Got together with five other winos to check out some produce from the Golden State last night at Sola restaurant in Bryn Mawr (as a brief aside, one of the small “benefits” Pennsylvania residents receive from being afflicted by the woeful PA Liquor Control Board is that there are so many fine dining, BYOB-only options because many proprietors don’t even want to bother dealing with the state – Sola is another one of these establishments, and they did a tremendous job last night with a tasting menu that really worked nicely with our selections).
We started with a 2004 Marcassin Chardonnay Zio Tony Ranch (unfortunately, the 2001 Kistler Vine Hill Road Chard was deemed to be flawed, possibly heat-damaged, so the first flight ended up being a single wine). I am normally not a fan of super-charged Cali Chards, but I really liked the balance of this wine. Crisp acidity framed the apple-y fruit, and this was a wine that I could have spent some time with watching it unfold. Reminded me of a nice Meurseault.
The next flight was for me the highlight of the tasting, and consisted of three mature cabs, the 1978 William Hill, the 1977 Phelps Eisele and the 1983 Fretter Leaky Lake. All three wines had enchanting, fully-developed noses that really ran the gamut in terms of flavor combinations. In addition, none of the wines showed any real sense of being tired or in decline, although the Phelps had the shortest finish of the trio and as a result was my least favorite of this fascinating flight. In the end, I think I probably considered the Fretter to be both my wine of the flight as well as WOTN – thoroughly enjoyable drinking!
Then, on to what was for me the least enjoyable flight of the evening (although to be fair, I was probably the most critical participant of this flight, so my fellow tasters probably enjoyed it more), which consisted of the 2006 Kistler Kistler Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2004 Aubert UV Pinot Noir. The Aubert managed to capture everything I find distasteful about a certain style of California Pinot (and I will give Aubert the benefit of the doubt in referring to it as pinot, because this 15.8% alcohol-infused cocktail displayed no pinot-oriented nuances that I could discern). I guess the only thing positive I could say about this wine is that it’s presence made the Kistler seem balanced and elegant by comparison. Neither would really be a wine that I would drink by my own choosing, but I guess if your goal is to get blotto while drinking wine, the Aubert would certainly be a wine for you. Interestingly enough, given all the cabs we consumed, the Aubert was IMO the largest-scaled, most full-throttle wine of the night, and would have been a great ringer in a blind tasting of Aussie Shiraz.
Now, on to the next flight, featuring the 1992 Dominus and 1992 Phelps Insignia. One of the things I remarked on at one point last night was how “balanced”/competitive the cab flights were in that you really had to think about your potential wine of the flight, and these two wines were no exception. Both drinking excellently right now – in terms of a California cab vintage that is really in the zone right now, 1992 would be high on my list. We decanted the Dominus, and as a result it may have been slightly more open, displaying an earthiness to it’s bouquet while the Phelps was more fruit-focused, but both wines were really singing.
Next, the 1994 Phil Togni and the 1994 Peter Michael Les Pavots. Again, two wines that showed nicely, although clearly younger and less nuanced than the previous flight. I believe I had a slight preference for the Les Pavots, as this seemed to show a little more in the glass. And I noted none of that telltale green streak that people always seem to mention with Togni’s wines, but perhaps I am less sensitive to this than others.
We closed the evening out with the 2006 Switchback Ridge Cab. A huge wine (the only wine of the night that might give the Aubert a run for it’s money in terms of sheer power), and at 15.7% alcohol, not a wine that would have easily fit into any of the other flights. But while this might not exactly be my preferred style of cab, the components were harmonious despite the presence of that alcohol, and this is a wine that I would like to check out in a decade.
All in, great wines paired with excellent food and interesting conversation – not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening in the Delaware Valley