A cute, petite blonde was staring at me at the Grand Tour in Atlantic City. She obviously wanted to say something to me but felt embarrassed, so I walked over and said hello.
“Hi,” I said to her. “You having fun tonight?”
“How do you figure out what to taste here?” she asked with a pretty smile. “There is just so much wine to taste ... my husband and I were trying to figure it out.”
Anyway, I told her that I always start with the first-growths, and then go through areas that I am interested in, but don’t get to taste much, which in Atlantic City were Malbecs from Argentina.
The first-growths were a good bunch this year. I thought the best for tasting—even drinking—was the 2001 Latour followed by the 2001 Mouton. They showed wonderful perfumes of crushed fruit, minerals and flowers. Mouton had a hint of chocolate as always and it was a little bit more ready to drink. They were classy wines.
The Malbecs were eye-openers. I love the way they are so rich and juicy, with loads of character, verging on jam, but then they have such fresh and silky finishes. Malbec, as my colleague James Molesworth has written, is setting the tone and reputation for Argentina. Nowhere else in the world is making Malbecs as exciting as those in Mendoza.
I tasted about a half-dozen or so Malbecs, or blends thereof, from Achával-Ferrer, Altos Las Hormigas, Bodega Catena Zapata, Cheval des Andes, Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier and Terrazas de los Andes. All were outstanding, but I have to say that I love the opulence, almost flamboyance of the Catena Alta Malbec 2003. Que bueno! Rico! It shows loads of crushed berries that turn to fresh flowers on the nose, and follows through to a full, soft and caressing palate. Love it. 93 points, non-blind. It’s a young wine that gives lots of pleasure now, but I am sure it will improve with age for another 10 years, minimum.
I wish I had had more time to taste, but I was busy talking. That’s what’s fun about the event. If the owner or winemaker is there, you can taste and learn about what you taste, straight from the mouth of the horse, if you will. For example, Frédéric Engerer, president of Château Latour, was pouring his 2001 in Atlantic City. He was mobbed at the event—the rock star of it all.
Also, the Italian selection was superstrong. I couldn’t believe that Aldo Conterno was pouring his Barolo Granbussia Riserva 2000. That is so rare and so excellent. It was rich and powerful yet sleek and racy, as it should be.
I hope I can catch a few of the things that I missed in Atlantic City next weekend in Las Vegas.
After the tasting, I had dinner with some friends at Specchio, the high-end Italian restaurant at Borgata. We drank a bottle of 1999 Masseto, the bombshell pure Merlot from Ornellaia. What a wine. It was exactly as I remembered it—rich and subtle, with mineral, berry and spice character. It was still very structured and powerful. Needs time. But what concentration and class. I would give it one more point than what’s published in our database. We were all so sorry to see the end of the bottle ...