In a town where new breweries seemingly open dally and craft beers are the order of the day, this band of rebels gathered in our secret location (Cork Vault — our off-site wine storage facility) for a “pot luck” style wine sharing dinner. There were no restrictions on the wines to be brought except bring something interesting you like to drink.
The below list is not complete by any means but only the wines I sampled and/or can remember enough to write marginal (at best) commentary. The one true take-away from the evening was how fortunate we all were that just about every high-end wine delivered exactly as you would hope. A true tour de force for all the high-end recognizable wines.
Do not read too much into the order or any wines pictured below but not mentioned. This was simply my best effort to recount the wines in the order I recall sampling them.
2016 Kutch Chardonnay: crisp, slightly acidic, hints of granny smith apple with a tart citrus note. Burgundian style that Jamie strives for. A wonderful white drinking fabulously today but also with plenty or legs for years to come. A great start to the evening and even one vote for Wine of the Night.
NOTE: There was nothing close to official voting for WOTN but I surveyed many in the room because I had 6 or 7 WOTNs!
2014 Le Petit Clos Apalta: Powerfully fragrant nose right out of the gate. A good wine in its own right but stylistically this reminded me of an Italian (Barbaresco?). Not what I was expecting following the bold but beautiful nose. A very good wine but not in my wheelhouse.
2009 Prado Enea Muga Rioja: This was an accidental entry into the night’s wines as the donor found this bottle he’d forgotten he had while searching for his original selection. Either way it was soft and enjoyable on the nose although the softness may have been as much a contrast with the prior glass. Although light and airy, it had a nice body with a rustic finish. A pleasure to drink.
2015 Kanonkop Paul Sauer: Popped 45 minutes before pouring. Smooth and drinkable right out of the gate. Fragrant but not overpowering nose with a richness of raspberry and mocha. Solid body on the first drink demonstrating a depth of flavor confirming the black raspberry and soft hints of chocolate on the finish. A great wine on its own, the view on the wine exploded when paired with food (well-seasoned chicken, Brussels sprouts and string beans). With food the wine really showed its mettle becoming an exceptional wine. Plenty of age-worthiness in this bottle with probably another year or two before it really starts showing its wares. Today this is a monster QPR wine IMO.
2007 Karl Lawrence To Kalon Cabernet: Decanted 1.5 hours before sampling. Brilliant big Napa Cabernet nose, rich black cherries and opulent flavors pouring out of the decanter. This wine hit all the notes you hope from a 10+ year old To Kalon. Full body, rich, dense dark fruit flavors with every drink. Long finish. A wonderful wine to enjoy every sip and savor when it sings as this one did. This wine received universal praise among the attendees.
1955 Franco Fiorina Barolo: Decanted 6 hours before pouring back into the original bottle. Beautifully fragrant rustic nose when opened that stayed with the wine throughout the night. Regardless of age this wine was delicious. Excellent body on this wine with aged fruit and an earthen red clay feel. I haven’t had a cigar in many years but I would loved to have fired one up and sip this wine all night. You roll the dice with a 65 year old wine but we all came out winners with this one.
2005 Domaine du Clos Frantin Echezeaux Burgundy: Decanted 3 hours prior to sampling. A brilliant gem of a wine. It was when I tasted this I knew it would be unfair to pick a wine of the night. So many top tier wines in full bloom on this evening. We had some discussion over primary and secondary notes with this wine but from start to finish this wine sang and danced (I should have recorded that, right?) from the glass, to the palate and with a fantastic long finish. Over and over the word “brilliant” came to mind on every aspect for a wine with decades more to run considering the power it showed on this night.
1978 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet: Cork popped probably 1 hour (still in the bottle) prior to sampling. Classic in every way, shape, and form from this 42-year-old gem. Stylistically so different from today’s big bold Napa Cabs, the wonderfully rustic nose was deep and flavorful. Soft and smooth on the mouthfeel the wine showed plenty of body while the deliciously mature fruits showed enough gusto to savor the greatness of this era. There is no reason to wait with wines of this age but it was an incredible treat to shift eras so seamlessly when wines were performing so amazingly well.
2006 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet: I don’t know why I had mixed expectations going into this wine but boy did this one catch me off-guard. Exceptional Napa nose: fragrant and opulent dark fruits while restrained almost teasing what was to come. Smooth, rich full body on the palate, the blackberry and bramble notes were singing in all their glory with a lovely plush long finish. This wine was like a relief pitcher in baseball coming in and throwing 97 miles per hour right down the middle of the plate and striking the batter out on three pitches without breaking a sweat. This swan-like wine was beautiful while seaming effortless in its delivery.
1990 Pichon-Longueville au Baron Bordeaux: Decanted ~1.5 hours before sampling. A brilliant vintage and a wine that hit on all the rights notes for vintage, pedigree and style. Immediately out of the glass the classic Bordeaux nose shined; rustic with wafts of fresh pencil shavings, at 30 years old there clearly was a lot of life packed into this bottle. Wonderfully mature notes of blackcurrant mixed with sprinkles of plum were divine, On the mouthfeel, this full-bodied wine has the softest of leather, gently resolved tannins and a woodsy signature Pauillac style. Just a joy of a wine in full today with plenty of life for years to come.
2002 Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux: Minimal decant, this gem was a (very) late entrant from an attendee’s locker to keep the night rolling and we are all the better for it. Fragrant and full nose of red cherries evidencing its seeming youth. On the palate, notes of black currant and vanilla and were delivered in a wonderfully smooth and delicious manner. This wine was a “head-turner” forcing you to double-check the vintage, etc to seer into your brain the bottle that just deliver this joy. To quote the donor (whom I accidentally recorded giving this impromptu review): “that Mouton is amazing, that shit is good, that juice is way better than I was expecting.” Yep.
That about sums up a truly grand evening of amazing wines delivering at the top of their game. In a city where breweries and craft beers dominate the days, this band of rebels showed the Charlotte wine scene, while nascent, can run with the best of them even if we must do so in our secret location at night.