aging.
1998 Argiolas Turriga Alas, the general consensus on this wine was that it had been baked. It certainly tasted baked. Bummer.
1981 Lopez de Heredia Viña Boscaina Gran Reserva A great wine from a great vintage, but Bruce S. and I both felt that it wasn't the greatest bottle we'd had of it. Still, pretty darn wonderful: earth, green grass (strange), dried cherries on the nose, and then silky old school Rioja with a sort of brown sugar and sweet cherry flavor, and, as I wrote at the time, "very fresh fruit!"
1990 Château Brane-Cantenac Scents of leather and spiced currant (Christmas-spicey), and then just a really charming Bordeaux that happens to be drinking about perfectly right now—sweet cassis, floral notes, graceful tannins, lots of poise. One of my favorites.
1986 Château Gruaud-Larose Dark leathery, savory notes, with tobacco edges, then plummy fruit that ended on really hard (and classic for G-L) tannins. I wasn't as taken with this as with the Brane-Cantenac, but it could also still use a bit more time, I'd say.
2004 S. C. Pannell McLaren Vale Grenache ($50) Sort of a whiplash effect here from the wildly abrupt change of style—hard to go from old, austere Bordeaux to young, crazily ebullient Aussie Grenache. But we do what we must do. Inky notes paired with caramel oak, leading into a generous, round, sexy wine with oodles of sweet raspberry fruit. Great if that's your taste. Not so, if not.
2004 Andrew Murray Roasted Slope Syrah ($35ish) I was gratified that this wine showed so well—it usually strikes me as a truly effective mingling of California and northern Rhône sensibilities, and this night was a case in point. Iodine and pepper, gamy notes; medium-bodied, focused fruit; and lots of savory character.
OK, and now I'm tired of typing. Look for the remainder of this tasting (roughly six more wines) on Monday...