XPensive Winos Drink Cult-ish Cabs and Eat Steaks at Comme Ca

I don’t know the etiquette about cross-posting and lifting posts from other bulletin boards. We had a nice dinner last week, that some have posted about already, there:

http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.php?t=213600" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Hopefully, the Winos will join the discussion here.

NV Camille Saves Brut Rose

hors d’oeuvres
Tarte Flambée
MD’s Charcuterie

'90 Trimbach Clos Ste Hune
'90 Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile VT

First Course
The Comme Ca Burger

'02 Bond Melbury
'02 Bond St. Eden
'02 Colgin Cariad
'02 Sloan

Second Course
Duo of Tenderloin and Paleron of Beef, spiced carrots, potatoes aligot

'97 Shafer Hillside
'99 Shafer Hillside
'01 Shafer Hillside
'02 Shafer Hillside
'04 Shafer Hillside

Third Course
Roasted Rib Eye, arugula salad

'04 Abreu Madrona
'04 Abreu Thorevilos
'04 Colgin Cariad

Assiette de Trois Fromages

'97 Godineau Domaine de Petits Quarts Grain par Grain
'02 Robert Weil Riesling Auslese Kiedrich Grafenberg

My comments are as follows:

This dinner started as a Cult Cabs and Steak theme months ago. After a lot of dithering with Cut, they ultimately couldn’t meet our price constraints for a multi-course steak tasting (it would have been double the cost of the very fine meal that we enjoyed at Comme Ca). So we had Cult-ish Cabs at Comme Ca. All of the Cabs were served blind. All capsules were removed, all wines re-bagged at the restaurant, and I believe that no one knew the wines until the reveal at the end of the evening.

I had a lot of fun, as much in planning as attending. Each Wino provided a private list of those California Cabs in his cellar that defined as ‘cult-ish.’ The originals (Harlan, Bryant, Grace, Colgin, Maya, Abreu, SE, and Araujo) and those moving up the status steps (Bond, Shafer Hillside, Sloan, a couple of others). The boys came up with about 50 wines, covering a whole range of vintages.

The last flight was the easiest to choose: '04 Colgin Cariad, and the two Abreu wines ('04 Thorevilos and '04 Madrona) that come from the two vineyards that are the source for Cariad. We had other '04s on offer, but I thought this pairing would be interesting, if a tad young. It was both, with youth winning for the moment. All three wines are very primary and while all have the components to be very good in the future, are too unevolved to show very much now.

The first flight was originally going to have two different Bonds and two different Colgins from '02, but it didn’t work out. Rather than re-jiggering the other two flights around (doing all verticals, for example) I decided at the very last minute to slip in the Sloan (others considered: '02 Grace Family, '02 Araujo, '02 Abreu, '02 Quilceda as a ringer…). While it didn’t achieve the result I expected, it proved to be an interesting choice.

Finally, the middle flight. In my experience, the middle flight is usually the one that gets the most attention at these types of dinners. Everyone tends to rush through the first food course and the first wines either are consumed with the first course or held back for future musing. Fortunately, Comme Ca committed to sufficient stems for us to keep every wine on the table once opened. The best 5 vintages of Shafer out of the past 7 years ('97, '99, '01, '02, and '04). Paired with steak prepared two ways. The biggest flight and the largest food course. There was some risk of going back in age from the '02s in the first flight, but I didn’t want to break up the Shafers, nor did I want them first with the Comme Ca Burger. I think the Shafer flight ultimately suffered by following the mostly younger, richer '02s. But I really didn’t want to put them first for the reasons stated. Looking back, I think this was probably a mistake. We had already consumed a pretty large number of tarte flambees and MD’s Charcuterie and so my fear of racing through the first course and first flight proved to be incorrect. In retrospect, we should have had the Shafer flight and its accompanying food course first, with the '02 flight and burgers second.

Having said that, I still think the Shafer flight was interesting and consistent with a couple of rules: First, The 10-year Rule: There are always exceptions, but I am convinced that post '91 Cali Cab are at best consumed during their first 10 years. The '97 was nice on Wednesday, but a shadow of itself only 2 years ago. The '99 showed some musty aromas. The '01 was my wine of the flight and red wine of the night, edging out '02 Cariad from the first flight. '02 Hillside wasn’t as good as '01 (which I am finding to be more the case than not), and '04 was a baby. The second rule is that Shafer Hillside in a good vintage needs to rest for at least 2 years from release. At times these two rules conflict, but they are my rules and they work for me.

We began the night with two bottles of Camille Saves Brut Rose Grand Cru a Bouzy. Currently, my favorite nv rose sparkler. Hat-tip to the irrepressible Roberto R for introducing me to Camille Saves Rose 5 years or more ago. Can’t beat it for the price.

The next flight were two Alsatian Rieslings from my cellar. The hors d’œuvre were Alsatian in origin, I had just returned from Alsace and had a craving for aged Alsatian Riesling, so we drank '90 Trimbach Frederic Emile VT and '90 Trimbach Clos Ste Hune. 25+ years ago, Hubert Trimbach told me that Clos Ste Hune should be reserved for State Occasions. As someone mentioned on Wednesday, there seems to be a State Occasion weekly in France,so we probably served it on one (or close enough). While the CFE was no slouch and is a great wine, '90 CSH is my favorite of the vintage and in my pantheon of great white wines. Truth be told, it was my favorite wine of the night.

