TNs: Edited Winner gets Dinner theme with 9 wines in contention.

Our wine dinner group recently enjoyed a fine meal on the outside garden patio at the Plow & Angel Restaurant on the property of the esteemed San Ysidro Ranch. The wine theme was “winner gets dinner” meaning the one who brings the most revered wine, gets their dinner free.

I find it very interesting to see what others believe is the real deal that will win and in this group, it usually results in many big and in your face bold wines. The last time we did this, I won with an 04` Switchback Ridge Petit Sirah which was actually in perfect balance and harmony. On that night, we bagged all wines to hide the identity which was not the case on this evening.

We each ordered off the menus which also included the more elaborate one for the parent restaurant, The Stonehouse which is upstairs from the Plow.

The wines:

2005 TAITTINGER COMTES de CHAMPAGNE BdB- having had this with this group a few weeks ago and it shined brilliantly, I figured it might do the trick; as I noted then, this is atypical from the usual profile I associate with Comtes; it does have the bright acidity, but in this case, the citrus notes especially lemon lime, are laced a hit of toast, brioche, saline and pepper; it has great texture and depth, is quite robust and coats the palate with delightful elegance; this is more like a Dom than CdC; I loved it and so did the group as the 8 of us emptied it in a 2 passes around the table. A winner?

2010 VINCENT GIRARDIN LES FOLATIERES PULIGNY MONTRACHET 1ER CRU- drinking so well, this had everything going for it; refreshing, crisp and more of the lemon lime fruit profile here along with a touch of spice and its all delivered in a creamy oily substance all the way to the back end; a great QPR of Grand Cru quality.

2000 LUR SALUCES “Y” YGRET BORDEAUX SUPERIEUR- the dry version of dYquem, this has consistently been a fun and gratifying experience over the past couple of years as we have had many; as before, the texture is very soft and creamy and it gives up some hints of cinnamon apple with some apricot and peach notes chiming in; its solid, seamless and nicely structured and should be good for many years down the road; 80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc.

2010 DOMAINE de CRISTIA CUVEE RENAISSANCE CDP- a new exposure for me, I found this to be very intriguing; the wine rep who brought it stated it is made of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre and is aged in 25% new French oak for 18 months; it expresses more of Northern Rhone to me than Southern with some nice pepper and spice accents usually found in Syrah; it`s teeth staining dark purple color and very fruit forwardness makes for a serious statement; it got better and better with time; I recommend decanting this; it has the structure to suggest longevity.

2010 CARLISLE OLD VINES MONTE ROSSO VINEYARD SONOMA COUNTY ZINFANDEL- 96% Zinfandel, 4% Grand Noir; 15.9% alc.; this was the only one that came around in a brown bag and no one got the varietal; I had it as a Sangiovese with its tart red cherry notes, but theres also blueberry and plum coming in, all with some spiciness; its young and vibrant, full bodied and balanced.

2000 PAVIE ST. EMILION- theres some talc and sandalwood up front merging with the tart wild red and black berries that receive a dollop of chocolate and licorice; its rich and full bodied and structured for the long run; this was a good bottle and i`ve had a few that were even better.

2010 ALAIN VOGE LES CHAILLES CORNAS- I got an amazing amount of rosemary in the nose that moved on into the mid palate and was joined by pepper and clove spiced raspberry; the lady in our group got a touch of Brett which I searched for, but did not come up with; I`ve learned to yield to the feminine olfactory sense which is in general, renown for being much more perceptive than for most males.

1998 R WINES CHRIS RINGLAND THREE RIVERS DRY GROWN RANCH SHIRAZ- another gem from this renown Aussie producer and a bottle I would expect going in could compete for WOTN; it drank well enough, but met some stiff competition upcoming; aged for a long time in new French oak, it was loaded with nice primarily toasted chocolate covered blue and black fruit; it was big and complex and yet had that finesse that these wines usually show; big tannin components and lots of acidity insure a long successful life.

