Now That’s What I Call a Wine Dinner

By Ray Isle Posted June 14, 2007

This is the week of our annual Aspen Food & Wine Experience, which for me actually starts on Tuesday night when Bruce Schoenfeld (consulting editor for wine & whatnot at our esteemed sister publication Travel & Leisure) throws his annual pre-Aspen wine dinner in Boulder, CO. It's a kind of lagniappe d'Aspen, if you like. It's also, always, an extraordinary experience vis a vis tasting wine, since the guests are all winemakers and/or wine writers and/or wine business folks who are under strict orders to bring something amazing that they don't make and/or represent themselves. This is the wine equivalent of tossing down fifteen red handkerchiefs in front of fifteen wine-crazed bulls (of course not everyone present was a man, but I can't really call the women cows, so perhaps that metaphor should have been snuffed before it struggled into its half-clever life. Writing. Sigh. Always the beautiful vision, buried under the mudslide of reality.)

In any case. The point is we met up this year, as in the past, at a very good restaurant whose name will be elided here, as from what I understand it's actually not entirely kosher to allow guests to bring their own wine to restaurants in Colorado, and I don't want to get them into trouble. And boy howdy was the wine brought. I missed the first eight or so bottles, because the evil gnomes who run United Airlines once again delayed my outbound flight, but I raced into the restaurant in time to taste the following:

2005 Didier Dagueneau Pouilly Fumé Silex
  Grassy, flinty scents resolving into flavors of lemon zest, lime jelly, stony minerality, a hint of saltiness, and a savory, umami-like note that's hard to pin down, but is impressive. A mighty impressive way to start--I put down my glass thinking, man, I didn't even know Sauvignon Blanc could do that.

2003 Eduardo Valentini Trebbiano  Legendary among Italian white wines, for what it's worth. Truly unlike any other wine--meaty, savory and waxy notes in the aroma, an unctuous but supremely focused structure, deep earth notes, ripe pear flavors.

1996 Louis Jadot Corton Pougets  Aromas of pencil lead and barnyard but surprisingly little fruit, then tough and surprisingly astringent (even given it's a '96, a high-acid year). Mulberry fruit and tough tannins. Underwhelming.

1997 Boquinet Eschezeaux  A sort of enveloping aroma of dark cherry and foresty notes, and then impressive sweet-savory density. Drinking gorgeously right now.

2000 Quilceda Creek Merlot  Penetrating aroma of dark chocolate, peppercorns and oak, and the oak continues in the flavor-in fact, somewhat overwhelms the wine. Not sure this is ever going to overcome the wood. (Interesting comment by my neighbor at the table, Caleb Foster of Buty Winery, in Walla Walla: "Washington Merlot just soaks up oak like a sponge.")

2004 Cliff Lede Poetry  Notes of soy, spicy oak and blackcurrant, developing into black currant & black cherry flavors with smoke and a fair smack of nice oak. Very polished but very young--needs time.

1995 Réserve de la Comtesse  The second wine of Château Pichon Lalande. Pretty much textbook Pauillac, with brett and pencil lead scents, dark cherry and cedar flavors. Drinking fine right now.

2004 Torbreck The Factor Shiraz  This is made, as I understand it, from the lots that don't quite make it into Torbreck's top Shiraz, Run Rig. That said, it's hardly a second wine: big, powerful, super-sultry Shiraz, with aromas of grape, blackberry, black olive and licorice. Huge, dense and delicious, but controversial at the dinner as many people thought it was so big as to be over the top. I suggested that it really ought to be served not so much with roast boar as with live boar.

1998 Henschke Mt. Edelstone Shiraz  One of the wines of the night, this was counterpoint to the Torbreck-tasted blind you might guess it was from the Rhône, but for a light dill note that speaks to some American oak (it's a combo of French and American). Resiny, green olive, peppery, red fruit aromas rolling into blacker fruit flavors lifted by an almost citrusy acidity.

1998 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 
Sweet cherry jam and mocha-vanilla scents, then tart sour cherry flavors wrapped up in dusty, leathery notes. Not much loved by everyone,  but I thought it was pretty classic Valbuena.

2004 Buty Rediviva of the Stone
  Caleb, bringing his own wine! Oh, the shame of it all. Anyway, a terrific vintage of this Syrah/Cab blend, with pretty blackberry aromas touched by earth, lush fruit and a distinct cocoa note.

2000 Domaine de la Janasse Cuvée Chaupin
  Raspberry and orange scents, then a sort of translucent sweet raspberry flavor. Seems a bit thin at first, then gains richness. Nevertheless, I expected more, given the producer and the cuvee.

1978 Pesquera Reserva
  Corked! The only wine of the night. And guess who brought it. Man, life is hard.

1972 Monsanto Chianti Classico Reserva Il Poggio 
Very developed aromas, resinous notes, dried sweet cherries, but overall that lovely complexity that makes it hard to pull the scent apart. Faded in the glass after 15 minutes or so, but initially a haunting ghost-of-cherries flavor with notes of peppercorn and tangerine rind that was just great. Some people thought it was over the hill; I thought it was superb.

And that was it, except for a tasty Tokaji from Disznoko that I can't recall much about. Gee. I wonder why.

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