Wine Spectator has been working on a big story devoted to beef (coming in our Sept. 30 issue), so to get in the mood I decided to have lunch at Sparks Steak House, an icon in Midtown Manhattan.
Sparks was established in 1966 by brothers Pat and Mike Cetta; they were wine lovers, and in 1981 Sparks was one of our inaugural class of Grand Award winners for its deep list of classic reds. Pat, a large man with a gruff manner and a heart of gold, died in 2000. The wine program lost its heart, and then the award. But as I discovered, after a long absence, the restaurant maintains its character, and its quality, and the list still offers plenty to drink.
My friend and I ordered the classic steak house meal: prime strip steaks, thick and juicy, with creamed spinach and hearty hash browns. The strengths of the list remain Bordeaux and California Cabernet, and I ordered a 2005 Cantemerle, always an over-achiever in the Haut-Médoc appellation.
The wine was delicious, just in the phase of evolution that I prefer. It still had a core of sweet cherry fruit, but the tannins were softening and maturing notes of tobacco and mineral added depth to the flavor. I rated it 93 points, non-blind. It was a great match with the sweet and gamy meat. We had no trouble finishing the bottle. The fact that it was offered for $80 (compared with a release price, back in 2007, of $33), made it go down even easier.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Château Cantemerle Haut-Médoc 2005 (90 points, $33).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated red Bordeaux.