1998 CHATEAU de la NEGLY COTEAUX du LANGUEDOC CLOS des TRUFFIERS COTEAUX SYRAH- new to me and bought by one who is quite passionate about this wine and this producer; it definitely shines brightly; it`s big, bold, real fruity, complex and has a full body with a long finish amidst a very pleasant mouthfeel; a pretty complete package and a wine that speaks out for this region which is why I suspect it was tasted blind to avoid any bias.

1997 GIUSEPPE QUINTARELLI della VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO AMARONE- a little sip will do ya on this heavily concentrated beauty; its really a big statement and the maple flavored dried black currant notes sing out; theres some tobacco and leather to add to the depth of the taste profile; it was silky smooth and for those who like this style of wine, a serious player.

Dessert wines [not eligible for the voting]:

2003 RIEUSSEC SAUTERNES- 375ml.; interesting coconut in the aromatics that Ive not experienced previously; otherwise, its the usual rich peach and apricot delight served up in a creamy texture which prolongs the pleasure by leaving the palate coated with a film of goodness.

2001 SELBACH- OSTER BERNKASTELER BADSTUBE SPATLESE RIESLING- honeyed stone and citrus fruit dessert in a glass; vibrant, viscous and full on.

1994 PAULECZKI SZOLOBIRTOK TOKAJI ASZU ESSENCIA- from Hungary and 100% Muscat, this was so wonderful, rich and delicious and forever on the palate; honeyed nutty and full of stone fruit nuances.

What! No red Burgundy? No Northern Rhone Hermitage or Cote Rotie? No Barolo? I think the wines selected for this night show that many are moving or have moved toward big and bold and showy vs. elegant, balanced and sophisticated, IMHO of course although the Girardin definitely fits the latter descriptions.

Now for the vote for the top 3:
#3- 2010 Girardin
#2- 1997 Giuseppe Quintarelli
#1- drum roll-

1998 Clos des Truffier

Personally, I`d choose the Taittinger over any other wine on this evening as an aperitif, and/ or for the main course and/ or for the dessert wine. So much for my preferences.


Château de la Négly Coteaux du Languedoc Clos des Truffiers is Syrah. I find the oak to be overwhelming.

To the surprise about no Burg, N Rhone or Barolo, I’d think those would be poor choices for a “win the competition” among small pours. Though it depends on the group, of course.

I think wines whose pleasures are more overt would be a better strategy if you’re trying to win.

That’s not to knock on bigger wines or to fawn over subtler wines, but it’s just an observation about tasting format.

Cornas is Northern Rhone.

Thanks, I misstated and I know better; I was thinking more of Hermitage and Cote Rotie, not Crozes, St. Joseph, St-Peray or Cornas although I`ve had some fine ones.

What a great note!

Color me envious.

Mark, thanks for the complete description of the wine. Like I said, it was new to me. I`m not a fan of overoaked wines and this bottle did not present itself in that vein.

Great notes Blake! It was a fun night; BTW, I didn’t detect any Brett in the Voge either, and I’m very sensitive to it.


Good call making dessert wines ineligible. I’m always amused at how often they (or Champagne, too) end up getting votes for WOTN at dinners with a bunch of bottles of impressive reds.

I haven’t tasted one in a while (I think it might have been the 1997), but I didn’t find the oak overwhelming in the context of the rest of the wine.


The last bottle I tasted was '01, which I brought to an X-Pensive Winos dinner with Maggie Harrison in 2010, and showed abundant new oak. According to Tanzer, “this super-cuvee gets a new oak fermenter for each new vintage.” In the interest of science and this discussion, I will open my remaining bottle of '01 soon and report back. I hope that it is as wonderful as other tasters, including Manfred Krankl, find it to be.

Henry, please feel free to add any notes to this. If I`m not mistake, you brought the Girardin AND the Zin. Correct? Also, what was your perception of the Languedoc Syrah relative to any oakiness?


Yes, brought them both; as to the Truffiers, I thought it was well integrated and had no problem with oakiness.

