Christmas week wines: Margaux/Araujo/aged auslese

First, rib eyes at Centro DSM on Sunday night with a very generous friend. The 1996 Ch. Margaux (served blind) was, in a word, dazzling. It possessed a quality that the greatest wines seem to share, which is an underlying power cloaked in an almost weightless form. To this tippler, not quite so well versed in Margaux, the perfume came across rather Pauillac, which was my initial hunch. A decent amount of lead pencil. The silky texture, on the other hand, led us back to Margaux. The wine was evolved enough to very much appreciate, yet I suspect it has decades of life remaining. It was very hard to put the glass down. 98

My friend is a Cali-phile, and so I brought along an Araujo Eisele cabernet 2006 (also blind). Needless to say, it suffered from a monstrously difficult comp. Under any other circumstances I would thank my lucky stars to be holding a glass of this elixir, but this evening it was completely overwhelmed by the Margaux. While far from a fruit bomb, the nose clearly announces “Cali”. I often get bitter coffee from this wine, though here it was less prominent. Instead, there were some interesting allspice notes. The wine was in perfect balance, and reasonably long. I know this is a great wine, and I know the match up was utterly unfair, but nonetheless, while tasty, it just didn’t do much for me. 91

I am frequently surprised by both the longevity and resiliency of great riesling. My sister was in town on Christmas Eve, and I had been waiting to open a particular birth year wine for her – in this case the 1976 Lauerburg Berkasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese. I wanted to put a little more chill on it after retrieving it from the 55 degree cellar, so I put it in the freezer with the intention of pulling it out a few minutes later. With all the merriment of people arriving the bottle slipped my mind, so…fast forward an hour and a half (!) and – WHOOPS! – I pulled it out only to discover I had created an “eiswein”. So I let it sit at room temperature for about 1/2 hour until the ice was no longer visible, pulled the cork and poured a few glasses. The wine was absolutely amazing. Though it appeared cloudy in the bottle, the color was much lighter than I would have expected. A more brilliant yellow than the old gold one normally suspects in older riesling. The auslese sweetness had diminished with time, replaced mainly by petrol, and held together with perceptible but unobtrusive acid. There was also a waxy quality reminiscent of an aged hermitage blanc. The wine was delicate yet intense, very light on its feet yet quite long on the palate. Really extraordinary at the age of 42. 96