Chef Jeffrey Strauss from Pamplemousse Grill hosted a dinner featuring fourteen Sine Qua Non wines: three whites, nine reds and two stickies.
i was disappointed to learn the Autrement Dit rose was apparently bad and not served.
rounds of hors d’ouvres were paired with a white and three reds:
2007 Body and Soul was fuller than the last time i had it against the other sqn whites. still fruitier and ‘happier’ than his other whites, the citrus and acid made this very food-friendly. still needs some bottle-age, imo.
2002 Hollerin M Shea Vineyard is a lean pinot that stood out as the only non-california wine. nice aromatics and medium-bodied (even light?) the balance was impressive though the finish had me wondering how much longer this would last.
2005 Over and Out Arrita Hills (?) Vineyard burgundy in the house! unreal nose of chalky herbs, underbrush, tiny raspberries and the inside of young-woman’s pocketbook (a mixture of perfume, leather, make-up and chewing gum). so damn light on the palate, i can’t believe this is a santa barbara pinot with absolutely no heat. yes, virginia, it can be done.
2007 Labels is a more traditional new-world syrah i was tentative to taste before sitting down to the formal dinner. wonderful balance and texture like a syrah from paso robles, but this had an extra level of depth that won us over for a few more tastes. watch this space.
sit-down first course of scallop-truffle-tomato: (whites)
2005 Petition as expected out-of-this-world nose of aerosol-sprayed tropical fruit basket. big, big wine that overpowered the scallop dish but provided indulgent sipping after i finished the course. more, please.
2006 Hoo Doo Man played better with the food, which made the chardonnay come out front. just so laser-focused, complex & rich, this mid-palate takes over your mouth with lemons and bananas then a sustained finish that makes your whole head ring.
second course of peking duck and roasted peach: (grenache)
2000 Incognito you put your nose in this glass and can’t help but turn into the girl in willy wonka who ate that blueberry pill and blew up into a big purple mass. like a dry, light port, this mid-palate had earth and a purity that challenged it’s sexy nose.
2005 Atlantis FE 203 2A is earthier, minty-er and more feminine than the Incognito. i notice how easy these wines are going down and how my mouth is not feeling any fatigue or dryness from tannins, oak or alcohol. this grenache finished like a bordeaux xmas-tree. just great.
2007 Pictures is the new-world counterpoint in this flight that reminded me these wines are from california, as i nearly forgot. super-balance that would win in most any flight of grenache, but i was underwhelmed after the previous two brilliant wines.
third course was unfortunately a veal rib-eye i did not eat, but was accompanied with herb spaetzel, zucchini & mushroom: (syrah)
1999 Marauder oak, dark fruit, grenache-y with some heat. holding up well, but starting to show some age. drink em up.
2005 Atlantis FE 203 1A mumbled "wow"s were heard across our table upon breathing this in. i had to get up and walk around a bit to make sure i wasn’t confusing this nose with the candles and flowers on our table. unbelievable scents that makes you forget these are grapes. a bic-pen inky texture that is thick and light at the same time. completely different than the other two syrahs and most any syrah i’ve had. uncomparable and tough to describe all that is going on here. i was cynical given the score, but this complexity is beyond my comprehension. WoTN
2006 Raven is more in the style of the Marauder, but with a lot more fruit. identifiable notes similar to what you would find in a top-flight alban or saxum, delicious red and black fruits and that lightness that lingers. the heat never shows up but the finish still causes you to pause.
worth the price.
apple-tart vanilla berry dessert: (my notes are kinda fuzzy at this point)
2003 Nobleman Chardonnay i think this was the darker of the two wines (copper color) which showed much more depth and broadness of flavor. so sweet and thick, it felt so heavy after all the light (!) wines of the previous courses.
2001 Iceman Gewurztraminer lighter color and fruitier, this was almost too sweet for me without the depth of texture i enjoyed with the nobleman.
2005 Atlantis FE 203 1A Syrah hey there was some left in the bottle…
this dinner was a great learning experience:
i learned i’m partial to the SQN wines with some bottle age, and that the younger wines are approachable, to be sure, but perform at an exceptional level with some age. how much age i don’t know but will be doing more research.
i learned grenache can be made in california and it can taste real good.
i discovered that even though SQN reds can be ethereal, i prefer the whites.
i can understand the balancing act of getting flavors (and acid and tannin and alcohol) to such a level without any one of them getting out of whack… makes a wine great.
these wines are all fantastic expressions of fruit and place. the Labels and Hollerin are the only wines i would consider near-average and rate at the bottom of this roster, which is tough to do in this context… as they would more-than-likely rule flights of similar wines in their peer group. this tasting made me want to enjoy nearly all of these wines over the course of a long meal with a full bottle to analyze their evolution with air and a diversity of food flavors.
kudos to Don Nuzzo for originally posting notice about this dinner.