I was lucky enough to be invited to a wine tasting lunch on Friday at Oliverio at the Hotel Avalon. The food was excellent and the wines were spectacular. Herewith my report.
Although you wouldn't think that aged claret would make a great match for seafood, but the earthy mix of baccala, porcini, and roasted garlic turned out to work well with the flight of Chateau Montrose (St. Estephe).
The 1989 Montrose was showing brick at the rim, although the center was still ruby. The bouquet was intense. Cedar, leather, tobacco, plums, prunes. Fully mature, with smooth and silky tannins. Will last. Grade: A-
1991 was a poor vintage in Bordeaux, of course, but the Montrose was surprisingly enjoyable. Lots of brick at the rim, with the center still ruby but shading towards the red end of the spectrum. Not as big or impressive as the 1989, which was to be expected given the disparities in the vintages. Better with food, which brought it into full balance. Still has a solid structure of soft tannins and acids, but is definitely mature. Pencil shavings, saddle leather, cassis, prunes. Grade: B+ (bonus for the vintage)
The 1998 Montrose was a wine I defintely was excited to try, because I've got a half case in my cellar. Parker rates it a 90 point wine, suggesting a drinking window of 2005-2030. If this bottle was anything to go by, however, I would recommend waiting. It was very young, with lots of firm tannins. Cassis, anise, tobacco, blackberry. To drink now, double decant and give it an hour to breathe. Grade: A-
The 2000 Montrose is another one I'm sitting on in my cellar. Given that Parker rates the 2000 vintage a 96 and 1998 only an 87, it was not surprising that the 2000 was showing very, very young. Pure ruby all the way to the rim and at the purple end of the specrtum at that. Firmly tannic. Mouth puckering. Blackberry? Black cherry? Needs time. It may eventually deserve a grade of A or even A+, but right now it gets an incomplete.
Part of the Chateau Montrose flight:
Part of the Chateau Margaux flight:
With the exception of the 1990, none of the Chateau Margaux were from highly rated vintages. The 1984 vintage as a whole rated a 68 from parker, while the 1987 managed only a 76. The 1981 vintage did a little better, with Parker rating that year a 82. Plus, of course, 1981 is a sentimental favorite of mine, as it was the first vintage in which I bought a full case of a classed growth Bordeaux (Gruaud Larose, of course, sadly all long drunk).
The 1981 was brick red at the rim and a light ruby at the center. It had a lovely bouquet, with classic mature claret markers. On the palate, it was soft, silky, and delicious. Cedar, leather, espresso, smoke, prunes, and black cherries. Grade: B+
The 1984 had faded to brown. Good bouquet of cassis, smoke, earth, and leather. On the palate, however, it was thin with a short finish. Fading. Grade: B-
The 1987 is over the hill, but remains a pleasant drink. Richly perfumed bouquet of violets, menthol, and black fruits. On the palate, there is an impression of sweetness (not residual sugar sweetness, but soft black and red fruits). Not complex but elegant. Grade: B
Robert Parker rated the 1990 Chateau Margaux a 100 point wine, making this just the third 100 point wine of my tasting career. Amazing. Medium depth ruby with just the slightest hint of brick at the rim. Big, rich nose. Intense flavors on the palate. Blackberry, black cherry, cassis, lead pencil shavings, tobacco, dried violets. Smooth and silky. Incredibly long finish. And then it got even better when tasted with the delicious rabbit ragu. They sang to each other. All in all, one of the great wine tasting moments of my life. Grade: A+++
On to the Chateau Latour flight:
The 1979 Latour was a revelation. It was never a legendary vintage and I assumed the wines had long since faded away. Wrong. Good, rich ruby color. Classic mature Pauillac bouquet of pencil shavings, tobacco, coffee, leather, cedar, prunes, and cassis. One of those wines where you just keep sniffing, because the nose is so lovely. The palate was smooth and silky, with soft and rounded tannins. The palate followed the nose, but added earth and anise. Lovely and surprising. Grade: A, counting bonus points for being such a pleasant surprise.
1988 was a very good vintage, although it long has been overshadowed by the great 1982, 1985, 1986, and 1989 vintages. The Latour was still showing as quite youthful, with a medium-deep ruby color and good legs. The nose took a while to develop, but eventually opened up to offer a younger and somewhat more muted version of the aromas provided by the 1979. On the palate, the attack was fruity and youthful. Currants, balckberry, black cherry. The finish was tannic and maybe a tad condensed. I think it still needs time, but will keep getting better. Grade now: A- with potential to improve.
In 1990, Latour made an exceptional wine. This is the third time I've had a Latour from this vintage and they keep getting better with age. Although this bottle was far enough along in its development to make a lovely drink, this is still a very young wine with a lot of potential for further development. Dark ruby with a touch of red at the rim. Strong legs. The bouquet and the palate were an intriguing mix of youthful fruit and mature flavors. Raspberry, blackberry, kirsch, but also suggesting the humidor, strong coffee, leather. Remarkably long finish where the tannins really showed up in force. I can't over emphasize how long the finish was. You kept breathing this wine for several minutes after a swallow. Grade: A++
In any other context, I would have praised the 1994 to the heights. It's a very, very good wine. It's just that it was overshadowed by the 1988 and the amazing 1990. A deep ruby center with a light garnet rim. No signs of brick yet. Good bouquet of blackcurrants, violets, cedar, leather. Soft, fully integrated tannins make it easy to drink now. Indeed, it's a wine to drink while you wait for the 1988s and the 1990s to reach their peaks. Better with food. Balanced and tasty. Grade: A-/A
The 1989 Chateau d'Yquem was delicious. The beat peach pie you've ever tasted. Plus all the acidity you need to refresh the palate after tasing the foie gras. Grade: A