Aspen's done, and I'm back in NYC exhausted but perfectly happy about life. And I have to say, if you're looking for a way to make your audience your friend when running a wine seminar, try blind-tasting them on the 1999 Shafer Hillside Select, which I was able to do this year thanks to the kindness (or madman-like generosity, take your pick) of Doug Shafer. The idea—since I was doing a seminar on Cabernets from Napa's mountain appellations—was to throw in a ringer at the end, then quiz the nice folks tasting the wines about whether, after educating their palates with five or six mountain cabs, they thought the mystery wine was a mountain wine, too.
The general consensus? Mountain wine. (Doug will be gratified to hear this, since his position is that Hillside is a de facto mountain Cab even if the appellation doesn't qualify.) I think the jury might have been a bit more split had the wine been younger—the '99 is still showing a lot of that lovely black raspberry fruit it had when young, but it's become more lithe and precise, shedding some of its youthful wine boisterousness and adding layers of complex spice, plum and licorice notes. And it's still got years to go. The bad news? Look to paying about $400 a bottle at auction.