I may have considered killing someone for a glass of good red last night, and James Laube would have been my accomplice. The two of us went up to St. Helena to celebrate the 60th birthday of none other than Mr. Harvey Steiman. The high priest of food and wine invited a few friends to a house up in the hills loaded with freshly cooked crab and chilled white wine. Our fallback position was Taylor’s burger joint down below and a bottle of red in the taxi, which we forgot at home. I am not that big a crab fan.
Laube was generous to his old friend and colleague. He brought a bottle of 2002 Marcassin Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Marcassin Vineyard, which lasted about 46 seconds after we arrived at the party. I saw one guest take a pint of it, like the good old days in London in my local pub. I got a full glass and the wine was superb. It was layered, rich and balanced with tropical, almost exotic fruit character. 93 points, non-blind. It was pretty much downhill from there. A thimble of 2001 Peter Michael Chardonnay Sonoma County Mon Plaisir came my way a little later in the evening—about two crabs later. And that was clearly outstanding. It was fresh, crisp and exciting. 94 points.
But the rest of the whites just didn’t cut it for me. And I really was yearning for a glass of great red. A famous collector brought a 1947 Pichon Baron, which would have done nicely. But it was never opened. I took a look in the pantry and there was more white ... I was really starting to have red wine withdrawals. It was like a dream I have had a few times, really a nightmare, where the world no longer makes reds. I normally wake up in a cold sweat at the doors of Château Latour, or some other great château, in hopes of finding a barrel or two of great red. But that’s another blog.
Desperation took hold and I rummaged through the house, but I could only find white. There was a wine bottle full of dill-infused chicken stock. That definitely would not suffice. I asked Harvey what he scored it. He was not amused.
Anyway, we did finally find a decent red to drink, a 2004 Banfi Centine—good quality Tuscan red but nothing special. I guess reaching the age of 60 isn’t that big of a deal after all … luckily, I have a long time to go … but when the time comes, there will be lots of red wine flowing.
That reminds me of something, but I don’t remember who said it: “The first thing for a great wine to be is red.” I am not sure if it is true, but it is sort of catchy.
Got the red wine fix. Murder was not necessary. In fact, I was a little concerned the other night when I was at the Bounty Hunter wine shop and restaurant in downtown Napa and the night before someone was shot in the parking lot. This is too wild west for me at times!
Anyway, just got back from lunch at the Celadon resto (excellent food emphasizing American ingredients) in Napa with James Laube and an old friend and we made up for the shortage in serious reds last night. In other words, we celebrated Harvey Steiman’s 60th without the great man. How’s this? 2005 Loring Pinot Noir Chalone Brosseau Vineyard and a 1996 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley. Awesome reds.
I liked the Loring for its precise and fruity style, which reminded me of a top village Volnay. It was perfumed yet subtle with grapy, blackberry aromas and flavors, full body and a silky, refined finish. It was very closed still but I gave it 91 points, non-blind. The Phelps was a dead ringer for a decade-old top class Pauillac but with a little more fruit. It was full-bodied with blackberry, raisin and meaty aromas and flavors that evolved into lead pencil and black licorice. It was sort of Mouton-like. 93 points.
Granted, these are just two wines and one can’t make generalizations. But it made me think about silly people who say that California Pinot Noirs are too alcoholic and jammy and California Cabernet Sauvignons don’t age. I guess they should try these two wines. Or may be they should just have a rethink.
James B Morgan Jr — Cleveland, Ohio — January 19, 2007 3:38pm ET
Larry Link — January 19, 2007 4:45pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — January 19, 2007 5:09pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 19, 2007 8:02pm ET
David A Zajac — January 19, 2007 9:14pm ET
Colin Haggerty — La Jolla, California — January 19, 2007 9:54pm ET
James Gordon — Napa, CA — January 19, 2007 11:16pm ET
James Suckling — — January 19, 2007 11:51pm ET
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — January 20, 2007 3:24am ET
Michael Sautkulis — Norwalk CT — January 20, 2007 3:30pm ET
Eli Curi — New York — January 20, 2007 4:41pm ET
Matt Devan — Fairhope, Alabama — January 21, 2007 9:15am ET
James Suckling — — January 21, 2007 7:12pm ET
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