Worth mentioning, we ended the evening with a couple of sweeties: '97 Godineau Domaine des Petits Quarts Bonnezeaux Grains par Grain and '02 Robert Weil Riesling Auslese Kiedrich Grafenberg. The Weil was supposed to be a back-up in case we didn’t have enough wine, but I failed to communicate this to the wine server and, fortunately, he served it up. '97 Godineau is my all-time favorite Loire dessert wine and while the Weil was tasty, it was overwhelmed.

A very fun evening. Based on prior experience, collective and individual, I think were were all surprised that the plurality (5) preferred '02 Sloan as their red wine of the night, 4 preferring '02 Bond Melbury, 1 (me) preferring '01 Shafer Hillside, and 1 still deciding.

Sounds like an awesome dinner. Quite informative favorites, especially surprised about the Bond Melbury.


Mark, fascinating information about the mechanics of the dinner (you know that I felt that you made the right choice about Comme Ca vs Cut–could eat the tarte Flambee every day). It was certainly surprising to me that I chose the Melbury as my WOTN, not so surprising that I was not a fan of the Sloan (although it was better than earlier Sloans that I have had). I liked the Weil more than you did, but then I like the acid structure of Germans so much more than pretty much any other dessert wine out there.

Great notes, Mark. I ate on Comme Ca with Leve once. Great food. Loud restaurant though.

Mark; Great dinner and fascinating story as to how you developed the concept of the dinner. The pairings and food flights were outstanding although I anticipated that the “Comme Ca burger” would actually be the “largest” food course. I was really quite shocked as to the results…I have never had a Sloan wine perform that well…My personal stash of '02s is gone and I think I will try to be more patient with my remaining vintages. Truthfully, I believe I dropped off the list after the 2003 vintage. I have never been a big Bond fan and although the wines showed well, they are not something I will seek out or purchase. OTOH, I have to admit that I probably enjoyed the Colgin wines more than most and feel the '04 Cariad will eventually become a great wine.

Great job overall…highly appreciated the effort! [welldone.gif]

Marshall [cheers.gif]

Yes, Comme Ca can be loud. They have a very nice private room in the back that buffers most of the noise. I thought the food was very good, as was the service. I told David Myers that my wife offered to take me anywhere I wanted to go for my birthday earlier in the year and I chose to have a Comme Ca burger. That and a food trip to France [basic-smile.gif]

nice notes, Mark. thx for posting. :slight_smile:

Well done Mark, sounds wonderful if a bit OTT. But hey, a good OTT event is well worth it at times!

I love the 90 Freddy VT, so to have it blown off the table by the CSH, wowza!

It sounds like I should start playing with my 01 Shafer HSS.

Not much to add to what’s already been stated. I actually found myself largely in agreement with Walter, a scary development indeed. In the first flight, I was frankly shocked to find that the Bond Melbury was my favorite wine and that the Bond St. Eden was also very good. Previous experience with this brand had not been so consistently good, as most (but not all) of the Bond’s I’ve tasted have been overripe, hot, and heavy-handed. I also really liked the 2002 Colgin Cariad, as it had a hint of herbaceousness (of the cab franc variety, not vegetal) that I found quite attractive. I did not like the Sloan at all, as it remains as I have found it in the past, too low in acid, ponderous, thick and over-extracted, with no brightness or lift to the fruit. Not my style at all.

The Shafers were all quite good (except for the 2004 which had some VA and heat), but I wasn’t blown away. Maybe the format of the dinner tended to diminish the wines? All very good, and probably terrific on their own with a good steak, but here they just seemed like very good cabs, but not special or worthy of their triple-digit price tags.

Didn’t really like any of the wines in the last flight, as all of them are of the overripe and hot school of ultra-ripe fruit winemaking, out of balance and with no place to go, IMO. The Abreu Thorevillos was probably the best, but so what? I can’t really see any of these developing into something special. I am increasingly of the view that 2004 was not a very good year for California wines unless you like the high ripeness/low acid/fruit bomb style. Which I do sometimes, for some varietals (like zin), but not for cab and not very often. YMMV.

All of the whites (and the Camille Saves Rosé) were terrific, but a special shout-out to Mark for bringing the Clos St. Hune–brilliant wine!

A really fun tasting and the food at Comme Ca was excellent. Great job, Mark!

Agree, but that might be changing. After a dinner there with my wife and another couple where we literally had to shout at each other like we were at a rock concert just to have a conversation , I mentioned the problem to the maitre d’ after leaving the Winos’ dinner. He told me the restaurant is installing new sound insulation any day now. Hopefully that will improve the situation, the food is good enough to justify a return, but not if I can’t talk to my dinner companions.

It is pretty scary that you are finally developing a refined palate at your advanced age.

Apparently you never dined with Leve! [bow.gif]

Good one! But of course with Jeff, I wouldn’t have to worry about talking. And he wouldn’t worry about listening. Symbiosis!