Log In / Join Now

Gentlemen: Port and Cigars

Posted: Jan 23, 2007 12:54pm ET

Last weekend I was asked to retire with the men to partake in fine cigars and Vintage Port while the ladies chatted in the sitting room, and I was pinching myself a little bit. I couldn’t believe that my old high school buddy, Tom Unvert from Newport Harbor High School (I was known there as Jim Reordan), had finally conformed in Newport Beach to some of the civilized pleasures that I had learned while living in London. In fact, I am still a member of a men’s club in London, where cigars and fine Port are one of the main reasons to belong, although a new antismoking law in the United Kingdom has apparently stopped this.

Anyway, we had just finished dinner drinking a number of full-throttle Rhône-varietal California reds and whites. I had brought a bottle of 2003 Pontet-Canet that was fabulous. The bombshell brunette next to me said it was velvety and sexy. She preferred it to the California wine for its refined tannins, even though the wine was very young. The woman was obviously of very high taste ...

The shock, however, came when I saw all the guys putting on their coats. “I thought we were going to have a smoke and a glass of VP,” I said to Tommy.

“Outside man,” he said. “We don’t like smoke in the house.”

Oh, well. I guess it’s going to be the same in my club in London next time I am there in February. I better get used to it.

The 1985 Warre he decanted made up for the inconvenience. It was drinking beautifully as we shivered, puffed and sipped away. It was soft and fruity with loads of blackberry and raspberry character. Sweet and round textured, it still had a long life ahead of it. 93 points, non-blind. (Although it was so dark outside it should be noted as blind!)

There’s something great about hanging out with your friends smoking a cigar and drinking a glass of Port. It’s more than that. It’s just being together.

Bryan Hassin
Houston, TX —  January 23, 2007 1:38pm ET
James, if you're ever down here, please join us as my guest at the Petroleum Club of Houston. After a phenomenal wine dinner (I'm on the Wine Committee, which tastes, selects, and presents the wines at each wine dinner.), nothing pleases us more than repairing to the smoking lounge--one of the only indoor locations where you can smoke in the entire city--for port and cigars. In an elegant setting on the top floor of Houston's very first sky scraper, filled to the point of bursting with exquisite cuisine and classic wines, we find that nothing caps off the evening quite as well as fine cigars, fine port, and fine companionship.
Tim Sylvester
Santa Monica, CA —  January 23, 2007 2:37pm ET
James--Not a fan of cigars but thanks for the tip on the 2003 Pontet Canet. BTW what's up with the name change?Cheers, Tim
Richard J Habeeb
staten island, new york —  January 23, 2007 8:02pm ET
Hi, James...glad to hear your high praise on the Pontet Canet. I recently bought two well priced Imperials. Anyway, I haven't heard anything recently on the upcoming 2006 Bordeaux vintage. I know I am jumping the gun, but what are your thoughts pre-tasting. I know it was a difficult season...what do you think. Regards, Richard
James Suckling
 —  January 23, 2007 8:51pm ET
You scored on the imperials. I have a case of the 2003 Pontet Canet myself. I have not tasted the wines but I think that good to outstanding wines will have been made. It won't be 2005 but we have to see what the best have done. I heard just about everything when I was in Bordeaux in December: terrible to great.
Fred Daner
January 23, 2007 10:10pm ET
JS- Glad to see a blog about your other passion. What cigars were you smoking ?
Rajiv Modak
Tucson AZ —  January 23, 2007 10:11pm ET
Hi James - I used to enjoy cigars from time to time, but this has become exceedingly rare as it affects my perception of the wines tasted thereafter. Sometimes, I can even taste the cigar for half of the next day. I wonder if this is something you have become used to and can recalibrate your palate. I presume you only drink fortified wine (not table wine) with cigars, but doesn't the true flavor get affected? As a critic, do you need to plan cigar smoking around your work tasting schedule? Cheers, Raj
James Suckling
 —  January 24, 2007 11:22am ET
Rajiv. Yes. I prefer to have my palate fresh for tasting. So, I also try to not eat particularly spicy food or do anything else that might affect my palate.
James Suckling
 —  January 24, 2007 11:27am ET
Fred: We were smoking some Trinidad Robusto Extras.
James Suckling
 —  January 24, 2007 12:33pm ET
Bryan: What is your e-mail?
Zurich, Switzerland —  January 25, 2007 2:49am ET
James, it may be somewhat off the topic, but are you considering an update of your book on port? There's nothing good out there at the moment, with the exception of your tasting notes in the WS database. I would, however, appreciate some more detail, as in a book.
Dana Meador
Dallas, TX —  February 7, 2007 9:57am ET
I second the request for more information on port. Perhaps it's time for an article in WS? New to collecting (First purchase was two cases of 2001 Cassanova di Neri TN BdM at $45 just prior to it being named WotY, after a trip to Italy where it blew my socks off both for taste and value), I'd like to know your thoughts on recently released reasonably priced (not $800 a bottle!) ports worth cellaring (I picked up a few bottles of the 2003 Quinta de Roriz but even the supplies of 2003's are getting skimpy), as well as what NV's you might recommend.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.