My impressions . . .

the whites . . .
2005 Tattinger Comtes: delicious; creamy, rich, bright and toasty; firing on all cylinders
2010 Vincent Girardin Puligny Montrachet Les Folatiers: bright citrus lemon-lime fruit bursts from the glass; fabulous; the group’s third WOTN
2000 Y’quem “Y” Ygret: rich concentrated pineapple syrup; could have used a touch of the acid from the Girardin to brighten it up; but other than that, a wonderfully unique experience

the reds . . .
2010 Crista ‘Renaissance’ CdP: velvety smooth spicy lush dark red fruit; a really nice drink, just needs some time, still a bit tight; always enjoy the Renaissance bottling
2010 Carlisle Monte Rosso Zinfandel: this was the only wine that was bagged and in all my years with the group, the only time a Zin has appeared on the table (this one was courtesy of yours truly); guesses included: SQN, Saxum, Alban, Paso Zin, and Sangiovese; rich, smooth, and balanced with a nice combination of red fruit and dark berries; I really wish all the wines had been bagged to see how this compared in a true blind setting
2000 Pavie: nose begins with a touch of funk\reduction; however, on the palate dark black (almost raisoned) fruit and exotic spices, with a hint of tobacco\leather\cedar; nearly Amarone-like in its density and complexity; not for everyone, but a hedonistic delight for those who don’t mind getting a little dirty
1998 Ringland Three Rivers Shiraz: unfortunately, it seemed that this beauty was a bit overlooked; despite its size, power, and brooding fruit, this was still deftly balanced and silky smooth; incredible feat in light of the concentrated dark-as-night black fruit; a touch of the Aussi eucalyptus on the nose and palate, which just added to the charm of this wine; no sign of fading anytime soon
2010 Voge: wow, my WOTN; Voge is just hitting them out of the park lately; abundant creamy dark purple fruit and black licorice; expressive, exuberant, yet smooth and never over the top; beautiful aromatics which exude purple flowers; delicious
1998 Negly Clos des Truffiers: the group’s WOTN and a longtime favorite of the group; this never seems to disappoint, and also never seems to grow old; tasted like a 2008 instead of a 1998; abundant youthful waxy dark purple fruit integrated with oak and fine tannins; like the Ringland and the Quintarelli, this has a long life ahead
1997 Quintarelli Amarone: still so young and powerful, yet another wine built for the long haul and in no danger of fading anytime soon; mine, and the group’s, second WOTN; incredible complexity, beginning with of a spicy nose bursting with tobacco, cedar and cigar box; on the palate, plentiful exotic spices and dark fruit; something unique revealed with every sip

dessert . . .
2003 Rieussec: what’s not to like and the reason why dessert wines are never allowed in the voting for WOTN; sweet yet light on its feet; delicious flavors evaporating over the palate bring to mind cotton-candy and spun sugar, yet there is an underlying creamy richness which lingers on the palate
2001 Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Spatlese: WOW; incredible; explosive yet balanced with a great backbone of acid to support all of the richness
1994 Szolobirtok Tokaji Aszu Essencia: honey in a glass

Sounds like some of my friends, and increasingly my wife. And I agree with you, Taittinger CdC rarely fails to please.

Brad, as my friend and winemaker, Chris Whitcraft used to say, “Pinot Noir is just not for breakfast anymore”. I say, " Champagne is just not for special occasions anymore".

Henry, I always appreciate your descriptors and phraseology. I also see our palates agree on many of the wines not only on this night, but over many times. We truly have a special dinner group and I`m grateful as I believe you are as well for all of the enhanced eduction and exposure we receive from tasting so many wonderful wines we may not have ever had otherwise.

Thanks Blake; it is always fun to see palate alignment, especially when we did not sit near each other and did not have a chance to talk about the wines during the night, and I couldn’t agree with you more, the group is a blessing; the friendship and gatherings add immeasurably to quality of life; we are very lucky.

Henry, you nailed a very important point I omitted and that is the fellowship that is cultivated from these events over time. Life long and made of passionate, joyful sharing.