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james suckling uncorked

Hollywood Wine Nights


Posted: Jun 16, 2008 5:40am ET

I went through a number of interesting bottles last week during dinners with friends and family at Chateau Marmont in Hollywood.

I hooked up with Maynard James Keenan a couple of times, and the guy’s enthusiasm is almost as entrancing as his rock music. He brought a bottle of 2007 Page Springs Cellars Vino de la Familia Blanca, a pure Malvasia, which was an eye-opener, with plenty of fresh pears, apricot and lavender perfume. It was rich and fruity yet fresh and lively. It reminded me more of a dry Muscat from southeast France, or Italy’s Alto Adige. Arizona can make some very good wine. Maynard is going to do some good wine there.



A wine-savvy buddy from England, Robin Hutson, who consults for Soho House in London, was impressed with the quality. “Where is Arizona, anyway?” he asked. I wasn’t sure if he was joking about the state, but I know he dug the wine. He sent me an e-mail later about it.

Anyway, the last night I was at Marmont, I opened a bottle of 1997 Paolo Scavino Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata Riserva. At the table with me were film director James Orr and jazz guitarist Anthony Wilson. Maynard was at another table, so I sent over a glass of the Barolo to him. He had the best description of the wine, saying that it smelled like “lipstick.” I wasn’t sure if this scent was left over from his night before, or if he really smelled lipstick! But I liked the description.

The gentlemen at my table didn’t seem that keen on the wine. “What tannin!” said Orr, while Wilson just looked sort of confused. I thought the wine was simply closed and dumb after decanting it and tasting it right away. I was sure it was going to come out of the dark if we gave it time. It was rich and balanced for a decade-old Baroli. I loved the texture and unique character of the wine

But my friends were thirsty and didn’t want to wait for the Scavino to open. And the food was coming, too. The kitchen at Marmont makes what the English call “comfort food” – nothing fancy, just well-executed, yummy food made with good ingredients, from crisp and fresh crab cakes to juicy grilled hanger steaks.

So, to my chagrin, I ditched the Barolo and ordered an upfront 2005 Bandol from Tempier – Domaine Tempier Bandol La Migoua. It was lush and super-fruity, with plenty of berry, mineral, even coffee character. “Ah. This is what I call wine,” said Orr. Anthony loved the wine too, and though it resembled a red from Maynard’s vineyard that we'd tasted earlier in the night.

But I was sad that no one was digging the Barolo! If only I had decanted it earlier, I thought to myself. I filled my glass and handed the rest of the decanter to Marmont’s wine guy Nat Gunter. “Nat. Taste this later tonight and send me an e-mail telling me what you thought about it,” I pleaded with him. I was sure it would improve.

And sure enough, it did. Check out Nat’s note:

“1997 Paolo Scavino Barolo Riserva -Rocche Dell'Annunziata- Femininity abounds, with the same coquettish qualities of Musigny. When Signora Rocche finally came around, she boasted notes of red rose petals, high tones of pure cacao and a touch of beautiful moist and mossy Burgundian forest floor. The one trait she kept from start to finish was her truly erotic mouth feel. Each sip sated with the perfect balance of weight and texture, undulating over the palate in a way that made the 6 hours of waiting awfully hard. The ten years in bottle lends her a few lovely wrinkles and I came away feeling I'd just spent the night of my life with Sophia Loren. 97 points - Nat Gunter”

Now that’s a tasting note! Thanks Nat! And my bottle of Scavino Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata Riserva obviously didn’t go to waste. I just wish I had stayed up and drank it with him!

Sandy Fitzgerald
Centennial, CO —  June 16, 2008 1:57pm ET
You have just hit the number 1 reason I rarely order fine red wines at restuarants. Most U.S. restuarants are primarily interested in flipping tables. In the U.S., the waiter would be laughing at you for even considering he would allow you to sit at a table long enough for a wine to open up. Whites or drink now fruit bomb reds are our only logical choices. Save the great reds for meals at home or at friends. I live in a no-BYOB state. In states where corkage is allowed can you bring in an opened bottle (allowed to breathe)of wine, or must it be opened at the restuarant?
Andrew J Walter
Sacramento,CA —  June 16, 2008 2:11pm ET
I've been saying this for years (since I lived there in the late 1990's) -- there is huge potential in Arizona for making interesting wines. I have often been derided by my fellow wine lovers for this statement, until I get them with Arizona ringer in a blind tasting. While I've not had the 2007 Malsalvia, I "imported" 3 bottles of the Tazi (a white blend from Maynards Stronghold Vineyards -- SB, Chard and malsalvia I think) to California a few months ago and its already gone. I think Maynards project and Page Springs have raised the quality bar in AZ, but also check out Dos Cabesas, Callaghan, Pillsbury Wine Project and Echo Canyon for some other excellent examples.
David W Voss
Elkhorn, Wi —  June 16, 2008 2:42pm ET
Having grown up watching Sophia, that description makes me want to find this wine in the northern Illinois area. I can imagine everything with Sophia.
Dennis Christensen
Sweden —  June 17, 2008 6:42am ET
Ohh boy. I wish you would have called me when you opened it! :-) Me and a good friend of mine had it a couple of weeks ago. I was fortunate enough to decant it at around two and we attacked it around eight! One of the best Barolos I've tried in a looong time!! Have to say, I loved Nat's tasting note as well!

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