Dinner at Home: 96 Pagodes de Cos & 04 Ondarre Graciano.

Dinner tonight was at home for my sis-in-law Hisako (her belated birthday celebration) and to meet her longtime friends (spouses) Karuna and Horace. Horace works for the American embassy and is being transferred back to Washington DC while Karuna may be familiar to some who watch NHK as she used to be a newscaster there. I cooked racks of lamb, provided the wines and Hisako took care of the rest.

No photos this time as I didn’t feel like taking any. Tons of food, lots of wine - most of which I’ve already written about, so no need to repeat myself so soon.

There were 2, though, I took note of (both with the racks of lamb):

1996 Pagodes de Cos - 2nd wine of Château Cos d’Estournel from an excellent Médoc vintage. I used to order a lot of this some years back for casual drinking (I’d get it by the case at only US$32/bottle; now it is around US$45-$60/bottle).

I entered this in 2 International Wine & Food Society blind tastings of 1996 2nd wines of top châteaux and some well-respected cru bourgeois; the events were respectively held at Tower Club’s Pinot Room and Bianca’s, both in late 2006.

At the event in Tower Club, '96 Pagodes came out 4th as follows*****:

1st Place - Poujeaux (44 pts)
2nd Place - Reserve de la Comtesse (29 pts)
3rd Place - Haut Marbuzet (25 pts)
4th Place - Pagodes de Cos (22 pts)
5th Place - Sociando Mallet (16 pts)
6th Place - Bahans Haut Brion (10 pts)
7th Place - Tie - Les Forts de Latour (9 pts)
7th Place - Tie - Pavillon Rouge (9pts)
8th Place - Potensac (7 pts)
9th Place - Carruades de Lafite (5 pts)
10th Place - Clos du Marquis (4 pts)

*****My own top 5 at the time were:

1st - Poujeaux
2nd - Sociando Mallet
3rd - Pagodes de Cos
4th - Clos du Marquis
5th - Reserve de la Comtesse

At the Bianca’s event, I lost my notes, but I distinctly recall that 1st place went to the '96 Les Forts de Latour, a very close 2nd place was the '96 Pagodes de Cos and last place was the former 1st place winner '96 Poujeaux (I pointed out that the '96 Poujeaux was obviously flawed and, perforce, should have been excluded from the line-up or replaced with a fresh bottle).

Point is, the '96 Pagodes was a very good wine…then. I’d long since run out of it, but, a few months ago, I was able to order some (45€/bottle) from France through one of Aaron’s negociant principals. The subject bottle was one of those.

Slightly over medium-bodied, light-footed, cedar, blackcurrant, raspberry/cherry highlights, underlying plum, bit of jasmine tea leaves, vanilla, whispers of Indian spice. Not as concentrated, deep or hefty as the '96 grand vin, but it definitely does credit to its “big brother”. Very easy to drink, this was - and continues to be - one of my favorite 2nd wines.

2004 Bodegas Ondarre Graciano - I’ve had only a few 100% graciano wines before, and all of them have been those of CVNE’s Viñedos del Contino (i.e., their 2006, 2007 and, from barrel, the 2009).

The subject wine is a big bruiser (JC de Terry recommended that I decant it for aeration “for at least 2 hours”, so I decanted it for 3½). Lush, plush, very full-bodied, very rich, concentrated and extracted, extremely ripe. Very mouth-filling, very dense, viscous, deeply fruited showing off flavors of a mixed compote of blackberry, blueberry and black cherry with notes of kirsch, café Americain, anise, slight balsamico, dark flowers and good doses of oak-related (obviously a lot of new oak used) vanilla, toffee and cinnamon. There’s a touch of discreet, underlying minerality as well. Tannins are soft and rounded. Lots of power, but doesn’t shout it out.

Notable freshness despite its density, formidable concentration and extraction. Notable complexity too. My over-all impressions were of richness, concentration and smoothness. Acidity is a bit low for my taste, but I imagine this will be very pleasing to those who enjoy the big, rich, oaky Napa-style. My wife liked this a lot. This received 5 stars from Decanter (for whatever that’s worth).

Some glasses of Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut to cleanse our palates after dinner proper and before dessert of Coffee Crunch Cake (a practise I picked up from Restaurante El Asador de Aranda). Horace noted that the cava acted like a refreshing and cleansing sorbet - with which I very much agree.

We finished off the evening with some (real deal) absinthe - Verte Suisse 65 - to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Wonderful notes on the Pagodes.

One question: Was the new market price worth the price of admission?

I’m a really big fan of the '96 Cos and would love to try the '96 Pagodes. But at $50/bottle, I could double that and get another bottle of the big brother.

Thank you, Lance.

One question: Was the new market price worth the price of admission?

I’m a really big fan of the '96 Cos and would love to try the '96 Pagodes. But at $50/bottle, I could double that and get another bottle of the big brother.

It is to me personally. Any decent/good wine (particularly Bdx with, say, 7-10 years on it) at US$50-US$70/bottle is within my “why the hell not?” strike range.