The time: Last Saturday evening.
The place: The home of close family friends Donna and Richard Cross.
What: The opportunity to tour Richard’s impressive wine cellar, to do a blind tasting of five premium wines, and to enjoy a five course (with more fabulous wines to match) meal by cook-extraordinaire, Donna.
The Outcome: A very happy wine presenter with a very full belly.
Richard really pulled out all the stops with these classics. All were Cabernet Sauvignons (or Cab blends). All were vintages of between 1986–1988. And ALL of them were great wines.
Here’s the line up and my ‘tasting notes’:
- 1988 Henschke ‘Hill of Grace’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia (The most ‘fresh and fruity’ with a savoury background. Like an Aussie bloke–likeable, unpretentious, and goes down easy.)
- 1986 Chateau Musar, Lebanon (Dirt, wet leaves, and coffee. Complex. Like an effortlessly sculpted man–well dressed–expensive shoes–classy and unbearably handsome.)
- 1987 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Hillside Select, California (Smelled like my Italian Grandma’s kitchen–fried red peppers and spices. Like a hairy, bejeweled, over tanned, speedo-wearing peacock of a man. While attractive on some level, ‘subtle’ is not a word in his vocabulary.)
- 1988 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Pouillac, France (Barnyard: Horse Sweat and saddle, and manure. The gorgeous, shirtless, muscly gardener you just can’t stop ogling. The fact that he’s sweaty and covered in dirt just makes him sexier.)
- 1986 Antinori Solaia, Tuscany, Italy (Beef jerky and sweet herbs and spices. The ‘best friend’. He’s a little plain on the looks side of things, but strip off the outer layer and he’s a cracking guy. You could talk to him for hours, but as much as you’d like to feel more, he’ll just never be boyfriend material.)
I was rather chuffed with myself on the guessing side of things. I got most of them right, and even guessed the French was a Chateau Mouton-Rothschild! A stroke of dumb luck perhaps, but still…I also realised how ‘Old World’ my palate has become. I preferred the French and the Lebanese over the New Worlds. (And although SuperTuscans are usually some of my favourite wines, I didn’t think this particular Solaia was as stunning as some I’ve tasted.) However, when you’re tasting a line up of such legends, it’s hard to actually dislike any of them. They’re all exceptionally well-crafted wines.
The dinner wines were all well matched, with the best one being an avocado ‘bowl’ with a mustard balsamic vinegarette with a 2008 Giesen Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. Both food and wine were zesty and fresh and gelled perfectly together. The jammiest, most extracted Zinfandel (Tobin James ‘Fat Boy’) I’ve ever tried came next. It was such a change from the subtle complexities of the aged Cabs we’d just tried but it grew on me and I eventually loved it in the way you love that loud obnoxious neighbour who always means well. We turned the volume down again with the classic salmon/Pinot Noir matching–a lovely 1999 Carneros Creek Signature Reserve. The evening wouldn’t have been complete without a top dessert wine, namely a 1986 Chateau Climens Barsac matched with a fruit tart. Heaven in a glass (and on a plate!).
I’d like to say a massive thank you to Donna and Richard for their impeccable hosting skills, gorgeous food, stunning wine, and even better company. Who knew central New York could provide such vinous, culinary, and cultural treasures?!